As I stated in a previous article in this series, our modern view of church is typically associated with meeting in a building. We talk about, “Going to church.” By that we usually mean that we’re going to travel to a building and meet with other Christians for a formal assembly of believers. What do the Scriptures reveal about this?
There is no established place for Christians to assemble in the Bible. The biblical text is clear. They met in homes. There was no “church building” for them to meet in.
[As an aside, I have heard preachers use 1 Corinthians 11:18 as referring to a church building, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.” (KJV) There are two issues with the phrase “in the church”. First, the Greek preposition en, translated “in” has a broad array of meanings, depending on the context. Nearly every other English translation (NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, HCSB, RSV, et al.) renders it “as” which makes more sense in context. Second, there is no article (“the”) in the Greek text. The absence of the article usually means that it should be translated one of two ways: (1) “as church” indicating the character or quality of the church or (2) “as a church” indicating that the church is indefinite and not a specific one or location. (For you Greek students out there, I’m simplifying this for a general audience. It is understood that there are grammatical constructions which would make the phrase definite and thus require the article in English, but that is not the case here.) Again, context would indicate that it should be “as a church”. The only translation which does not follow this is the KJV. Now I love the KJV, but the Greek text trumps it.]
Again, I’m not saying that having a building is wrong. I’m just saying that it’s foreign to the Bible. So, if I meet with Christians at my workplace, even for a few minutes, to share, pray, and maybe even discuss Scripture, is that an assembly of the church? Think about it before you answer. We weren’t in a church building, but that’s not a biblical requirement. We didn’t sing songs, but that’s not a biblical requirement either. We didn’t take an offering, but since you cannot find even a single reference to a church in the Bible taking an offering for their own use, that’s not an issue either.
Could it be that Hebrews 10:25 could refer to something other than our traditional concept of a church assembly? The Greek word for “assembling” (episunagoge) refers to a “gathering together in one place”. It does not speak to the number of people or a building or a need to have a pastor present or singing or preaching and it certainly does not refer to a denomination. The context is that we “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”. (Heb. 10:24) And remember, Jesus made a propositional statement in Matthew 18:20 that where 2 or 3 are gathered that He’s there. It’s something to think about.
In conclusion, an assembly of believers (a church) can occur anywhere. Our concept of “going to church” is shaped by our contemporary view of it. The biblical text requires Christians meeting together and that can occur anywhere Christians are assembled.