Last week I gave you a catch-up on where I have journeyed in my spiritual life for the last six years. I ended that post with the one big remaining question that I will address here:
Do we even need a “public” body of Christ?
All the lavish religious cathedrals around the world have always disturbed me. It just seems to me that Jesus never intended his church to spend so much of their financial resources on these monoliths. He taught us to go out and preach the gospel of the Love of God.
I have even come to question why we need to build any structures to praise him. Is that what he intended? Do we really need to sit in a church on a weekly basis to complete our personal spiritual journey? I have come to believe that most church structures are really no more than a country clubs where we can feel superior to others.
I realize that for many who call themselves Christians, the vast majority of their social life happens in the church. Some even call it a poor man’s country club. I learned just how quickly “friendships” evaporate when you leave the “club”.
By proclaiming that we need to show others how to get salvation we are actually at least indirectly telling them that we are superior to them. They need to be saved from eternal damnation, and we already have that.
As a young boy in a Catholic school I questioned why there were so many lavish cathedrals throughout Europe? At the time they were built, there was massive poverty throughout the world. Why wasn’t relieving poverty where they spent their money? It just didn’t make sense to me. Even if I didn’t realize it then, I looked at the words of Jesus to tell me what religion was supposed to be about. But, I had yet to be the “Question Everything” person that I later became, so I thought I would understand this when I grew up.
Here I am almost 70 years later and still have that original question, but, at least I now have some possible explanations. In the pre-Christian era men were building monuments to their gods so that they might appease his wrath. As an example, look at the Mayan structures in South America where the sacrificed virgins regularly to appease the gods. Look at Greece and you find pretty much the same thing. Look at the Jewish and Muslim cathedrals throughout the Middle East. For some reason early Christians got it in our heads that we need to build a monument to him.
It seems at least to me that Jesus intended something quite different but the early theologians just didn’t learn that lesson. Instead, they continued the ways of their pagan ancestors. Jesus told us very directly that God demanded just two things, to love him and to equally love each other. There was simply no structures involved in that command.
Finally, getting to the question in the title of this post. Do we even need to have places to get together to praise God? I can’t say emphatically no to this question, I think it needs to be put in context of the Love command. I am at that point in my life that I really don’t need to congregate with other believers to know my purpose in life. But, I do recognize that others feel very differently than I do. I want to use one of the stories from Paul’s epistles to qualify this answer.
Paul told us that it was better to be a bachelor than to be married, but if you must then get married. Like so many other words in the Bible, I have read dozens of different interpretations of this topic, but I will leave that for a future post. So, I say that if you need other Christians to help you with your journey then the public “Body of Christ” is necessary for you.
It seems like the building fund is one of the most important things in the local church body. Even as a young man I can remember it often mentioned in sermons and public announcements. The last church I was a member of spend the vast majority of their collections maintaining the building where we gathered weekly and the pastor’s salary. There was very little left over for other things. How can someone who says they are a follower of the teachings of Jesus allow that to happen?
My answer to that, for what it is worth and that is nothing, we should just quit constructing and maintaining building for a one-hour a week get together. Instead, we should be renting unused Sunday retail space for occasional congregational gatherings and meet in member’s homes for Bible study and committee meeting and such. That would allow us to use that money for the “real” purpose of the church.