Everywhere you turn today you see incredible buildings where people assemble once a week to “worship.” In fact for the past 1800 years or so, men have been building edifices for people to gather in, purportedly to honor God. The civilized world has continually sought to build physical places for God, without scriptural understanding. God doesn’t want a house to “dwell” in, He seeks the hearts of men for His dwelling place. As we continue to study the Church established in the book of Acts, and the formula and pattern established in Acts 2:42, we will look at what God desires of us as compared to man’s actions. The church built by Jesus Christ, established in Biblical Doctrine, has evidence of three more characteristics, Fellowship, Breaking Bread, and Prayer. Doctrine having been covered in a previous article, we will look at Fellowship which I believe is incorrectly practiced and understood in most “churches” today.
In Acts 4:46 we read that the believers worshiped together daily in the Temple, and from “house to house.” The Church established in the book of Acts met in the homes and the courtyards of homes of the believers in Jesus Christ. This arrangement continued for the first two and a half centuries of the Church’s existence. But, by the latter half of the second century AD, doctrinal error began to enter the Church. The Gnostics and Nicolaitans and other false prophets (warned about by John, Peter, James and Paul) had spread their false doctrines and had also embraced many pagan practices so that many “churches” gradually departed from New Testament Doctrine. Local “churches” became institutionalized by uniting under the direction of regional “bishops” and unscriptural organizations. The simple worship arrangement initiated in Acts was being replaced by ritual, system and practiced religiosity.
In 312AD, Roman Emperor Constantine was said to convert to Christianity (The veracity of this can be debated in another article), and after having done so began the process of organizing the “church” for the benefit of the state. Under this religious system specialized places of worship began to be built which separated the worshipers from the “clergy” in yet another example of unscriptural practice. While Constantine is said to have helped establish and grow the “church,” in reality his introduction of paganism into “Christian” worship, in fact and effect caused the True Church to virtually go underground.
Today, meeting to worship in a building constructed for just such purpose is the norm, however this was not in the original design for the Church. In fact, I believe for several reasons, it is antithetical to the mission of the Church. First of all, it is ludicrous to believe it is right to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions, to construct buildings which are utilized once or twice a week while there are millions of people who have physical and spiritual needs. In order to construct and maintain these places, the financial resources which should be used for missions or church planting are swallowed up by mortgages and salaries which usually display greed and excess rather than love and hope. Spiritual growth is replaced by growing “membership” numbers to feed the financial monster that is the “church.”
Secondly, the mission of the Church is to develop the body by feeding them spiritually. Discipleship is the primary responsibility of the Church as they meet together. Evangelism is supposed to happen continually in our daily lives, and once someone becomes a follower of Christ they are brought into the fellowship of the Church Family to be fed and fortified. This is the example of the early Church in Acts 2:42-47. Building impressive buildings and “programs” to attract men to attend is antithetical to the pattern found in this passage. It has been my experience in ministry that people are hesitant to attend “services” where they feel like they must meet the expectations of the “membership” or fit in to the formality of the practices. Additionally there is a strong perception in these mega churches that they want you to attend to solicit you to “give sacrificially” to their work. People have the thought that “they only want me for my money.”It has also been my experience that people are more willing to attend an informal Bible Study in someone’s home or horse barn than a fancy “church” structure because they do not have to impress anyone.
In much of the undeveloped world this is where you will find the Church meeting today, and actually the house church is God’s ideal for every culture. In contrast to today’s magnificent cathedrals, mega churches, and church campuses, not to mention the institutional “churches”, denominations, para-church organizations, and ministerial associations, the New Testament records no attempt by the Apostles to form an organization of any kind for building the Church of Jesus Christ. God’s unit on earth for transmitting the faith was the local church and the Apostles were content to work within that framework, and to the early Christians the congregation was the divinely ordained unit on earth through which God chose to work. The model Church in Acts is the only unit to which God promised perpetuity.
The “church” has gotten far away from the model in this respect. Fellowship happens when people worship together as family. Church happens when believers are united together is such a way as to care about one another rather than the facility in which they meet. In these Last Days we need to be aware that people need Jesus, the body of Christ needs to grow in the Word together, the Church is Christians obedient to the Word and;
Jesus is Coming Soon!