A brother in Kansas asks, “Do you think that Christians should always do spiritual things when they gather together? In other words, should we avoid doing secular activities in the church building with our fellow church members?”
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One difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that the former divided everything into distinct categories of “holy” and “common” (or secular). That was true of people and places, of clothing and utensils, and also of all the assorted furniture, fixtures, appliances, equipment and supplies used in sacred rituals. However, since God came among us in the person of Jesus Christ and returned to us in the Holy Spirit, true worshippers may encounter God anywhere (John 4:24-25), without human intermediary (Heb. 10:19-25), and without any particular physical garb or accoutrements (Zech. 14:20-21).
For almost 20 centuries now, Christian believers have gathered to praise God, share the Lord’s Supper and hear his Word — indoors and outside, in cathedrals and in the woods, in churches (as we mistakenly call them) and in catacombs. In New Testament times, Christians first met in the Temple precincts and later usually in homes (Acts 2:46; 5:42; Rom. 16). There is nothing wrong with special buildings dedicated to Christian activity, or with vestments or candles or ritual — if the heart is right, if one maintains proper priorities, and if no one trusts in those things. However, none of that is necessary for Christian worship and none of it has anything to do directly with pleasing God.
It is difficult to maintain proper balance on this subject. Some Christians call their meeting place a “sanctuary,” which means “holy place.” Others object to that, noting that Christianity has no holy place except heaven itself. Those Christians then call their assembly hall an “auditorium” — which means “hearing place” — and sometimes forget that they gather there to encounter God. I suggest that any “auditorium” in which we hear from God becomes, for that very reason, a “sanctuary” or holy place (Gen. 28:16-19; Ex. 3:1-5). Any place is holy where God is, and no building constructed by human hands can contain God (Acts 7:2, 47-50).
Interestingly, some Christians who reject cathedrals, vestments and ritual have at times made rules about the “scriptural” or proper use of the “church building.” Since the New Testament does not talk about church buildings, I find it extremely odd to think it regulates what one can do in them. Obviously, propriety and common sense should enter such decisions. I wouldn’t want to stock catfish in the baptistery, any day of the week, or have a motorcycle race around the Lord’s Table. But on principle, I can see no scriptural basis to object to believers doing anything appropriate for Christians to do, in any physical facility which appropriately accommodates those activities.