In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul virtually says that a Christian marriage is a church. Think what a crime this makes of divorce, or even the absence of love. In Philemon 1:2 Paul refers to the “the church that meets in your home.” And in Colossians 4:15 he writes, “Greetings to Nympha and the church in her house.” These two “churches” were part of the congregation of Christians in Colossae. Nympha was a “single” believer, and a woman!
So, what is a church? Not a building. It is wrong to say so. Even worse, to call it “God’s house”. And it is not the clergy, the full-time officials or even the church officers. It is not a denomination. There is no such thing as a Christian Reformed Church. There are churches. And it is not even a single congregation. This is a para-church organization, much like the World Home Bible League. While it may be thought of as a congregation of individual believers, it really is of families. So, the basic, continuing, “tangible” church is a family, a home. This the first meaning of, “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, (me)…” The Old Testament model-church was a family, beginning with Abraham. “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Circumcision, passover, almost all worship “services” were family affairs. The Early Church was comprised of small groups of families, household churches. The church as an organization has today “taken over” baptism, the Lord’s Supper, weddings, funerals, confirmation, even “prayer”, but ideally these are all familial.
What, then, is a family, a home? (And every one ideally belongs to at lest one in his/her lifetime, by very reason of birth.) It is not a building, though realtors and others like to speak of a house as a “home”. It is more than a number of individuals who live together, versus a commune, or “live-ins”, or even a man and woman and some children who occupy the same house. (Schools, businesses, etc. like to speak of personnel as a “family”. It is an organism (a “body”), an organization, with lines of authority. Husbands are “heads” to their wives in the same way a physical head is to a body; equally important, mutually dependent (I Cor. 11:11,12). He is not the boss, nor necessarily always the “leader”, any more than he is smarter, stronger, older. He is the coordinator, organizer, unifier, order-keeper, representative, which means that sometimes as an individual he has to lay down his life for the sake of wife, and family, as Christ did. (Husband and wife, being “one”, are together the “head”of the house; the wife alone, of course, when there is no husband.) The Bible says nothing about men per se being “over” women, such as in a business, school, hospital. The Bible’s big and jealous concern is to the integrity of homes.
The primary purpose of a home is reproduction, not necessarily in the sense of multiplication, but surely replacement, perpetuation. Other purposes are self-fulfillment of husband-wife and the advancement of the Kingdom of heaven (via sanctification of the partners, plus the creation of children and their salvation), but these goals are realized the most by parenting. All perversions of marriage (homosexuality, “live-ins”, and even many divorces) are only the logical consequence of making “sex” its own excuse for being (and marriage); an end in itself instead of a means to a more wonderful one. Nothing sanctifies a person (makes him/her more like God himself) than parenting (which is more than birthing.) While parenting is the responsibility of both father and mother, from the nature of the case (birthing, nursing, nurturing) the wife’s primary responsibility is home-making (more than house-keeping), rather than wage-earning.
What makes a home a church? Not Bible reading, “church going”, Christian service; all this can be done by individual believers. It is united (the finest form of) prayer. Jesus said, “If two of you agree in prayer, it will be done.” What finer form of such agreement is there than between husband and wife, a family? Unity is great; “one flesh”. Needs and reasons for thanksgiving are the most mutual. Understanding of fellow prayers is greatest. Families that pray together…..are the church. Here is where “singles” come in. The congregation is their family. By means of prayer-partners, prayer-groups. Members of congregations should visit “singles” homes for prayer. (Ps 68:6, James 1:27) Singles in turn can minster mightily to others. (Isa 54:1) The first subject of family prayers should be for other members of the local congregation; systematically, specifically. (I Tim. 5:8) It would spare congregational crisis praying (I Cor 11:29,30). Congregational prayer can then address concerns of community, denomination, the “world”. Pastoral prayer – Acts 6:4 – belongs in the home, not the pulpit.