My Thoughts. . .
Time changes most things. Looking in the mirror at age 84 is a lot different than when it was 1954. Biblical words like “thee” have changed to “you,” but not without controversy. God forgives and forgets. Humans often cannot make that transition. If we recognize that change may cause adverse effects, we will attempt to choose the positive when it appears to outweigh the negative. For every action there is a reaction.
First century disciples assembled from house to house. Some gathered in one of the Temple courtyards, but persecution stopped that. Paul taught in a school, but that was temporary. House to house assemblies happened even when a congregation’s numbers reached into the thousands (Acts 2:41; 4:4). Such meetings are dismissed by some but the recent pandemic has forced us out of our church building and returned us back to those New Testament assemblies.
The third century church decided the first century way of spending the contribution could be used to buy property and build a meeting place. Remember the 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 contribution was for benevolence outside the local church’s area. Uninspired men decided to broaden what the collection could be spent on. Remember, for every action, there is a reaction. About 200 years after the first century, man decided the church would be better suited meeting under one roof. Keep in mind that the 8,000 plus Jerusalem congregation did very well meeting all over the city in multiple assemblies. So, a congregation was divided into multiple assemblies, each with its own meeting place and congregational leadership.
Despite Corinth’s inspired personnel it drifted into error. It is not surprising that later assemblies, without those miraculous gifts, did the same thing. Man decided to add his own church order of leadership. A special class arose referred to as “clergy” or priests, with each directed the membership who were classified as the “laity.” The name this movement used to describe itself was “the universal church.” Rome became the seat of its authority. Later that church would have its rebels like Luther, Zwingli, and others. They were classified as apostates. The two separate religious groups were divided into the true original church and the other was classified as Protest or Protestants. Within a few centuries more denominations appeared giving each believer a choice in what he would accept as faith. Most Protestants decided that each divisions was not essential to his salvation, although loyalty was expected. Each developed a specific doctrine that made it different from his neighbor’s. Each non-essential church member thought his belief and church was closer to the truth. Each faith accepted the idea that it needed a church owned edifice. If the Universal Church had its building, Protestantism deserved one too.
With over 1,000 different denominations today, it is difficult to list the many doctrines that each has introduced about the church building. Each one’s action has resulted in a different reactions. A few of those are related.
Some came to believe the church building inherited a holiness which blessed those who entered its doors. Even songs used by most of the differing groups included the idea that as we sing, “We are standing upon holy ground.” Some who sing those lyrics believed that this holy nature resides in their building. To be present was to receive that holiness.
Rules were manufactured by man to keep the building interior holy. The idea was created that nothing profane may be practiced therein. The interior was designated as the sanctuary. This was where the laity came to be sanctified. It was where one came to receive Deity’s blessings through God’s anointed clergy. Since God was there, one came into the sanctuary humbly and quietly to show his respect for the Father.
Due to man’s respect for God, multiple rules were developed to keep His sanctuary holy. Decisions were made to separate the holy from the profane. This view was developed over property rather than the biblical sanctuary of God. Believers are the true sanctuary that must be holy. Brick and stone cannot enjoy those attributes. Following those manmade rules, some would not allow weddings in the building because the ceremony was not considered “worship.” Others allowed it because they thought the ceremony with its music was a God ordained service. Some who would not accept the service as worship, allowed it if the wedding party used their minister, and conformed to that church’s belief on what was proper worship in their building. For example, one lady was extremely upset with her church for allowing a brass and string section to perform during worship. She claimed that only the piano and organ were authorized to do that. Bringing food into the auditorium or sanctuary was forbidden because it was for worship only, and a common meal was forbidden. Some will not use the word “sanctuary” to describe the auditorium yet use “sanctuary rules” to keep it holy! For every action, there is a reaction. Those created by man are not always good.
Are church buildings sinful? I have not made that claim. However, no matter how ornate, it is just a building for a bunch of folks to meet in and do what they believe. If one believes he must be in that building to make points with God, his thoughts are pointless. If he believes he must be in a church building to be in God presence, he has been deceived. God dwells IN His people (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). He is there 24/7. To limit God’s presence to 1-4 hours each week in a specific location is to worship a limited god that is unworthy of our devotion. Since God dwells in the believer, God is with you wherever you decide to go. If a disciple is meeting at the building with others to edify and be edified, then that room does not benefit from what those people are doing. Edification benefits people. Brick and wood cannot enjoy nor hate what humans do. If one is strengthened as a disciple by outstanding architect or stained windows rather than edification, his purpose is woefully wrong. Corinth had that problem due to their divisiveness (1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 33-34).
For every action, there is a reaction. To keep the reaction right, one must work on the “every action.”