In a previous post in this series, I suggested that it is dangerous to the spiritual maturity of believers to place an extraordinary emphasis on Sunday as “The Day” for Christians to meet together as the church.
But there is another more dangerous emphasis that is often found among the modern, traditional church today: the place – typically a building designated for church meetings (i.e., worship services). (Of course, those who ‘house church’ could look at their particular house in the same dangerous manner.)
When I was growing up, the church building was like the temple in many ways. Oh, we SAID that our bodies were the temple of God, but we ACTED as if the church building was. There were even different levels of holiness attached to the church building.
There were things you could do/say elsewhere that you did not do/say while on church grounds. There were things you could do/say on church grounds that you did not do/say while in the church building. There were things you could do/say in the church building that you did not do/say while in “the sanctuary.” There were things you could do/say in “the sanctuary” that you did not do/say while on the platform. There were things you could do/say on the platform that you did not do/say while standing behind the pulpit.
These practices – and many others – demonstrated that we considered that specific building to be a special building. People could get together in their homes (fellowships or Bible study) or in parks or wherever, but it was only “church” when we gathered in that particular building.
Again, this teaches that our identity in Christ and as the church when we are together depends upon being in a particular place (and, usually, on a particular day at a particular time).
In fact, I’ve talked to many Christians who grew up in that kind of environment who believe that they can treat people (the same people) differently when they are not in “the church building.” And, even if those believers will not actually state that as their belief, their lives demonstrate that it is.
When we emphasize a place as “the place” for the church to meet, then we are teaching people that their identity as the church does not depend upon their relationship with God through Christ and their mutual relationships with one another, but instead, it depends upon being in a particular place.
It is in this particular place that people dress up (their clothes and their actions) to be the church, while living differently anyplace else. What? You say that you teach just the opposite? Perhaps with your words… but what do your actions and practices teach? Believe me, people learn more from our actions than from our words.
Instead of hampering the spiritual growth of our brothers and sisters, let’s remind them that they are “church” whenever and wherever they are together with their brothers and sisters in Christ.