Ecclesia Outside the Auditorium

The auditorium is so bitter sweet. It is sweet because there is nothing like having that many Christians together (which is what ecclesia means – “assembly”) worshiping God. It is bitter because some equate the worship hour with what church is. How do we get people to drop the old facility mindset and take on the community mindset (John Ellas’ terms)?

Scripture helps us out here:

  1. Jesus and his disciples never had a formal church building to worship in. They worshiped in homes.
  2. Some of the most obvious and profound examples of connection between people in the New Testament happen away from the assembly (Philip and the eunuch on the side of the road, Peter at Cornelius’ house, Paul and the Ephesian elders before Paul boarded the ship to Jerusalem in Acts 20, Jesus and his disciples in the upper room).
  3. We are never commanded to go and build buildings…we were commanded to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). That doesn’t make buildings wrong, we just need to keep first things first.
  4. Paul preached in the marketplaces as well as in the synagogues (assemblies). Can you imagine if you heard Paul was coming to preach in your city next week and when you found out the venue it was an open air public venue rather than in the biggest auditorium in town? He went where the people were who needed the message.
  5. Paul met Lydia and others by a river where she and others were baptized. Paul didn’t say, “Wait, let me take you down to the church building at a convenient time on a Sunday or Wednesday.” He met her where she was and helped her understand Jesus right then and there.

It is important people realize that an auditorium is just like a song book, a microphone, electricity, powerpoint, and all the rest…they are just aids to help us do what God put us here to do. We cannot let them become distractions that keep us from getting done our primary mission. For instance, some people wouldn’t have a problem with something if the worship was in a home but the very same thing would bother them if you moved that very same gathering into an auditorium. Would you or anyone you know be upset if services at the building were canceled this coming Sunday and instead people were encouraged to show up at the park for the very same service to take place there? Would anyone complain that wasn’t proper?

I am sure I am speaking to the choir for 90% of those of you reading this but maybe it is healthy to think about this from time to time and evaluate how we are helping or hurting how people perceive our worship based on its location rather than the fact that God is being worshiped and that is all that matters, regardless of where it is taking place. I applaud Christians who are taking it upon themselves to worship in public places so that the world can see who we are and know us by our love and our desire to please God. How better to be salt and light and like a city on a hill than to get out of the auditorium and in front of the people who need to hear?

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