No Temple Building, by Design
The Biblical blueprint
At the time of Jesus, most
peoples religious lives were centered round specially consecrated
buildings. This was true of both Jews and Gentiles. The exception to
the rule was those strange Christian believers, who followed a carpenter
claiming to be the Son of God. They alone, of all the spiritual persuasions
of the day, had no public buildings in which to meet for their gatherings.
There was not one good reason in the entire world why they shouldn't
have had temples or sanctuaries or shrines like everybody else, but
they didn't. Persecution was, for the most part, sporadic, and they
had every opportunity to do what was, for everyone else, and for them
too, before becoming believers, the most natural thing in the world:
setting aside and consecrating special buildings, however simple and
humble, for their corporate gatherings.
But they didn't! Why not?
Because they had actually been taught by the apostles that meeting in
each others homes was actually what Jesus wanted them to do. (Remember,
this style of worship began to be practiced from the very beginning
of the Christian movement [Acts 2]just days after Christs
ascension.) Far from being out of necessity, or something similar, until
some later time came when changes could be made, it was actually the
Divine intention. Indeed, history tells us that some thought they were
atheists precisely because they had no special building in which their
So we see that the apostles
established churches to be quite specifically located in people's houses.
And far from being merely some accident of history, this was actually
a part of the apostolic (and therefore Biblical) blueprint.
Modern churches, antithesis of the ideal
And the contrast is nothing
short of amazing. Churches today aren't just different from the New
Testament ones, they are virtually the opposite. Think about it! The
Bible shows us that believers came together as churches in people's
houses on the Sabbath for open and spontaneous worship and sharing together.
This involved most people present bringing teachings and revelations,
and the like (1 Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3:16), and such gatherings
most certainly didn't need anyone leading from the front. Remember,
when a church meets in someone's living room there isn't even a front
to lead from. Further, they ate a meal together; indeed, the very Lord's
So what do churches traditionally
do instead? They meet on Sabbath with those attending sitting in rows,
in a service, in a public building, led from the front by someone who,
usually, is paid to do it as their job. Contrast further a leadership
of plural, co-equal and locally grown elders with an imported professional
one man pastor, or priest type leadership, and you begin
to see, if you are just willing to be honest, just how contradictory
to the Bible's teachings our churches actually are. In such a setting
a shared main meal, to say nothing of each person being free to participate
and with no one presiding from the front, becomes a complete
nonsense. Indeed, that is the very reason why the Lord's Supper was
eventually jettisoned by the Church Fathers shortly after the first
century in favor of bread and wine services, it just didn't fit in any
more with the priesthood and services they introduced into
the life of the Christian churches.
Thus, what we see in the
New Testament is that churches never moved out of houses into larger
public buildings precisely because they didnt need to. The nature
of their church was that of a little extended family of
Goda pretty good and completely Biblical definition. This raises
the question as to why anyone would want a church to get so large that
those who comprise it are no longer able to function in the way the
Bible shows us they did. It is simply the case that, at the time of
the apostles, far from there being large churches around there were
rather just many, many small ones tied-in together through mutual relationships
as brothers and sisters.
Meeting in a house is but
one aspect of the (larger) Scriptural blueprint. It comes down to the
simple fact that if churches are to function in the way the New Testament
shows us they did under the apostles, then being house based is, quite
inescapably, the complete optimum and the absolute ideal.
(The above is a condensing,
reworking, and adding to the article, "A Letter to Oglethorpe"
For the full text go here)