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Home Based Ministry in the New Testament

In Matthew 25:35, Jesus said,

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

Jesus was talking about ministering to the needs of others through hospitality.

Our military ministry is based on the biblical concept of hospitality. It is also based on the biblical pattern of home based ministry found in the New testament, of Christian ministry done in people’s homes. In this article I want to highlight the New Testament examples of home based ministry.

Jesus’ Ministry in People’s Homes

In the Gospels, Jesus’ ministry was frequently conducted in people’s homes. For example, in Matthew 9:10 Jesus went to Matthew the tax collector’s home and ate dinner with him. He also went to the home of Jairus the synagogue ruler and raised his daughter from the dead in Mark 5:38. While Jesus was in a house teaching, in Luke 5:18, four men lowered a paralyzed man through the roof on a mat so Jesus could heal him. And as a result of Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ home to eat with him, in Luke 19:5-9, Zacchaeus was saved. The paralyzed man was healed and had his sins forgiven. Matthew became one of Jesus’ disciples and wrote the Gospel of Matthew.

Major New Testament Events Occurred in People’s Homes

Many of the major events recorded in the New Testament took place in private homes. For example: The Last Supper, as recorded in Luke 22:10-12, took place in the upper room of a house. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on Easter Sunday evening, recorded in John 20:19, was in a room whose doors were locked. Again, very possibly, a private home. And on the Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2:2, 120 followers of Jesus were gathered together in one place—in the upper room of a house.

Lydia’s Conversion Led to Ministry in Her Home

Lydia’s conversion, in Acts 16:11-15, is an excellent case in point. She believed the gospel message Paul presented, and received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. As a result of her changed heart, she immediately offered to minister to Paul and his companions. She invited them to stay in her home. As a result, she and her whole family were saved and baptized in water.

Early Christians Met in the Temple and in Individual Homes

In the early church, when believers were still part of the Jewish temple community, the scripture says they met in the temple and in individual homes:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).

This description is repeated in Acts 5:42:

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

In Acts 18, Luke tells the story of a couple named Priscilla and Aquila and a man named Apollos. Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos speak in the Jewish temple. He knew the scriptures, but only had a limited understanding about the Lord. So according to Acts 18:26 Priscilla and Aquila:

 …invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

Luke goes on to record Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:20 where the apostle said,

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you, but have taught you publicly and from house to house.

First Gospel Presentation to the Gentiles Was in a Private Home

When the gospel message was first presented to the Gentiles, it was presented in the home of Cornelius the centurion. Cornelius was a Roman military officer who had been commanded by an angel to send for the Apostle Peter. Luke records the story in Acts, Chapter 10. In verses 24 and 33, Luke says,

The following day he [Peter] arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting him and those accompanying him. His relatives and close friends were gathered together and explained to Peter…

‘So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.’

While Peter was preaching the gospel message to those assembled in Cornelius’ home, the message was believed and received, and immediately the Holy Spirit filled all who were present.

Prayer Meetings Held in People’s Homes

In Acts Chapter 12 Luke records the story of Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Peter went to Mary’s house that night. A group of believers were gathered there praying. In Acts 12:12 Luke writes that Peter,

…went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.

Philippian Jailer’s Conversion Resulted in Ministry in His Home

In Acts 16 Paul and his traveling companions were miraculously delivered from their prison bondage in Philippi. The terrified jailer was about to commit suicide because his superiors would see the prisoner’s escape as dereliction of duty. The prisoners called out to let him know they were all still there. When he realized the prisoners had not run away, he asked what he had to do to be saved.

Paul responded that he must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).” The apostle spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to the others in the jailer’s house. Afterward the jailer and his whole family believed and were baptized in water. The jailer set a meal before them and was filled with joy because he and his whole family came to believe in Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Ministry in His Own Rented House

In Acts 28 verses 30 and 31 Luke records that while the Apostle Paul was in Rome he rented a house. And for two years he welcomed everyone who came to see him. He preached the kingdom of God boldly. He taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!

God’s Call to Open Our Home

In June of 2000, the Lord called Yvonne and me to a new season of ministry. He brought us to Virginia Beach to reach young single servicemen and women for Jesus Christ. We originally thought we would pattern our ministry after The Port O’ Call in California. That was the servicemen’s center where Yvonne and I met, and where I invited Jesus Christ into my life. They had a building, and many hosts and hostesses. It was a ministry large enough to reach hundreds of servicemen and women stationed in the San Francisco area.

One day while praying about where to look for a building, God spoke to my heart. He said, “I don’t want you to look for a building; I want you to minister in your home.”

I was surprised and asked, “Why, Lord?” To discover His answer to me, click here and read “Invite Them In…”

Dr. John Wagner, CHC, USN (Ret.)

Dr. John Wagner, CHC, USN (Ret.)

Retired Navy chaplain. Pastor of the Lighthouse Military Ministry. Author of "You Invited Me In...The Story of a Pentecostal Hospitality House Military Ministry".