-by Andrew Strom.
A lot of people think that us having church buildings today "doesn't really matter". -They say buildings are kind-of 'neutral'. -That they don't really affect us. They are just a building, after all.
But I disagree strongly with this. I believe there is a whole mindset and a whole pattern of "learnt behaviour" that goes with church buildings. We find this difficult to see, because we are so used to them. But I believe that they are VERY harmful and affect us in all kinds of ways that we are not even aware of.
Below are some brief quotes from scholars and historians who have looked into this subject:
"'We have no temples or altars.' This statement, referring to Christians, comes from the pen of the apologist Minicus Felix, c 200, and all evidence supports its accuracy. Throughout at least the first two centuries there were no church buildings as such" (-J.G. Davies).
"When the church was very young, it had no buildings. Let us begin with that striking fact. That the church had no buildings is the most noticeable of the points of difference between the church of the early days and the church of today. In the minds of most people today, "church" means first a building, probably something else second; but seldom does "the church" stand for anything other than a building. Yet here is the fact with which we start: the early church possessed no buildings and carried on its work for a great many years without erecting any." (-Ernest Loosley).
"The church’s greatest period of vitality and growth until recent times was during the first two centuries A.D. In other words, the church grew fastest when it did not have the help or hindrance of church buildings." (-Howard Snyder).
ANDREW STROM again: Isn't this a remarkable thing? Here we are in the 21st Century, still pouring so much money and pain and sacrifice into our buildings - and yet the whole concept is not even in the Bible!
So how did the early believers gather together then? Well, there are two answers to this. A lot of people in the "house church" movement will tell you that the early Christians simply met in homes. They are right, but that is only half the story. For in the early church in Jerusalem they not only met in homes, but the apostles also held massive OPEN-AIR meetings every day. -Huge outdoor gatherings.
Where did they hold these great open-air meetings? -In a place called "Solomon's Porch" - which was in the most crowded and well-travelled part of Jerusalem. In fact, it was right "in the face" of hundreds and thousands of people passing by on foot. Solomon's Porch was in the 'Courtyard of the Gentiles' which was a huge open courtyard (the size of 5 football fields) attached to the main Temple. In a lot of ways it served as the "town square" of Jerusalem. Hundreds upon hundreds of people passed through it every day. And there they could see the apostles, teaching and healing the sick right in front of the whole world. What a great place for Revival meetings!! (-Actually, this is where Jesus preached when he was in Jerusalem also).
That is why I talk so often about an "outdoor church" and a "street revival". The fact of the matter is that the original church WAS an 'outdoor church'. But you would never know it looking at today's church, would you? What we do today is hide ourselves away from the world - behind 'four walls' (which usually cost a fortune to build). How sad. And how unscriptural.
Jesus' ministry was mostly in the open air. John the Baptist's ministry was very much in the open air. The Book of Acts church in Jerusalem was mostly in the open air. But we are the very opposite. And it is costing us millions each year to erect more "walls". No wonder we don't impact the world like we should!
Apart from the huge outdoor gatherings, the only other place that the early believers seemed to meet was in homes. There they would gather most days, sharing their lives with one another. -Eating and taking communion together, praying, operating spiritual gifts and teaching new converts. -A whole lifestyle of love and community. That is what the early church was like. And no "church buildings" in sight.
Read this carefully (-Acts 2:42-46, NIV): "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common... 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." (-See also Acts 4:32-35, Acts 5:12-16, etc).
So now we can see why, all the way through the New Testament, Paul speaks about the "church that meets in so-and-so's house":- "To Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in YOUR HOME" (Phile v 2); "Aquila and Priscilla great you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at THEIR HOUSE" (1 Cor 16:19). See also Rom 16:5, Col 4:15, etc.
When you really look into it, you discover that the New Testament Church was simply one huge network of house churches - all united "as one". These were not independent fellowships or denominations. They were "one church" - one body - under the leadership of the apostles. No divisions or separations at all. How very different from today.
THE DAMAGE BEING DONE
So what harm is it doing - for our church life to be so focused around church buildings today? -I believe it is doing enormous harm. You cannot stray so far from the New Testament pattern without it doing tremendous damage. But we in the church have been living with church buildings for so many centuries now that we hardly even notice.
As Beckham wrote concerning the Roman influence on today's church: "Using a combination of the Roman governmental and feudal systems, Emporer Constantine developed a church structure that has lasted for seventeen centuries.... People go to a building (cathedral) on a special day of the week (Sunday) and someone (a priest, or today, a pastor) does something to them (teaching, preaching, absolution or healing) or for them (a ritual or entertainment) for a price (offerings)."
-This is the way the church has operated right through the Dark Ages and up to now. All of the above comes from Romanism, not from true Christianity. It cannot be found in the New Testament at all. But today we accept it as "normal". And it is robbing us blind. How deceived we are.
Here are the specific ways that I believe 'church buildings'
damage and ruin Christianity:
(1) Church buildings lock us "inside" - away from the world that we are called to reach. This one aspect alone is good enough reason to abandon them.
(2) They waste colossal sums of money - literally billions of dollars just in the USA alone. This often puts real "money pressure" on preachers and congregations alike. And it tends to make modern Christianity revolve around "money, money, money".
(3) Church buildings completely scramble our concept of what the "church" is. Many of us start to think of it as a BUILDING - instead of actual PEOPLE. We start to talk about "going to church" instead of realizing that "We ARE the church". This often leads to Christians leading two separate lives - their 'church' life and their "rest of the week" life. What a disaster! It also leads to all kinds of foolishness - such as referring to our building as 'The House of God' and treating it as 'holy', etc. No end of confusion and deception revolve around all of this.
(4) The building is really the center of an entire mindset
of "Religion" and error - dating from the Roman takeover
of the church 1700 years ago. It is the CENTERPIECE of
(5) The very concept of separated, walled-off congregations - each in its own little 'box' - lends itself to denominations and divisions and sects. Separate church buildings are a very big factor in DIVIDING the Body of Christ today. If we can get out of the buildings, there will be far more unity.
(6) Just think of all the committees and boards and fund-raising and loans and accountants that we could get rid of - just by getting RID OF OUR BUILDINGS! This is the 'red tape' and the subtle "money" pressure that ties the church up with the affairs of this world rather than the true work of the kingdom. How clever the devil is.
(7) Instead of "going into all the world making disciples", what often ends up happening today is "going into all the world and erecting monoliths wherever we go." The energy and time and money wasted on these things is staggering.
(8) Above all else, the best argument against church buildings is this: They are NOT IN THE BIBLE.
At this point a lot of people ask questions like, "But what happens when the weather is bad?" or "What do we do during winter?" The answer is pretty simple: We hire a warehouse or a disused carpark or something for 4 months and go out again when the weather improves. We also have our HOMES to gather in, all year round.
Remember, the early church was very PRACTICAL about such things. If you need to hire some place temporarily then DO IT. But please do not get stuck in a church building!
I believe we are about to see a powerful move of God
and a great 'SHAKING' in the church - that will bring
her into the kind of glorious, united, OUTDOOR
Christianity that we have been talking about here.
Personally, I can't wait!
-Ernest Loosley, "When The Church Was Young".
-J.G. Davies, "Secular Use of Church Buildings".
-Howard Snyder, "The Problem of Wineskins".
-Beckham, "Second Reformation".
- www.churchinfocus.org .
-Darryl M. Erkel, "Church Buildings or House-Churches?"
- www.housechurch.org , "Miscellaneous House Church Quotes".
-M. Brown, "Revolution in the Church".
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