REFORMATION RUMBLINGS “Our God does not live in temples made by man...We ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” [Acts 17:24 & 29]
BUFF SCOTT, JR.
Church Structures & Graven
In relation to the mages we have made with our art and imagination, below is an interesting letter from a friendly church preacher of mine.
______ “Buff, while it is always a matter of human judgment, some churches have, in my humble opinion, gone to extremes in the erection of fine buildings that indeed have become ‘shrines.’ But, again, this does not destroy the reality of the need for a place of some kind in which to assemble [Heb. 10:25]. The size of the place—a living room, a rented hall, or the group’s own building—would be determined by the size of the assembly. Or so it seems to me.”—Name Withheld.
Here is an authentic scenario in the raw. The story goes of a large family—parents, eight children, and seven grandchildren—who met on a weekly basis to strengthen family bonds. They all lived within a short distance of each other. In each meeting they discussed a diversity of interests—problems, finances, future outreaches, their walk with the Lord, health, and other related topics. The parents functioned as leaders, advisors, and shepherds. This continued every week, month after month.
One day, while they all were sharing experiences, talking about the Lord, reading scripture, and exchanging ideas, their elder father called for their attention. Everyone hushed, and he began to speak. “Dear ones,” he said, “your Mom and I have decided to place before you a proposition. She and I feel we all need fresh thoughts, new ideas, and heightened approaches in our family discussions. Consequently, we would like to bring in a Seminary graduate to share with us what he has learned from his studies. We met him this week and he appears to be of noble blood. If we employ him, I think our weekly dialogues would be enhanced.
“If you will approve of this arrangement,” he said, “each of us will pledge to give a specific amount of money each week toward his living expenses—food, house rent, utilities, medical insurance, retirement plan, gasoline and repair for his vehicle, and vacation disbursements. Tell us what you think of this idea.”
By this time all of the family members, except Mom and Dad, were squirming in their seats. The oldest daughter motioned for the floor. “What is the meaning of this?”
she asked. “We are family. We enjoy our family discussions and exchanges. We have freely shared our love and our ideas with each other for years, and each of us has been encouraged to live a closer walk with the Lord and with each other. It has cost us nothing, except for the contributions we all have gladly made toward evangelism and feeding the destitute. So why in heaven’s name should we be saddled with keeping a stranger financially afloat while he tells us what we already know?”
One of the sons spoke up. “If we were to import and financially support a man to do what we are capable of doing ourselves, which would be nonsense, it would weigh heavily upon our ability to contribute toward evangelism and to alleviate the needs of the genuinely hungry.”
He added, “Let us continue what we have been doing through the years and encourage this fellow to find a job and go to work. We will assist him in finding adequate employment. If, after he is employed and settled in, he wishes to join us for our weekly discussions, we would welcome him and treat him as one of us.”
The other family members agreed. The father, seeing that his proposal was going nowhere, tabled the idea and thanked the family for their input.
If you have not grasped the connection by now, allow me to assist you. The chickens have come home to roost. The early believers formed family-like clusters in homes. To reach others, they frequented public places—open markets and Jewish Synagogues. The scriptures, such as 1 Corinthians 14, strongly indicate that their meetings were conducted in the format I have described in the story, where openness abounded and mutual dialoguing was prevalent.
To take my narrative a step further, let us suppose the group’s shepherds had recommended that the family build a church edifice to influence “outsiders” to join them in their weekly parleys. “To erect one that would delight the eyes,” the father says, “at least three hundred thousand dollars—or more—would be required. If we wish to keep up with the times and compete with other groups that have built elegant places to meet, we really should seriously consider sacrificing for the occasion.”
In response, I can almost hear one of the children say, “Dad, we have the only meeting place we need. And it’s already paid for! If our group increases and a lack of space arises, we’ll start another house meeting. It is the Gospel
that entices receptive hearts, not images like church structures, crosses, and statues.”
The picture is clear. The apostate church has the whole thing reversed. If we were shooting for the opposite
of what heaven approves, we hit the bull’s eye.