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No Temple Building, by Design

The Biblical blueprint

At the time of Jesus, most people’s 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 Christ’s 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 god lived.

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 Meal!

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 didn’t need to. The nature of their “church” was that of a little extended family of God—a 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)