During the time of the early church pagans would go to a particular temple to pay allegiance to their god of choice. If you wanted Zeus to hear you, you went to his templeâwith the idea he was present in his temple. Here you would bring sacrifices, prayers and offerings in exchange for a specific blessingâfertility, finance, safetyâwhatever your need or want may be.
The same was also true for Yahweh, the God of the Jewish people. The temple was a sacred place for people to meet God and bring him their requests.
The point being god resided in the building or in the temple. Anytime you wanted your god to hear you, or felt you needed to appease them, you would have to visit the templeâthere was no other way.
A scandalous idea
It's easy to overlook this core distinctive of early Christianity or really understand what it would have meant to the members of the early church.
Jesus suddenly called God 'Papa'âa stark statement when most of the current deities of his day were capricious if not downright horrible, something far removed from an image of a loving Father. This concept was scandalous.
Let's not forget that Judaism brought in the idea that there is only one God instead of the plethora pagans had been worshipping.
What's more, the New Testament reveals there is one mediator between that God and mankindâJesus Christ. These statements were huge and world-changing at the time.
It's not hard to see how the gracious truths at the heart of the gospel have tried to be supplanted by religion or by the yoke of the law over time. So much of the good news is sometimes 'too good to be true', instead of us renewing our mind so as to understand its gracious wonders, we again go back to pagan roots or the law.
We work again for the favour of our God, making sure everything is perfect in order for 'our God to hear us', we drag ourselves to the temple on a Sunday feeling lowly and undeserving and we miss the point of grace entirely.
We view our work world, or our home life, or our circle of friends as somehow different from our spiritual life. We divide and separate everything.
I also see this separation being played out in our current view of 'church'. Although a huge subject we can simply ask ourselves, what is church?
Is it a building? Is it a program?
The New Testament continuously states that we are the Church. Whenever two or three gather in Christ's name, He is there with us. We are the body of Christ, the whole body of believers worldwide, this is the Church.
God dwelling among us
Another ground-breaking idea was the concept of no separation of God and man. Through Jesus there were no more sacrifices to be made for supplication of our sins or a checklist to tick off to 'get ourselves right'. Christ has done it all. He made the way and all we have to do is believe it!
There was a curtain in the Jewish temple separating man from God. This was torn in two when Jesus was crucified. There was no more separationâChrist brought us into the very throne room of grace.
This means there is now no more temple where God dwells!
Why? Because the Bible states that we are the temple housing God's Holy Spiritâhe lives within us! Wherever we go, God is there. God abides within us! We are a living, breathing, walking temple of the Spirit of God!
Church is more than a building
With this in mind, how can a church building be any 'holier' than your own home?
The Church isn't a building, it isn't a program, it is a living, breathing body with Christ at the head, the entire body being Christendom as a worldwide whole.
I've heard people say, 'I don't need to go to Church, if God is everywhere and lives inside me then what's so important about going to a building every week?' and I understand how they feel, but the Bible calls us 'not to give up meeting together' (see Hebrews chapter 10) for many reasons.
Does this mean you have to go to a building or program in order to do this? No way. If you're getting together with a friend or two for instance, talking and focusing on Christ, praying for one another, encouraging one another then you're at churchâsimple as that.
Worshipping with a guitar or with CD at home with a few friends is just as 'holy', just as much 'worship' as any church or conference could offer. The New Testament gives instructions for godly and wise operations of meetings and gatherings, and inside of these guidelines, we are free to create.
I'm not against traditional church services, nor am I banging on some sort of home church drum to say, 'it's how the early church did it!' If I did that I would be nullifying the very point I am trying to make.
Church should be unboxed, unlimited to how we see it or how it plays out or looks like. Let's crack it open, let's stop putting God in a box and feeling guilty about not adhering to a certain definition.
Stop separating holy ground from where we are right now, because if it's within the guidelines of scripture then it's 'kosher'.
If you don't feel you belong to a traditional church, then start something that floats your boat, get other like-minded believers around you.
Do something crazy, start up a cafe where people paint and sing poetry. Do a round robin of people cooking for their friends at home and talk about scripture, talk about what you've been struggling with during the week, pray for each other, pool your spare money together and help out the one in that group who is struggling with bills at the current time. Get together on the beach with bonfires and bongo drums and let's stop separating, It's all church baby and it's all good!
Tim Everton is a youth worker and part time designer/nerd/artist from the beautiful southern coast of South Australia. In his off-time he pursues his artistic passions, the beach and seeking out the next best cafe latte all in equal measure.
Tim Everton's previous articles may be viewed at http:/www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-everton.html" target="_blank">http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-everton.html