At the suggestion of a Pastor friend (another guy who is much smarter than me) I have begun reading a book called "Pagan Christianity?" by authors Frank Viola and George Barna (head of the "Barna Group" and contributor to books such as "Revolution" and "UnChristian"). I've only started the book last night and plan to make it the first book I review upon completion. From, what I've read so far, this book is quite possibly the most important book for our time in terms of church culture and is a must read for any person who is a follower of Christ. I say "must read" because as followers of Christ, we ought to truly want what He intends for us, and what He has for us as opposed to what has become cultural (whether Christian or American) or socially normal for people who consider themselves a "christian". We ought not be scared to learn more about why we believe what we believe and develop our own theology based upon God's word as opposed to a popular speaker, writer, etc.
Without giving it all away, Viola (a former Pastor and current Home Church advocate) breaks down the "church" today as defined by man and compares it to the "Way" or "The Church" (aka Body of Christ) in the New Testament. In just one day, I've learned (through numerous sources which he clearly identifies) that the idea of a "church" building is not from those who follow Christ but actually from the Constantine era in which the Roman Empire became "Catholic" and took on numerous forms of Pagan worship only changing the "Pagan players/god's" to Christ, The Trinity, Madonna and the Saints. I've also learned how Scripturally, though there were elders, there was never a paid staff, a clergy, laity or even a "lead Pastor" who oversaw the meetings and told the followers of Christ what they should or shouldn't do, deliver a message or lead "worship". In fact, there was no "Head" because according to Scripture, the "Head" was Christ and His temple, Scripturally, was HIM! Ultimately, the church was exactly what Paul said is was, "the body of Christ" and the "Bride of Christ".
When speaking about "church" today, we often picture a beautiful building or cathedral, both of which were taken from Pagan Culture (and are aesthetically beautiful both now and in the past I must admit), and though there is an importance and even a commend to continue meeting together, the church (body of believers) met wherever they could such as homes or other local buildings as opposed to building a place to worship. They did this because they believed it was important to not waste their money on a temple (which they already had in Christ wherever they were) when it could be used to help others who were starving or in need. The authors, in their humorous yet informative way made the comparison that if we are to call a building the "church", then Scripturally we ought to call our wife a condominium (Even funnier when you're an appraiser).
Anyway, the reason I bring this up earlier than the planned book review is because I came across a sad article of division in the church in Florida (might I add that in no way am I hoping to split up the church by suggesting we are doing it wrong, but in fact am hoping to bring us together following Christ as one body the way it was intended and originally practiced with Christ as the head/groom). The church (building) in Florida is called Coral Ridge Presbyterian and was Pastored by a man named Reverend D. James Kennedy who died in 2007 after many years of growing this "mega church". After his death, his job as teaching Pastor was taken over by a man named Tullian Tchividjian who is the grandson of Billy Graham. Long story short is that this new Pastor is not liked much by the congregation because according to the Associated Press "While he has shown no sign of theological differences with Kennedy, he has rejected politics as the most important force for change, and his sermons have not focused on divisive issues." So I need you to help me out here, "members" of this "church" are now leaving to form their own "church" after losing a September 20th vote to overthrow the current Pastor because he won't preach something other than Christ as the true eternal means to "change". Does this mean that they now are not in the body of Christ, and how do you leave the body to form another body? Were they ever in the body of Christ or just "members" of a different group of people who follow Jesus and culture, because that is what it seems like America does anyway? Might I also add that in Scripture, pastors never needed to be overthrown because our idea of pastor and the idea of "pastor" in the New Testament are totally different (I'll get more into that in the review).
Anyway, because I don't believe in coincidences, I had to note that God is clearly saying something in this book "Pagan Christianity?" and reiterated the importance of following Christ as the head of the church as opposed to a mere mortal man, who runs an institutional organization and has the ability to hire and fire as well as being able to decide how much Jesus should be taught. I urge you all to not believe that you need to be a "member" of a church who has a building in order to be a member of the church community as the former is not Scriptural. I also want to say that this is an opportunity to not create division by speaking against these little businesses (which I'm guilty of), but instead a chance to be the true body of Christ that helps these little businesses to see that we are doing what the followers of Christ did in the first century completely wrong. What I mean is that we are all a "Royal Priesthood", we are all the "bride of Christ", and we all can worship in the temple that is Christ anywhere because the temple he built in "three days" is a Spiritual one; Praise Jesus!
In defense of the present day worship style, even though being a "member" of a church building is not Scriptural, how are we supposed to know this unless we do the research ourselves? Also in defense of our pastors, they most likely don't realize that the way we "do church" is not scriptural either and that is why I urge you to pick this book up for yourself. By being informed about who we are meant to be in Jesus and how we are meant to function in the body of Christ you will be able to educate a friend, a pastor, a member of the "laity" or any person who desires to be Christ's bride as opposed to his Condo.