When looking at the early church you see that they emulated the ministry of Jesus in every way. One of the ways was going to the temple but also from house to house. There are many examples of Jesus meeting in the temple or synagogue, that is large gatherings but He also met in many homes in a small group setting. So we see that the early church embraced a model that Jesus had introduced. (Matthew 8:14-17, 13:54)
We also see many examples of small groups meeting in house’s in the early church. (Acts 20:20, I Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2) But what happened to the small group dynamic that cause the early church to be up close and personal? History records that between 323 and 327 AD Constantine began a massive program to build buildings to house the church which triggered a fad in large cities all over the Roman Empire. The church had begun moving from living rooms to large buildings only and believers and society began recognizing buildings as the church and not people.
The return to small groups did not have a large scale impact upon the church until 1738 through John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield who were actually influenced by the Moravians in England who form small societies within the church for the purpose of sharing, bible study, prayer and preaching. However, after Wesley’s death the movement became a denomination and not to long afterwards the concept of small groups was once again lost to meeting in church buildings only.
But once again the "revelation" of small group meetings and there impact on society rose out of the ashes in the late 1950's and the small group model emerged. Today all around the world church leaders are throwing away the lies that small group do not work and are once again embracing the model that Jesus Himself and the early church showed us throughout the New Testament. Let's face it, Jesus said, "I will build My church..." so if we let Him build it we will have the same influence or greater than the early church had and once again the world will recognize believers not as people who go to church, but who are the church.