the weblog of Alan Knox

What would they think?

Posted by on Jun 9, 2007 in gathering | 7 comments

Today, as I was driving around town, running a few errands with my family, I passed several church buildings. Since it was Saturday afternoon, the buildings stood empty. Even though I have not been in these buildings, I’m guessing that I can describe the interior of the buildings fairly accurately.

Most of the buildings probably have chairs or benches (pews) lined up in neat rows facing a raised platform. In special compartments on the back or under the chairs or benches will be hymn books filled with songs written, for the most part, within the last two hundred years. On the platform will be a fancy lectern, probably having a microphone jutting out of the top. On the side of the platform will be a piano and perhaps even an organ. For the larger church buildings, there will be other chairs for people who play other instruments. In many of these buildings, special chairs sit on the platform for those who organize and manage different portions of the Sunday meeting. This describes the locations and accessories necessary for the meetings of the majority of churches in America.

Similarly, I could probably describe what happens during most of the meetings as well. Primarily, the meetings would consist of one person choosing songs for all of the participants to sing, while another person primarily teaches. These same people would be responsible for the content of the meeting week after week. Occasionally, someone else will pray, or someone else will make an announcement. But, for the most part, the activities within the meeting are organized, managed, and carried out by a small group of people.

As I was driving around, and thinking about these various church buildings, the churches that gather in those buildings, and the meetings that take place, I wondered…

If a believer from first century Corinth wandered into one of these meetings, would he recognize the gathered group as a church? What if someone from the early church in Philippi found herself sitting on one of those pews as the meeting started, would she think that one or two people would be responsible for what happens during the meeting? If a young man from the first church in Rome stood to sing, would he be surprised to find that the songs and hymns were prearranged and chosen by one person or even a small group of people.

I wonder… if one of the early Christians walked into our church meetings, what would they think?


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  1. 6-9-2007

    The church is so subnormal that if it ever got back to the New Testament normal it would seem to people to be abnormal. –Vance Havner

  2. 6-9-2007

    Great questions, Alan. It’s fun to watch you think through this stuff. I wonder where it will take you. I’m still trying to figure out where it’s taking me! 🙂 But these are precisely the types of questions that I’ve been working through, as well.

    My thoughts are that a 1st century Christian would wonder what in the world we were doing. I feel like most of what we call “church” has more in common with Old Testament worship (complete with mediators and professional “priests”) than with New Covenant truth.

  3. 6-9-2007


    We don’t have to go back to a 1st century Christian… just bring one from a house church in China or India… they would have trouble identifying with our churches here.

  4. 6-9-2007


    I don’t think I’ve ever read that Havner quote. Thank you for quoting it here.


    As you know, I like questions, even if I don’t know the answers. I think you are correct that many of our practices and many of the accessories that go along with the contemporary church meeting have more in common with the O.T. than the N.T.


  5. 6-9-2007


    That’s a good point. I wonder what someone from the average church in America would think of a church meeting in China…


  6. 6-10-2007

    I think they might just call us Pharisees…

  7. 6-10-2007


    I think that may be another possibility. It certainly wouldn’t describe all believers, but it may apply to many churches.