1.I don't see how the Spudcheckers' family squabbles before church had anything to do with church itself—other than frustrating Winchester and making him cynical about everything that went on at his church. Why did you lead off the book with this story?
You're right—Winchester's Sunday morning troubles were what put him in the frame of mind to question church practices he normally sat through without giving any thought to at all. The story was simply a humorous way to illustrate how scores of Christians go through the motions on Sunday morning without considering why they do what they do.
2. While you say that contemporary church practice has been influenced far more by postbiblical historical events than New Testament principles, isn't it true that there aren't many specifics in the Gospels, Acts, or Paul's letters about church practice? What Scriptures would you point to as outlining what Christians should do when gathering for worship?
The New Testament actually includes many details about how the early Christians gathered. For example, we know that the early church met in homes for their regular church meetings (Acts 20:20; Romans 16:3, 5; 1 Corinthians 16:19). They took the Lord's Supper as a full meal (1 Corinthians 11:21-34). Their church gatherings were open and participatory (1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 10:24-25). Spiritual gifts were employed by each member (1 Corinthians 12-14). They genuinely saw themselves as family and acted accordingly (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Romans 12:5; Ephe-sians 4:15; Romans 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15). They had a plurality of elders to oversee the community (Acts 20:17, 28-29; 1 Timothy 1:5-7). They were established and aided by itinerant apostolic workers (Acts 13-21; all the apostolic letters). They were fully united and did not denominate themselves into separate organizations in the same city (Acts 8:1, 13:1, 18:22; Romans 16:1; 1 Thes-salonians 1:1). They did not use honorific tides (Matthew 23:8-12). They did not organize themselves hierarchically (Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:25-26).
Offering a complete biblical basis for these practices and explaining why they should be emulated today is beyond the scope of this book. One book that does so is Paul's Idea of Community by Robert Banks (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994). I (Frank) also treat this subject comprehensively in the book Reimagining Church (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook), which will be released in summer 2008.
>THE CHURCH BUILDING: INHERITING THE EDIFICE COMPLEX
"In the process of replacing the old religions, Christianity became a religion."
-ALEXANDER SCHMEMANN, TWENTIETH-CENTURY EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIEST, TEACHER, AND WRITER
"That the Christians in the apostolic age erected special houses of worship is out of the question As the Saviour of the world was born in a stable, and ascended to heaven from a mountain, so his apostles and their successors down to the third century, preached in the streets, the markets, on mountains, in ships, sepulchres, eaves, and deserts, and in the homes of their converts. But how many thousands of costly churches and chapels have since been built and are constantly being built in all parts of the world to the honor of the crucified Redeemer, who in the days of his humiliation had no place of his own to rest his head!"
-PHILIP SCHAFF, NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN CHURCH HISTORIAN AND THEOLOGIAN
MANY CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIANS have a love affair with brick and mortar. The edifice complex is so ingrained in our thinking that if a group of believers begins to meet together, their first thoughts are toward securing a building. For how can a group of Christians rightfully claim to be a church without a building? (So the thinking goes.)
The "church" building is so connected with the idea of church that we unconsciously equate the two. Just listen to the vocabulary of the average Christian today:
"Wow, honey, did you see that beautiful church we just passed?"
"My goodness! That is the largest church I have ever seen! I wonder what the electric costs to keep it going?"
"Our church is too small. I'm developing claustrophobia. We need to extend the balcony."
"The church is chilly today; I am freezing my buns off in here!"
"We have gone to church every Sunday this past year except for the Sunday when Aunt Mildred dropped the microwave oven on her toe."
Or how about the vocabulary of the average pastor:
"Isn't it wonderful to be in the house of God today?"
"We must show reverence when we come into the sanctuary of the Lord."
Or how about the mother who tells her happy child (in subdued tones), "Wipe that smile off your face; you're in church now! We behave ourselves in the house of God!"
To put it bluntly, none of these thoughts have anything to do with New Testament Christianity. Rather they reflect the thinking of other religions—primarily Judaism and paganism.
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