Why we do not have our worship-services in a church building

After being questioned about keeping the Sabbath or Sunday people ask us why we do not have our worship services in a ‘normal church with bell tower’ and why we do not have any priests leading the service.

First of all followers of Christ should come together regularly. Nowhere is specified it should be in a typical church building. There is no commandment in the New Testament about when, where or in what for sort place we should meet, only that we should meet regularly (Hebrews 10:25).

Hebrews 10:24-25 The Scriptures 1998+  (24)  And let us be concerned for one another in order to stir up love and good works,1 Footnote: 1Mt. 16:27.  (25)  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging, and so much more as you see the Day coming near.

The early followers of Christ met in the synagogues and the Jewish participants went to the Sabbath meeting in the synagogue. They also came together in each others houses to talk about the evolution of the spreading of the gospel of the Good News of Christ Jesus and to study the Word of God. At their homes they took time to have prayers together with their fellow members and with interested slaves and people from outside. They choose to meet at different times and on different days depending on what was most convenient.

They did not use priests, because they considered they now had their High Priest Jesus. Also today we still have no need for a priest since we have this High Priest Jeshua, Jesus Christ the Messiah.  He paid the ultimate prise and no other ransom offer is needed any more. We do not need to bring any sacrifices or tithing any more.

Those who tried to preach the Gospel did it out of love for the Word of God. Jesus had asked his followers to go out into the world and to preach. They just had to live from their own job and form gifts people gave them voluntary. Today it should not be different.

There were the apostles, who taught what Jesus had learned them. At the synagogues or in the temples there were the P’rushim or temple class and in the private houses there where the owners of the house who themselves organised the service or invited elders to arrange the study of the Holy Scriptures. As time progressed apostles or their messengers vetted and installed elders, who at their term also installed people who could take care of a new group or ecclesia. It where these ‘Elders‘ who gave pastoral help in the early church and still do now.

Classical church at the European continent having the tower pointing to the heavens.
Classical church at the European continent having the tower pointing to the heavens.

Throughout time certain people made it their job to preach and only lived from proclaiming the Word of God. Though certain groups started to organise themselves and started demanding money or gifts from their followers. Payment for teachers became more encouraged and not enough caution was given to those seeking to enrich themselves by the ministry of the gospel. The salary of the pastor/teacher had not to be to establish a priestly guild, but it did.

The physical church has become the church of the priest. The teaching elder has become the professional. The building and the professional salaries are the main budgetary items. In short the means have become the ends. God has been replaced by tradition of men. {The Master’s plan vs earthly zeal}

Though throughout times there have always been people who wanted to follow only Jesus his teaching and like he only did the Will of his heavenly Father, the Only One true God, they too wanted only to do God His Will and worshipping this One and Only True God and not the three-headed god which was introduced by the biggest church organisation in the 4th century. The non-trinitarians became the minority and at the risk of their life they continued spreading the Good News and meeting, often in secret, at their homes.

Classical view in the cities of our European region.
Classical view in the cities of our European region.

The other paid and well organised preachers and false teachers in many places adapted the local customs and heathen traditions to their way of ‘holding church’. But they constructed big buildings with towers pointing their finger up to heaven. Trying to have the biggest and richest building many went in competition with each other and demanded more and more money from the local citizens, which were made afraid with words of warning for punishment in burning places if they did not give enough to the church (purgatory and hell). Systems of buying of penalties for sins were created and people got to face either punishment in purgatory or hell or could get their names on stones carved for eternity placed in or around the church to have eternal protection.

Several who studied the Word of God regularly saw how those institutions distorted the Biblical truth and played with human life.

Not afraid for their own life they continued meeting in homes from equally minded believers, who sincerely continued in the tradition of the apostles. According to the instructions given in the Acts of the apostles they structured their community and kept gatherings on different days of the week and at different places.

Two millennia later not much is changed. Those who want to be Brother and Sister in Christ and do want to follow the Words like they are written in the Holy Scriptures, are in the minority and still keep coming together at different sorts of places throughout the days.
Depending where they live they have a more frequent day. For example, Christians living in Muslim countries often meet on Fridays because that is the Muslim day of rest. But most Christians throughout history have met on Sundays. This is partly out of convenience (most of us don’t have to work on Sundays) and partly based on the historical tradition.

The easiest way to have a meeting is on the day when most people are free. As such we do have in more Jewish regions the Friday night or the beginning of the Sabbath as a moment of coming together. In the East where more Muslims are and Friday is a free day, that day is also taken to come together and pray. In our regions, like in Belgium, most people are free on Saturday and Sunday, so that is the most interesting day to come together for most people. But for those people working in the arts, shops and security, those may be the busiest days of the week, so for them it is easier to come together on an other day. As such, our ecclesia, having its elders to work on Saturdays, Sundays and/or Holidays, to earn their living, presents also meetings on weekdays, like on Tuesday and Thursday.
For those working at night in the weekends, the Sunday afternoon we offer a service from 4 pm to 7 pm.

There are a couple of hints of the practice of meeting on the first day of the week in the New Testament (the Sunday, today in Belgium considered to be the last day of the week). When in Troas, the church met to break bread (i.e., to share the bread and wine as Jesus commanded) on Sunday:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7)

Another possible hint is in 1 Corinthians where Paul instructs the believers in Corinth:

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

Probably this meant that they were to take up a collection at their regular Sunday meetings.

Outside the New Testament, there are also several references to this practice. The Didache is an early document from approximately 100 CE which describes some of the activities of the Christian churches of that time.

Didache 14: But on the Lord’s Day, after that you have assembled together, break bread and give thanks, having in addition confessed your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure.

The “Lord’s Day” refers to Sunday, probably because it was the day of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:1). Some clear early references to the “Lord’s Day” meaning Sunday are in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (c.150 CE), the letter of Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth (c.170 CE), the apocryphal Acts of Peter (c.190AD), the Acts of Paul (c.190 CE), the Didascalia (3rd century) and in Apostolic Constitutions (4th century).

The main-point for having adaptable service hours and worship days is that we love to have the brothers and sisters in Christ meeting regularly and not every so often after many weeks or months.

In the very early days of Christianity, almost all believers were Jews. They and those who converted to the faith of Jesus, for a while it seems, continued to keep the Jewish Sabbath and Old Testament festivals such as Passover and the other feasts (e.g., Acts 21:21-24) They knew very well that certain ‘Sabbaths‘ or feast had to be kept, like 14 Nisan, which we still celebrate every year as the most important day of the year. But soon they also came together with like minded on the day after they had gone to the synagogue on Friday night or on Saturday before sunset (the Sabbath). Possibly after sunset on Saturday night or in the day time on Sunday they met with the non-Jews, the goyim who wanted to convert and taught them from the Scriptures.

Once more non-Jews or Gentiles became part of their community the Christian church started to grow away from certain Jewish traditions and several Jews doubted if that would be right. Therefore it was necessary to decide whether keeping the various Old Testament festivals was necessary and had to be found a solution to have those who are not able to enter the synagogue to let them partake the service. This was addressed in a conference in Jerusalem described in Acts 15 where it was determined that none of the holy days needed to be kept (Acts 15:28-29).

Despite this decision, the keeping of holy days continued to be debated in the early church. Paul wrote to the Galatians:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  You observe days and months and seasons and years!  I am afraid I may have laboured over you in vain. (Gal 4:9-11)

Later he wrote to the Colossians

Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (Col 2:16)

So there is no need for the holy days specified under the law of Moses to be kept today, except the one about God said shall be remembered for ever, and the night Jesus installed the commemoration of the New Covenant (the Last Supper on Nisan 14).

Because of all the discussions, the apostles came together in Jerusalem. The instructions given as a result of the Conference in Jerusalem was that the people could worship God on any day and that Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath had made a cross over that specific Sabbath day once a week. Regarding their attitude it was demanded from them to make sure they stayed clean or pure and as such to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:20).

Jews who had grown up with those Jewish rules for food and for festivals, started to accept that those who came to their fate could eat things which were previously forbidden for them. They continued to keep the festivals with also the traditional actions for a time and went to the synagogue to pray with the other Jews, but this watered down and they also made life easier for themselves. For the others, who could not enter the synagogue, the houses of believers in Christ were used. There they gathered with fellow believers and with people who were interested to learn more and they also took time to eat there together at the same dish. Those who were not yet baptised could not participate at the ‘breaking of the bread‘ in remembrance of Jesus his last meal, itself, but were very welcome to see how everything went.

In Colossians 2:16 Paul writes,

Let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.

Which can assure us that we do not need to worry with regard on which day to keep or to do what.

People could come together in public spaces, but there is mostly a lot of noise going on. A house is the most affordable option for a small group to meet until the number of people attending the group is sufficient to warrant moving to a commercial location such as a meeting centre or a church building. Gathering in smaller locations gives a closer feeling and everybody becomes more involved in the community.

Coming together to study the Word of God
Coming together to study the Word of God

We do not need specific build buildings, though specific places can help to have a central base where everybody can come at any moment. That is not possible with a private house or with a commercial venue which has to be rented every time. Gathering in small spaces, be it a living room, or small conference room is preferable to public meetings in dedicated big buildings like we know most continental churches are. There is less distraction and everybody feels more connected. Sitting together in a circle or at ease around a table or in couches is a more effective way of building community and personal relationships, and it helps the group to engage in outreach more naturally.

In our small groups, be it at somebody his home, in a conference room, in a snack-bar, or in a small ‘church-hall’ all present at the meeting can feel the air of energy and shall be involved in the event, each having a task or each having a turn in reading a fragment from the Bible readings.

It is the love between each other and the love for Christ we do want to share in our community. It is our common trust in God He will lead His people and in Him and in His son we trust we will receive guidance to build up the body of Christ, by submitting our minds and wills to God and allow Him to lead us to be the church He desires. After Jesus was risen he took care that his followers got a Comforter and choose also Paul and the other apostles to help people find God. Like they had the spiritual authority and fatherhood to look after the church, God today uses the same Force to guide the Church of Christ. In a similar way today we get leaders in our day who care for the church under the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-4).

1 Peter 5:1-5 The Scriptures 1998+  (1)  Therefore, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Messiah, and also a sharer of the esteem that is to be revealed, I appeal to the elders among you:  (2)  Shepherd the flock of Elohim which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but voluntarily, not out of greed for filthy gain, but eagerly,  (3)  neither as being masters over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  (4)  And when the cf2 Chief Shepherd1 appears, you shall receive the never-fading crown of esteem. Footnote: 1See 2:25.  (5)  In the same way, you younger ones, be subject to elders. And gird yourselves with humility toward one another, for “Elohim resists the proud, but gives favour to the humble.”

Our meeting place in Heverlee, Leuven. Worship service at the Leuven ecclesia.
Our meeting place in Heverlee, Leuven. Worship service at the Leuven ecclesia.

We in Belgium are too small a community and the ecclesiae Brussel-Leuven and Mons use the living room of an elder and make use of public spaces, like the restaurants at the service stations in Nivelles and in Heverlee (Leuven) or the Youth Hostel in Mons, which make it easy for every one to come by car. In Paris we rent the Quaker facilities.

Our sister community in Newbury has the luxury to have its own church-hall which also does not look like a Catholic or many protestant churches, but offers an own space with separate rooms for the Sunday school, library, office, lavatory, rest room and practical kitchen.

You may say it is out of (financial) limitation that we have to be happy to meet in public spaces, but this does not take anything away of the quality of meeting time. Together we want to build up our community, study the Word of God, pray together and discuss our faith life and the matters of this world.

Please let never the limitations of money or space be a burden to come together. Each of you who believes, can try to meet others to bring them the Good News. Be it at work or in a more private environment, the spreading of the good news has to continue. The Body of Christ has still to grow and each of us is responsible for that growth.

In case you know some person or persons to come together to discuss the bible, make use of it; Use your living room or your dining room to study God’s Word and to pray. It is a good idea to discuss the truths of the Bible with people, in our homes and elsewhere.

You are also welcome to join us and to be an other light in our midst.

Be welcome!

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Preceding articles:

Why we do not keep to a Sabbath or a Sunday or Lord’s Day #6 Sunday or the Lord’s day

Evangelisation, local preaching opposite overseas evangelism

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Additional reading:

  1. Not words of any organisation should bind you, but the Word of God
  2. Seeing the world through the lens of his own experience
  3. Necessary to be known all over the earth
  4. How Many were Bought
  5. Belonging to or being judged by
  6. What’s church for, anyway?
  7. The Church, Body of Christ and remnant Israel synonymous
  8. Called Christian
  9. Rebirth and belonging to a church
  10. Making church
  11. Congregate, to gather, to meet
  12. Meeting – Vergadering
  13. Structuur -structure
  14. Expenses, costs – Onkosten, uitgaven
  15. Contribution – Contributie, bijdrage
  16. Parish, local church community – Parochie, plaatselijke kerkgemeenschap
  17. The ecclesia
  18. Good or bad preacher
  19. Synagogue, Church or Ecclesia for the Christian
  20. Reflection for today: hating your brother
  21. Commitment to Christian unity
  22. United people under Christ
  23. Democratic principles for the church of today
  24. What part of the Body am I?
  25. People who know how to pray to move God to take hold of our affairs in a mighty way
  26. Pulpit reserved for the pastor
  27. Should I welcome preachers in my house?
  28. Church sent into the world
  29. An ecclesia in your neighbourhood
  30. Intentions of an Ecclesia
  31. Small churches of the few Christadelphians
  32. God’s forgotten Word 5 Lost Lawbook 4 The ‘Catholic’ church
  33. Judaism & Catholicism Universal ‘churches’
  34. Church has to grow through witness, not by proselytism
  35. Creation of the earth and man #8 Of the Sabbath day #6 If it be necessary to keep Sunday
  36. Sunday and the Sabbath (Pdf doc)
  37. Sunday and the Sabbath
  38. Communion and day of worship
  39. Not bounded by labels but liberated in Christ
  40. Bread and Wine

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Further reading:

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