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by Dan Trotter The New Reformation Review There are three reasons why a Christian should never do church in a church building: scriptural reasons, psychological reasons, and functional reasons. The first reason you should not worship in a church building... First, the scriptural reasons. Let me ask you a preliminary question: how many Christian church buildings do you find in the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Scriptures, which are profitable for edification and rebuke? The answer is simple: ZERO!! NONE!! NADA!! Don't you find it passing strange that the book that has all of the doctrine to tell us how to live out our lives in church not once announces that doctrine in the context of a building? (Yes, yes, I know that the Bible says nothing AGAINST buildings, either, (or does it? check out Acts 7:48-49) but the Bible doesn't say anything against the union of church and state, either, probably because the Biblical authors couldn't contemplate anything that stupid.)
How many Christian church buildings do you find in the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Scriptures, which are profitable for edification and rebuke? The answer is simple: ZERO!! NONE!! NADA!!
If the early Christians, our exemplars, didn't worship in brick-andmortar temples, why not? Institutional church apologists like to find pragmatic reasons, rather than philosophical or theological reasons, that kept the early church out of buildings, in order that they, institutional church supporters, can say that those pragmatic reasons don't apply any more, and that therefore their glass-andstainless-steel ecclesiastical warehouses can be justified in modern times, which are different than early church times. For example, it is often said that there was no money in the early church age for Christians to buy church buildings. But: how did that ancient society afford to build all those pagan temples that existed, some of which were so massive that the ruins still stand today? And how were all those Jewish synagogues built? No, the reason that the early church didn't build church-buildings is deeper than that. Another example: the early Christian church was persecuted, and thus, was not able to build buildings. The problem with this solution is that these persecutions, while horrible enough for those having to undergo them, were scattered geographically through the Roman Empire, and sporadic with regard to time, during the period before the establishment of the Constantinian institutional church. This means that the early Christians could have easily built churches, if they had wanted to. They didn't want to. Why not? Surgeon General's Warning!! Church buildings have been determined by the U.S. Surgeon General's Office to contain toxic levels of constantinion, a chemical substance known to suck the very last bit of warmth and intimacy from Christian meetings. Enter church buildings only
at the peril of your church life!!!!!!!
The second reason you should not worship in a church building... The second reason that Christians should never worship in a religious building is a psychological reason: the religious church building fosters idolatrous "temple-worship," which may be defined as "worship OF the temple and IN the temple, as opposed to worship BY the temple." (Think about it.) This accusation of idolatry might seem somewhat obstreperous to you, but please consider the five following proofs. First. People walk into the "sanctuary" and immediately become hushed. Why? Because God is in his Holy of Holies, that's why. And the Holy Sanctuary is not where Christian brothers and sisters assemble together to talk about their problems and share their lives together, by golly, not while God is there. Note the term that is often used: "sanctuary." Unger's Bible Dictionary defines "sanctuary" as "a sacred place of resort and worship." So how do we get off having the right to create a "sacred place of worship" that is distinct from the living stones of us believers? We have created a sacred and holy PLACE for God to live in, whereas in the New Testament, it is the CHRISTIAN who is the holy entity God lives in. I submit to you that we have substituted the dead stones of the church building for the living stones of Jesus's true church (us) faster than pagans substitute Santa Claus for Jesus at Christmas time. And folks, this is nothing less than idolatry. Second. Churches hate to put Christian schools in the "holy sanctuary." Why? Because doing something so profane as
educating kids for Christ is not holy enough for where God is. Is putting brick-and-mortar ahead of training kids for Christ idolatry? I think so. Third. People hate to have a fellowship meal in the "holy sanctuary." Why is this? Because doing something so profane as eating in intimate fellowship with our brothers and sisters shouldn't be done there. Eating is fleshly, carnal, but the "sanctuary" is holy. Is putting pews and carpet ahead of fellowship with our brothers and sisters idolatry? I think so. Fourth. The frequency of church splits because of the building. Have you ever noticed how people become professional "defenders of the faith" when they are defending their particular vision of the way the building ought to be? The color of the carpet, whether to build a new building or keep the old one, how to finance a new one, etc., becomes a life and death issue. Why is this? Because the building is God's building, and the other faction is attacking God's building, and thus, they are attacking God, and God has to be defended. This might sound extreme to you, but unfortunately, it is precisely true, as any one who has spent any time in the institutional church knows. Fifth. You can't play blues in the "holy sanctuary. " This is the clincher. I was in a Baptist "sanctuary" once with a deacon of the church, who before becoming saved, had learned to play some pretty good blues on the piano. This was on a weekday, nobody was there but us, and he started playing for me. I was thoroughly enjoying his performance, when he suddenly quit, shut the piano, and said he shouldn't be doing this "in the church". I, in my wideeyed innocence, asked myself, "why not?" I'm not so innocent now. I know what this man was feeling: he had profaned the "holy sanctuary."
Question: How many NT writers worshipped in a religious building BEFORE they were saved, but did NOT worship in a religious building AFTER they were saved? Answer: all but Luke.
The above five proofs were offered to convince you that contemporary Christian attitudes about church buildings are often idolatrous. Now, please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that all Christians that go to church buildings eat their young. In fact, most of them are wonderful people. But it was wonderful people that John was writing to when he told them to "guard themselves from idols." And I am convinced that it is an easy thing for any of us, including house church Christians, to have idolatrous attitudes about the building. And why is that? Because all of us have an inborn religious need to build a house for God, where we can go visit him. The Jews have it, with their temple. Islam has its mosques. Hinduism has its temples, as does Buddhism. But we need to fight this "temple psychology" and acknowledge with our lives as well as our lips the principle that God doesn't need a building to live in, because he lives in us. We are "God's building," as Paul puts it, and God doesn't need any phony substitutes. The third reason you should not worship in a church building...
The third reason that you should not worship God in a church building is that the FORM of the church building prevents the proper FUNCTIONING of the church. I will list below five scriptural NT church functions that are impossible, or at least very difficult, to carry out in a church building. First. Small and intimate meetings. They just aren't possible in a building where people are lined up in pews so they can fellowship with the back of their brothers' and sisters' heads. Also, typical church-building architecture militates against intimacy. There are two typical kinds of church architecture styles, and they are both equally cold and formal. The first is the low-church American Protestant style, which may be described as cold, sterile, institutional, and functional. These churches are heavy with fluorescent lights, linoleum floors, acoustic tile ceilings, and metal chairs. When one steps into the midst of this, one's soul shrivels. The second type of anti-intimacy American church architecture is the high-church kind. These churches are loaded with religiouslooking stain glass, dark and gloomy interiors, high vaulted ceilings, and thick carpets which produce a holy, hushed atmosphere. This church architecture is designed to produce a phony sense of numinous awe, but does nothing to facilitate the main purpose of a church meeting, the mutual edification of the saints.
The low-church style is cold, sterile, institutional, and functional... heavy with fluorescent lights, linoleum floors, acoustic tile ceilings, and metal chairs. When one steps into the midst of this, one's soul shrivels.
Second. Open meetings. It's real difficult to have open, mutually participatory meetings in a cathedral, or an evangelical warehouse. Shy Sister Susie isn't likely to bare her soul in such an environment.
It is ironic how many get-out-of-debt sermons are delivered in buildings that have half-million dollar mortgages on them.
Third. Financing of ministry. Church buildings worldwide voraciously consume the wealth of Christians that could be used for good things, like feeding the poor, supporting itinerant ministers such as apostles, prophets, and evangelists, or financing Christian art, music, and scholarship. How many guilttrip sermons have been preached to encourage Christians to feed their church's hungry banker? I have always felt it to be ironic how many get-out-of-debt sermons are delivered in buildings that have half-million dollar mortgages on them. Fourth. The Agape meal and the Lord's Supper. It is very difficult to do the Lord's Supper as a full meal in a church building the carpet of which is sacred. Screams of anguish will split the air the second someone's communion wine splashes the carpet. It is also very hard to eat face-to-face in a pew.
What is the point of pews, pulpits, altar rails, and those throne-like
chairs at the front, except to keep you, the lowly, second-class, working stiff Christian apart from those first class, full-time big shots up front?
Fifth. The priesthood of all believers. The furniture in our churchhouses is all designed to reinforce that which we say we don't believe in: the clergy-laity distinction. What is the point of pews, pulpits, altar rails, and those throne-like chairs at the front, except to keep you, the lowly, second-class, working-stiff Christian apart from those first-class, full-time big shots up front? All this furniture helps us to violate James' command to not honor one brother over another.
Why Do Christians so Tenaciously Insist on Buildings?
If buildings are so bodaciously awful, why do Christians pant for them? I believe it is because the temple-building gives the institutional Christian a false sense of purpose, a false sense of permanence, and a false sense of place. A false sense of purpose. Have you ever noticed how a church building program creates unity? Everyone is committed to the same goal, the same purpose. They don't have time to fight any more, because they are too busy mixing mortar, or poring over blueprints, to get bored and angry with one another. Why? Because the institutional church Christians involved in the building program have a goal, a purpose, a ministry, a mission: BUILD THE BUILDING! Unfortunately, this sense of common purpose evaporates once the building is erected.
A false sense of permanence. Which is easier to maintain for a century: a church building, or human relationships? A church building is. And when one worships in a one-hundred-year-old building, one is in communion with one's spiritual ancestors whose spirits still encompass you. When you feel like you aren't going to make it into the next week, the ghosts and memories of your church, embodied in the building, are there to comfort you, whispering in your ear, "You're a part of something that's been around a long, long, time, and so, yes, you will be here next week, and many years to come." Contrast that with fragile human relationships that fail at the advent of the first misunderstanding. It's no wonder Christians spend nine-tenths of their time trying to build buildings, instead of relationships with their Christian brothers and sisters. A false sense of place. Stories of churches struggling to have the tallest steeple in town abound in our culture. The bigger and more beautiful that building is, the more important are the people that are in it. You are somebody, you are identified with something big and important. I don't think Jesus wants you to feel big and important. I don't think he wants you messing around with church buildings. Let me finish this issue by quoting the Bible. Do you remember the Bible? That sacred book given to us for edification, doctrine, reproof, training in righteousness that has not one scintilla, not one jot, not one tittle of evidence that the first Biblical Christians even once thought about going into a church building? Here's Acts 7:48-50: "The Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?" Indeed.
Now that we have shown beyond cavil that the New Testament has absolutely nothing to do with church buildings, let's close by merely reciting many of the New Testament verses that show where the Christian church did meet: Acts 2:46. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple [please note, that's the JEWISH temple], and breaking bread from HOUSE to HOUSE... Acts 5:42....in every HOUSE they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 8:3. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every HOUSE... Acts 16:40. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the HOUSE of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed. Rom 16:5a. Likewise greet the church that is in their HOUSE. I Cor 16:19. The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their HOUSE. Philemon 2. And to our beloved Apphia, and Aarchippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in your HOUSE:... Acts 20:20. And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from HOUSE to HOUSE... " What more can I say? -By Dan Trotter
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