Where Should We Worship God Together?

I just received my copy of Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna from Amazon, and have begun to read the first chapter.

I’m going to withhold full judgment until I’ve read it fully, but my first impression is mixed.

I can’t disagree with the premise that a lot of what Christians do today in gathered worship has little in common with what Christians did in their worship together in century one.

What I’m not certain about is whether that’s a completely bad thing.

The first chapter of the book speaks to the point that both Jews and pagans differed from early Christians in their worship by their emphases on sacred places, people and things – and that, over time, Christianity began to absorb the same fascinations. Did Christians in century one never purchase or build a place for worship together? There’s no record of it in scripture. Can we assume that it never happened?

More importantly – does it matter?

Can God be worshiped acceptably in other places?

In the early days of Christianity, Jewish Christians met in the temple courtyards. Daily.

For good reason: Jesus taught in the temple courts, too. And on mountainsides, from a boat, on a plain. He accepted worship in the home of a Pharisee, on the streets as he traveled, on horseback … all right, donkeyback. He went to synagogue, read Isaiah there. (Synagogue was not something God included in His commandments revealed through Moses.) He prayed in lonely places. He sang with his followers after Passover in a second-story room. He prayed in a garden.

Stephen taught on the road in a chariot. Paul taught (and presumably worshiped) in synagogues, and when they booted him out, went next door to the synagogue ruler’s house or rented a lecture hall. (He could have spent the money on meeting the needs of the poor.) Or looked for a place of worship and prayer by a river where there might not be any synagogues. Christians met in homes, broke bread together – however you wish to interpret that phrase.

You can probably think of a lot more.

I get the picture that what’s important about worshiping together is not so much the where, but the how: in spirit and in truth. With His Spirit poured into our hearts to commune with Him; with our hearts, minds, souls and strength truly engaged.

If God accepts worship from within a stinky animal stable from foreign astrologers, from inside a religious leader’s home tainted by a sinner’s perfume, from a magnificent incense-fragranced temple made with hands, from a fresh-aired lake or a mountainside or a plain made by His hand – where can we go to escape His Spirit? Where can we flee from His presence?

Are we not to be the aroma of Christ to others wherever we are?

Are the prayers of the saints not regarded as incense to Him in heaven?

12 thoughts on “Where Should We Worship God Together?

  1. Certainly not the first response I expected from this post, paul!I ordered from Amazon because I wanted it quickly. My blogging friend david u challenged me to read it so we could talk about it together, perhaps at Pepperdine Lectureship, which begins next week.I’ve had mixed results with various online Christian bookstores, and didn’t have time to scour town to find it.Is it a sin to buy something from a secular company? Will I lead non-Christians to Christ by boycotting them? I’m not sure I understand the question.By the way – Tyndale, which publishes <>Pagan Christianity<>, states in an opening page that as a company, it doesn’t agree with all of the book’s findings. Yet they published it because they do agree with its call to carefully regard what scripture reveals over what tradition indicates as the basis for church.

  2. Keith,Your questions about where we assemble are well-made. I have not finished the book yet, either. Reading the first couple of chapters makes me question, again, the wisdom of stewardship in how much we spend on our facilities. I know it is a judgment call. However, do we go overboard with how much we pour into our buildings?I am looking forward to the rest of your observations on the book!

  3. Keith,Wonderful post as always brother.I hope you have a wonderful earth day! πŸ™‚ We are having a discussion on this topic and would love you input. I hope you have a blessed week as you serve Him and do his perfect will. Keep up the great blogging Keith.You have such a talent brother! πŸ™‚

  4. Great points Keith, as always! I am looking forward to us being able to talk about the book one on one in Malibu next week. Not to give the book away, but they develop this point about where we worship and how it affects our discipleship as the book goes along…….so don’t give up on them yet. πŸ™‚And yes, I believe God accepts our worship no matter WHERE we are as long as our hearts are right! Thanks for reading it!DU

  5. At first this book sounded good to me, but then the reviews started coming. I don’t know what turned me off more: the negatives from those who read it, or the fanatic response of those defending it. In forum after forum I saw them say almost the same thing. Something like: The book is right, check out the official website.

  6. First, I suppose Paul Wilkinson assumes all Christian book store owners are Christians. Secondly, why not buy a book or any other good or service where you get the best of either quickly and for the best price? I know of no command to only do business with Christians. Eh…some people.Worship. On one extreme are those who consider repeating rituals worship, or in the case of some c’s o C, hitting the 5 bases. Then on the other is the school of thought that worship is limited to the singing part of the assembly, and even more narrowly defined by a particular type of songs, “Praise and worship”. Some place in the middle is a heart turned toward our Creator God in simple praise and adoration in response to what He has done of behalf of unworthy people like me. A church building, around a camp fire, on the balcony of a beach house, in a rented saloon, are all acceptable in my view. Thanks for the post. I envy you and David U. I only wish I could go too.His peace,Royce Ogle

  7. Keith, thanks for this post and the first notice I’ve seen of this new book.Not sure I understand what the authors are trying to get at. I do think it was a long time before any church built a building for worship. However, like you, I don’t think it was necessarily a bad thing when that happened.

  8. I think it may be important to make a distinction between “corporate worship” and “private worship”. Personally, I’d like to feel that all I do is worship, living my life as a sacrifice to God, which is my spiritual worship. However, that’s mostly private worship. Book sounds interesting; I may have to check it out.

  9. May, you raise a good point … but does the New Testament make a distinction between our worship together and our worship in private?Obviously, when we’re together, we need to be somewhat deferential to others (that “somewhat” defined by what scripture says). Our hearts can’t be right to worship if we’re denying others what they crave and what God permits in worship together – to be encouraged; built up. Nor can our attitude be right if we worship in ways that deeply offend others, whether God permits those ways or not.I’m about halfway through the book, and its scope is broader than worship; it’s the whole nature of what church “should be” as the author sees it in scripture (and as opposed to the way he sees it in the 21st century and many before).My reaction is still mixed.Is the kind of patternism he advocates any more valid than the kind which denies anything not scripturally authorized?

  10. Paul Wilkinson sent me (by e-mail) a thoughtful response, which I appreciate. He expressed concerns about Christian bookstore owners who are being wiped out by new technology.My first choice – of course! – would have been the < HREF="http://www.zoegroup.org/eco/store.asp?SID=1" REL="nofollow">ZOE/New Wineskins online bookstore<> (whose Web site I help maintain), but <>Pagan Christianity?<> didn’t happen to be in the online inventory when I checked.I bought a small tome from the table of a brick-and-mortar bookstore at the Pepperdine lectures that I didn’t see elsewhere, and would have purchased more and from others, had I not been traveling light – only a briefcase for clothes, handouts, laptop and personal items). I very much appreciate the opportunity to leaf through books at a bookstore … and still, online merchandisers also offer that in a limited way. Yet this bookseller has an online presence, too (http://www.moyersbookstore.com – I won’t live link to it because it competes with ZOE!)ZOE doesn’t operate a brick-and-mortar; it is online-only, and tables at conferences or lectureships. It’s just a reality of the 21st century that an online bookstore offers advantages to brick-and-mortar, and vice-versa. When I ordered <>Pagan Christianity?<>, speed and convenience was of the essence.Paul, I’d encourage your friends in the bookstore business to seriously consider getting into an online presence themselves. It’s not an either/or these days, but a both/and proposition.

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