Can The Simple Can Solve The Deep and Complex
Hebrews 10:24-25 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW) – 24 We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. 25 We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.
This verse is a verse I have heard used again and again in the United States to tell people that they are in sin if they are no in a building every Sunday that has a highly educated and extremely trained expositor/teacher up front who breaks down the Bible within some set of incredibly strict guidelines as decided by the mandates of a particular denomination.
In some conversations I have heard (and viewed online) it is as if the main duty of every Christian is to make it to that building every Sunday (unless a Seventh Day Adventist then it’s a Saturday) and with the exception of accepting Christ, all other Christian obligation is peripheral or at best a distant second. As if, the only goal is to somehow get to that building at all costs on Sunday and all will be safe. Sort of the Christian version of touching base in some global and multidimensional game of tag.
Then the all purpose fix all for everything that ails you is to get to that building. “Thanks for finally saying that prayer, now just get to one of those buildings and the fairy dust will start to fall.” “Or your kid is selling drugs and just shot someone, well you just gotta get him/her to the building every Sunday and the magic waving of the magic words of the pastor will transform him/her into Mother Theresa in no time.”
All of that is fine and dandy and as a matter of fact, I honestly do believe that there is some level of power in just being around someone who is reading the Word of God, or around a person who is anointed by God to teach and so on.
I am not as sold on the magic of a particular building, but whatever. I don’t think it is unbiblical for the New Testament church to go to one place like the Old Testament Hebrew people’s were required to do.
The problem I have with using this passage to substantiate the idea that all of this is mandated by God or the Bible. This passage says nothing about any of the above.
The “gathering together” or “the assembling” involves the people and says nothing about a specific building, a pulpit, pews, education, where it can or cannot be, if it should or shouldn’t be in the same place, or that the building is magic or anything of that nature.
It simply says that we should not stop gathering with no specifics whatsoever except encouraging one another.
I think Albert Einstein had something when he said something that is definitely relevant to this conversation:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
As somebody who came up with or helped come up with solutions to some of the most complex problems in the history of science, I think his opinion might hold some weight.
Have we complicated church beyond what is necessary and beyond what is mandated by God? If we have we run the risk of sounding like the Pharisees who took the day of rest, Sabbath concept and mandated people not even pick up things like a mat or pray for healings on that day because it was work and not resting.
Doing a little bit extra beyond what God mandates is a good thing. Requiring that others do more than God mandates and claiming that God has mandated it however is actually lying. This is something to be careful not to do!
I was recently reading an article in a magazine named Mission Frontiers that is named Simple, Common-Sense Solutions to World Evangelization by a gentleman named Rick Wood.
In this article he is discussing some of the major problems the church is suffering from and looking at how simple solutions might be the answer instead of all of the complicated stuff people have been coming up with.
The thoughts and ideas about solutions that were discussed in this article (and throughout much of that issue of that magazine) were based on the methods, discoveries and success described in the book Miraculous Movements authored by a man named Jerry Trousdale (an excellent book about successful church planting amongst Muslim groups in Africa which I loved).
The illustration in this article was awesome and proved Mr. Wood’s point clearly:
Here is one notable illustration of this point from history. Today, we all know that washing your hands is an effective way to prevent disease transmission and infection. This is a common sense, simple solution to what had before often been a deadly problem. But in 1867 when British surgeon Joseph Lister first developed antiseptic surgical procedures and proved that washing your hands and surgical instruments in carbolic acid prevented infection, few believed him. The doctors of his day thought that it was too much trouble to wash their hands and instruments between patients. They were convinced that it was “bad air” (miasma) that caused infections not “invisible germs.” These doctors actually took pride in their dirty, blood-caked surgical coats and referred to the terrible smells as “good old surgical stink.”1
For decades, Lister worked tirelessly to get his proven “common sense” solution accepted by the medical profession of his day—meeting with greater success in Europe than in the U.S. Fourteen years later in 1881 when U.S. President James Garfield was shot in an assassination attempt, the “best doctors” in the U.S. still saw no problem with repeatedly probing the bullet wound with unwashed hands and instruments. Garfield died a painful death 79 days later from massive infection. (Simple, Common-Sense Solutions to World Evangelization – Mission Frontiers Magazine)
With all of their operating and expertise the doctors that worked on President Garfield looked at all of the most thought out, debated and educated solutions to the problem of the bullet wound and missed the most important solution that probably would have actually saved the mans life.
What is the solution to diminishing numbers, growing disinterest etc. in the Body of Christ that we are seeing outlined in statistics (particularly in the United States). Is in complicated new models and plans? Is it deeper and more complex theologies? Is it finding ways to “guilt trip” people into getting back to going to that building every Sunday (even if they do not like it there or do not experience God there, grow there etc.)?
Here is the part of the article I was leading up to:
How can we best reach the lost?
Simple Solution: Instead of inviting unbelievers to your church or even to your home, offer to go to their home to explore what the Bible has to say. If these people come to faith, you have already established the basis for a church in their home that can reach into their family and spheres of influence. The church is often the biggest obstacle for the unsaved, not Jesus or the Bible. (Simple, Common-Sense Solutions to World Evangelization – Mission Frontiers Magazine)
The real question for me was; “Does this meet the mandate to ‘not stop gathering together with other believers’”? Not only did it meet that mandate, according to this paragraph, it took out an obstacle for seekers: The building itself.
The concept of the building itself being not only an obstacle for the unsaved, but the biggest obstacle is one I found intriguing.
As I was pondering this I started to ponder some of the objectives that people have to coming to a church building:
- They are just about money = the church in your house doesn’t need all of that money and usually isn’t asking for it.
- Too big and impersonal = a church in your house simply cannot get too big unless you live in a mansion, the people are more likely to start more meetings at more houses to keep it more comfortable and intimate.
- I like what Jesus has to say, but I don’t like the church people = well if you are at least okay with me as a church person a study that starts with just us and your family and includes only those you invite to your home.
- Aren’t all of those pastors liars, I don’t trust them = “If you have some level of trust in me lets work on being led by what God says through the Bible instead of so much focus on what some expert thinks God is saying.”
There is more, but you get my point. I am sold on many of these basic premises as mentioned in previous posts (ex., The Church of Only What is Needed?, The Church of Only What is Needed? PART 2, Thoughts on the “Emerging Church” Debate), but this is another good reason to at least look at the new ideas emerging throughout Christianity.
I am not a proponent of telling people that they should abandon their churches and leave to decay away as remnants of the past few centuries as we march towards our new home church meetings. I am saying that we all need to creatively look at the new ideas and successes as well as the statistics and other facts with minds open to hearing new things and ideas from God. As a matter of fact, as stated in previous posts, I still attend not only a traditional, mainline denominational church, but a mega-church (big screens and all).
This I feel and my discussions on this website are to share my processing of this information and provoke conversation for all of us.
There are clearly changes afoot. God is moving in some direction, the question is are we as a group (the church) and as individuals going the same way that He is going? I have my two favorite ideas at this time and will probably alter or change them over time (see New Thoughts on my Favorite Church Models).
Are your ideas for solutions to the problems that face the church as simple as they can be and no simpler? Also, do not stop gathering together in the church that is as simple as possible, but no simpler.
With some more food for deep prayerful thought;
W. Lawrence Hess