Thursday, February 08, 2007

Paradigm Issues Facing the Church - Facility vs. Identity

I have mentioned before that we pride ourselves on the first century model but fall short in several of the most important areas they practiced. We have this really bad tendency of making tradition into torah. Once we have done something long enough, somehow, people get the idea that it is the only proper way for it to be done and anything else is sin. It is like the story of the daughter who always cut off the ends of the meatloaf(?) because her mother always did it that way. Only later when she asked her mother why she did that did she find out that was because her pan was too small. I think some people actually believe that the number of songs we have before the prayer is dictated in scripture somewhere.

It is clear in scripture that the early church met in homes and not church buildings (Acts 5:42 as well as plenty of archaeological evidence). They were not focused on where they met but on who/whose they were and what they were doing. You don't hear any sermons about Paul or Peter requiring worship in homes or anywhere else but they do say worship is important. It wasn't until the 4th century that church buildings began to be built. Now, after 1700 years of practice, people think that is the only way God allows for people to worship Him. Churches often have LIFE groups that meet at the building to placate those who think that is the only place to worship. I knew an elder once who said as long as he was alive there would always be a worship service on Sunday night at the building and so that church had BOTH a one hour worship followed by a two hour LIFE group meeting (in homes and a group at the building).

I have seen spiritual growth in people that may have never happened if their worship had been confined to the church building. There have been people brought to Christ all over the world who would have never stepped foot in church but would step foot into someone's home and now they are Christians. I think we have made huge strides in making this adjustment away from the facility way of thinking but I think there is more change ahead. This is just something that people in our churches need to be educated about. They take it for granted that the way they have done it/seen it done/heard it preached is the only right way because they haven't heard anything different. One thing I love about the Church of Christ is that if you can show someone something has a biblical foundation, they are normally very good about it.

I am not saying that we abandoned our buildings and lock the door. I am saying that we should educate people to no longer be bound in their thinking to limiting worship to the building. This has far greater implications than just where we meet - building vs. homes. It is a mindset that affects one's view of God, church, tradition, and a whole slew of other things.

Next up...probably translations

8 comments:

Milton Stanley said...

A big Amen on this one, Matt. I look forward (probably) to your post on translations.

Lisa said...

Great thoughts, Matt.

Bob Bliss said...

I've thought a lot about this issue as well Matt. You've inspired me to post to my blog about this subject. I will reference yours as well. I agree with you that we are too tied to our buildings without thinking the implications of owning our buildings.

Gallagher said...

Great thoughts. I preach for a congregation only three years old, We meet in a Holiday Inn on Sundays and in homes during the week.

I have been part of a group which has grown extremely close through our fellowship and study time in each other's home.

Just my thoughts as I look forward to the next post.

Alan Knox said...

Matt,

I just found your blog. I tackle some of the same issues. I think one problem occurs when we don't see ourselves as church outside of a given location/time. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

-Alan

Matt said...

Milton,

I apprecaite your feedback and your stopping by. I look forward to your thoughts in the future.

Lisa,

Glad you stopped by again, always nice to know you are reading. Any thoughts are always welcome.

Bob,

I look forward to reading your post. I am sure it will be a good one.

Gallagher,

I think there is a certain closeness that is formed best when formed outside the context of large scale corporate worship. God bless you in what you are doing. If you ever need any prayers or encouragement, just let me know.

Alan,

I guess you are talking about us trying to be exactly the same as the first century church (who also had huge problems themselves). We do tend to idealize the first century church and I think there is some good in that but I also think there is a danger of idolizing them and glossing over their problems. Good thoughts.

Lisa said...

Here are some of my thoughts ... I would love to see us meeting in homes, not spending bunches of dollars each year on building costs. Our church had a split a few years ago (before we moved here) that resulted in the splitting-off group meeting in homes. I do not know the whole story of the split. I know that the people who are still here felt hurt and abandoned by this and any talk of forming small groups, especially of meeting in homes on Sunday nights, is avoided as it causes hurt feelings all over again (learned that the hard way as I once suggested meeting in homes on Sunday nights as a possible way to increase our attendance for that service). But I struggle with feeling guilty that we spend a lot on building costs, when we could spend it in other ways. I suppose a lot of Christians, especially leaders of the church, face the same feelings from time to time. Especially of late, as we're about to spend a lot of money on a new parking lot, new AV equipment and computers, I'm left wondering ... is this the best use of our money? Should we do this? I trust our elders and don't want to doubt their leadership.

I may not always comment because I feel intimidated with my lack of knowledge where ministers have studied a great deal more ... but I am always reading!! Keep up the great work. I love your posts.

Matt said...

Hey Lisa,

Don't ever worry about posting. I always welcome your thoughts. Small groups may not be the best fit all the time/everywhere. It does take discernment. Studies have shown that replacing Sunday PM with groups almost always increases attendance. With that history, it will be hard. I spent some time in Gainesville, FL. Talking about increasing accountability raises eyebrows there because that is where the Crossroads Movement started. Thanks for the encouragement.

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