Recently, while reading through the Book of Acts, I took note of where and when the early Church “went to church.”
Regarding where they “went to church”…
They met on mountains (1:4, 12), in public places (20:20), in upper rooms (1:13-26; 20:5-12), in houses (2:1-2, 46; 10:27; 12:5, 12; 16:40; 20:20; 28:30-31 (see also Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philemon 2)), in the temple (2:46; 3:1), in Solomon’s porch (5:12), along riverbanks (16:13), in jails/dungeons (16:25), and on beaches (21:5).
As for when they “went to church”…
They met on “the day of Pentecost” in “the third hour” (9am)(2:1-2), at the hour of prayer in the ninth hour (3pm)(3:1), on sabbath days (17:1-4; 18:4), on the first day of the week (20:5-12), as well as daily (19:7-10).
Where does it say the Church has to meet in a certain way in a certain place at a certain time?
Many Christians say “Well, you really need to be in a local church because you don’t need to forsake the assembling of yourselves with other believers.” But these folks are merely repeating what they’ve been told without first studying the two verses they’re referring to — Hebrews 10:24-25 (KJV):
“…Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
What does this passage have to do with regular “local church” attendance?
Does it say, “…Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together in pews (or 4-hour chairs) on Sunday mornings at our various church buildings…”?
Where do these verses say where, when and how we have to “assemble”?
Well, then why do we assume that those who don’t “go to church” on Sundays are “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”? Because we’ve read our conditioning, preferences and/or experiences into the passage to make it say what we think it means, thereby elevating our views above the scriptures and teaching as doctrine the commandments of men (Matt 15:7-9).
This reminds me of what Blaise Pascal once said:
“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”
The reading of meaning into a verse or passage — formally known as eisegeses — is much more common today than the discipline of drawing a verse’s or passage’s meaning from the verse and passage itself (along with its surrounding context). And, sadly, when some benefit financially from the presupposition that “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” automatically means “go to church on Sundays”, their wallet will speak louder than reason.
Additionally, could it be that religion has so imposed man-made methods and structures for how, when and where we’re to “do church” that we’ve lost our focus on the why?
Jesus defined “going to church” as…
“…Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matt 18:20 KJV
Notice, there’s no when or how, and, regarding where, well, it’s IN HIS NAME or “(into) My name“ (Amplified) or “in Me” (Easy-to-Read Version) or “to My name” (Young’s Literal Translation).
Jesus didn’t say, “Where two or three (or two or three dozen or 200 or 300 or 2000 or 3000) gather in pews (or 4-hour chairs) in a church building (or living room) on Sunday morning (or Wednesday night), there am I in the midst of them.” Neither did He say that the gatherings had to be structured or unstructured, open or closed, inside out outside.
Instead, Jesus made it simple: “Wherever two or three get together in Me, I am there.”
This is how Jesus “assembled” in the Gospels and how the Church “assembled” in the first century (For more on how Jesus “went to church” click here.). They didn’t just “assemble” in rooms or buildings. Anyone can gather a group of people in a building — that doesn’t mean they’re assembled. Jesus assembled with his disciples daily, through regular, intimate, face-to-face dialogue and connection, where they ate together, depended on one another, and engaged in fearless vulnerability.
By the way, the House of God has never been a building but has always and will always be His people (1 Tim 3:15; Heb 3:6; 1 Pet 2:5). We are His Temple (1 Cor 3:16-17; 6:15-20; 2 Cor 6:14-18; Eph 2:19-22). Of course, most say they believe this, but they really don’t.
Needless to say, life in Jesus is simple, and while religion complicates, dictates and manipulates, Jesus liberates!
“…Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Cor 3:17 KJV
Thank you Jesus!
Personal note: For years, I raged against institutional Christianity, challenging it at every turn, taring it down left and right all I could, debating with everyone who dared to see things differently than I did. But then the Lord began to gracious adjust my temperament, reminding me that He is building His Church, that He has His people well in-hand, and that I can trust Him and relax into Him. So, while it’s true that Jesus kept life in Him very simple, I have learned and am still learning, in many ways, to leave people alone so Jesus can walk with them without my interference. He sets the members as it pleases Him and He doesn’t need my help nearly as much as I think. As one part of the Body, my responsibility is to stay connected to our Head and live, move and have my being in Him. Then, as I live this freedom before my brothers and sisters, they will be drawn to this simplicity in time. I’ve seen this happen so many times and the fruit is always so much better than what I’ve tried to produce in my religious flesh. Love has been so patient with me and I love Him for it.