The Early Church and "Buildings"
Hi, my friend is studying history at the University. One of the professors of his religious history class identifies himself as a Christian, and he has mentioned that they're learning that the early believers met in buildings. My friend seems to think the same thing, but unfortunately we haven't had a chance to talk about the historical reality or the Truth's of Jesus very clearly yet.
I want to point out to him that it doesn't really matter at all WHAT the "early church fathers" did - if they contradicted what Jesus, the Prophets, the Apostles and the early Christians Lived and taught. God's Church surrounded NO buildings, men, ceremonies, special times, services, etc. (Acts 2:42-47). So, I hope he has an open heart whenever we get to talk about this.
But I wanted to ask about some historical facts concerning the early believers. I remember I think that archeologists had found a house which was used for Christian gatherings as early as 300 AD. I think they had torn down the walls to fit more people and had built a section to baptize people. But it doesn't mean that their whole life together surrounded that place, right? But then again, even if it did, IT DOESN'T MATTER, because the New Testament calls us to daily Life together, and Church has always and will always mean: People who love Jesus and one another and help each other to put aside sin and grow into the image of Jesus from one degree of Glory to another.
So, if it'll help, could you remind me a bit about what the early Christians did after 90 AD?
Fun topic. :) I say fun, because you'll have to put on your thinking cap a bit. Good for that? :)
As a parable, if your wife was a gourmet cook and ALWAYS wore certain clothing on days when she was fixing Italian food, you would CONCLUDE that she had a REASON for always wearing certain clothing in that scenario. Right? You may not understand it, but if she were totally brilliant (as she is of course :) ) and made certain conscious choices that are outside of your understanding, but constant and provable, you would ASSUME that there was a reason. Right? Maybe you'd even try to find out WHY - rather than just do whatever YOU want when it's time for your rookie attempts at cooking Italian. :)
And, if your boss ALWAYS has you fill out a certain government report after you consult for 20 clients, you would ASSUME there is a REASON for his actions, since no one does EXTRA paperwork in their right minds. :) Correct? It's NOT "random" that he would have you do such a thing, though you may not understand the reasons. If you ever went into business for yourself in that industry, wouldn't it be totally FOOLISH to ignore what you had seen an "expert" do for years, and assume "you know better" without even questioning WHY he made a conscious choice for years to do something difficult?
A longer period of time elapsed from Jesus to the first "church building" than the United States has even existed. That can't be an accident. SO, if THE FIRST TWO HUNDRED and FIFTY YEARS of CHRISTIANS did or didn't do something that was "what everyone else in every religion is doing around the world" wouldn't we CARE why or why not? Or are we above that? Under the initial Leadership of "the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb" and the Spirit of God Himself, can we assume we are NOT better than the Apostles and Jesus' Leadership before "christianity" was made the State religion under Constantine? Yes, you can assume GOD had a REASON for what He did through Jesus and the Apostles - that applies to us as well. It CAN'T BE RANDOM. God is very smart. :) There MUST be a REASON that applies to us as well, unless humans are a different species entirely now than they were then. Nope. Not that.
BUT, let's start here:_____________________
From: Dan Zeigler, PhD
Subject: True family in the view of an early Christian...
"Such works of love (for so it is) puts a mark upon us, in the eyes of some. 'Look,' they say, 'how they love one another' (for they themselves hate one another), 'and how they are ready to die for each other' (for they themselves will be readier to kill each other). Yes, their indignation at us for using among ourselves the name of 'brothers' must really, I take it, come from nothing but the fact that among them every name of kinship so far as affection goes is false and feigned...But how much more fittingly are both called brothers and treated as brothers who have come to know one Father God, who have drunk of one Spirit of holiness, who from one womb of common ignorance have come with wonder to the one light of truth." (Tertullian, AD 197)_____________________
Does everyone who are "experts" on "christianity" EXPERIENCE THIS, as BARE MINIMUM??! Forget the "buildings" part for a minute. Is the above quote the EXPERIENCE of everyone advocating "buildings" in spite of the lack of science or Scripture supporting "buildings"? :) Are they EXPERIENCING what Tertullian described as "normal christianity" and JESUS insisted was the church HE started: "a HUNDRED MOTHERS, BROTHERS, SISTERS, LANDS, POSSESSIONS, PERSECUTIONS, and THEN LIFE THAT ALWAYS WAS AND ALWAYS WILL BE."
If RELATIONSHIPS are only "theory" to them rather than like a hundred MOTHERS and CLOSE INTIMATE BONDS to them daily, they are missing the Point of what JESUS said and demonstrated "Church" is, anyway. Right? In that sense, of course personally i couldn't care any less about "buildings" when LIFE and DEATH are at stake where there are buildings and shrines, and where there are NO buildings or shrines.
LIFE is the Issue, not "death by living room" versus "death by religious facility." TRUE? :)
But then there's this, regarding your question, and "upon further review" it is NOT so "unrelated" to the point just made as one would think! ENVIRONMENT affects Life. Do YOU typically have meaningful personal conversations, baring your heart and soul to others... when looking at the back of their head in that conversation, or while they are "elevated" on a stage and choreographed pre-practiced speech or entertainment? No, never. Not once. Why? And, have you EVER had a precious interchange of personal life and hope and a future with your wife or children, while having MTV blaring at 102 decibels gathered around the television? No, never. It is the wrong "environment" for anything good or personal or life-changing.
Environment matters regarding what "goals" are accomplished. And GOD knew that, as did the Apostles trained by Jesus Himself. Intimate daily ChristLife that CHANGES character and habits and bondages - requires a different environment than would goals of money raising and hero worship and flesh excitement. It depends on ones' goals. But environment matters.
So, what did GOD think of for "environment" for CHANGING LIVES? A family, and low-and-behold, a Family! "A hundred mothers, brothers, sisters!" Not attendance and a religious temple with a high priest presiding over spectators who "go home" after the ceremony or service or mass or show. Ouch. :)
GOD does what HE does.... for a REASON. "Upon further review" the topic you asked about, regarding "buildings" that didn't exist in the first century, or the second, or most of the THIRD... is NOT so "unrelated" to the point just made about God's Plan of FAMILY, not ritual or form or information or shows, as one would think! HOW DID JESUS RELATE TO THE FATHER? HOW DID JESUS RELATE TO HIS FRIENDS, the APOSTLES? HOW DID THEY THEN RELATE TO THE CHURCH in DAILY INTERTWINED LIVES? Even as babies in Christ... THEY KNEW!
IT IS A PROVEN FACT THAT THE VERY FIRST "CHURCH BUILDING" EVER EXCAVATED DATES ONLY BACK TO ABOUT 275AD or later. There was of course Dura-Europas in 235AD, but that was an altered domestic building so they could immerse new Believers, NOT "a church building" as all the other world religions had built and "attended" all along.
Think about it - WHY did they not do what comes naturally to man, build a shrine, a temple, a religious building? Archaeologists have discovered buildings and artifacts thousands of years older than this, and WOULD have found "church buildings" before 300AD IF THERE HAD BEEN ANY. Why were there no "church buildings" when every world religion had them? What is the REASON? ...... BECAUSE THEY KNEW JESUS WASN'T LIKE THAT!
There were no "Buildings Appropriated for Religious Functions" prior to that, according to ANY ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG EVER DONE, apparently. Did they meet "inside" some structure or another, at times, depending on weather or circumstance? Well YEAH, duh! :) Large rooms in homes or public buildings, outside in "the temple courts" (the "temple court" aka "Solomon's Colonnade" was a city park, not a "temple"), and such.
But, if you wanted to have some enjoyable sport, you could "dare the professor" to find the CHURCH BUILDING built for religious purposes in the CHRISTIAN WORLD prior to the mid THIRD CENTURY. He won't be able to. :) That's a LONG TIME to CONSCIOUSLY refuse to do what ALL THE OTHER WORLD RELIGIONS DID ALL OF THAT TIME AND CENTURIES BEFORE! There must have been a REASON, that still stands. And there is.
"Ritual" and "Format" and "Clergy" and "Program" and "Attendance" and "Assignments" are the last refuge of the scoundrel - to paraphrase a famous quotation. Jesus was never like that. He wanted the "real burrito" out of LIFE and in the LIGHT, not "attendance" at a "location" on a "calendar." HE never did it, and won't. Man can't "add" that to the Scriptures and to Jesus, and not pay a VERY high price of leaven-filled crippled life, and losing 75-80% of their youth and many of their marriages to betrayal and "love of the world which is God's enemy."
Your point is pivotal. EKKLESIA is about "ZOE" LIFE, just as Jesus with the Father, and the Twelve with Jesus, and the 3120 and then tens of thousands with the Twelve and "one another," and those who will live IN HIM and WITH HIM, TOGETHER DAILY now, as they did with Jesus then and always will. :)
"Put another way, it was in 324, almost three hundred years after the birth of the church, that Christians first met in something we now call a "church building." For all three hundred years before that the church met in living rooms [and parks and public places]!" http://www.theexaminer.org/volume6/number5/bottom.htm
The scary part is this: When you get right down to it, it is "love of the world" and "self-love" that are STILL the largest adversaries of GOD and of His Ways. Not "understanding" or "facts" or "history."
When we love Jesus and those He LIVES in more than we love ourselves, then FAMILY just takes its native course. LOVE finds a way, and blows away the ridiculous obstacles. :)
I'll end this note with a quote or two from a booklet from 20-25 years ago:
Remember, if you react to this out of a "new concept" mentality, "the final condition will be worse than the first." Only by outgrowing the children's clothing will we find God's Will. Otherwise, if we simply curse and strip off the child's clothing, we will only have a naked, vulnerable child. Likewise, the crippled man has a desperate need for the wheelchair, the wheelchair ramp, the special parking places, and the special bathrooms. How much better, though, to heal the man - than simply improve the high-tech devices (programs, gimmicks, hierarchies) that generate a simulated freedom and life?!
Crippled men do need crutches and wheelchairs, and little children shouldn't be stripped of childish clothes. But what if the children grew up? And what if the shriveled and atrophied Body was healed? And what if the church matured into the Stature of the Son...?
There really is that much at stake. The real thing is a church, as Christ Jesus said, that "the gates of Hell cannot withstand." The programs and traditions have not worked. Only Christ expressed in His People - church truly "joined and knit together by every supporting ligament," a Kingdom of Priests, a Family functioning in His way rather than man's can ever blow away the powers of Darkness.
Does that mean less activity, less fruitfulness, and fewer gatherings in the Church? NO!!! Much, much more! God allowed the crutches of religious good intentions and promotion of God's Cause by men's means for a time because of the hardness of our hearts. "But it was not so from the beginning!" God gave the "children" a Saturday "holy day." He gave us Jesus Christ, the "Sabbath Rest" (Heb. 4:1-11; Mat. 11:25-30). Every day, whether apart or when we're all gathered together, is equally incredible when we're really "seated with Christ in Heavenly Realms," "living and moving and having our being in Him." When we live fully in Him, the crutches of tradition, rote predictability, days and times, and imaginative agendas are limiting compared to what might happen without them amongst the Royal Priesthood.
Crippled men do need crutches and wheelchairs. Little children shouldn't be stripped of childish clothes. But what if the children grew up and don't need childish clothes that don't fit? And what if the shriveled and atrophied Body was Healed and now understands that the "comforts" of wheelchair or crutches - were now hindering them and weakening them, not helping them?
And what if the church matured into the Full measure of the Stature of the Son...?
The humiliating and debilitating crutches and gimmicks would be obstacles to His Plan and Purpose, not an aid to anything any longer.
He needed and needs NOTHING of that kind. Nor do we any longer, if our eyes are on HIM!