Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Are we doing church right?-- part 3

If you are a regular church goer, even if you've switched churches during your journey as a Christian, you've probably noticed there is a certain "order" to a church service.  Your service may or may not contain the following events. One or two may be missing and they may not appear in the same order, but in general these represent the normal church service for most of us.

  • The Greeting - the usher or greeter smiles, shakes your hand and hands you a bulletin
  • Prayer or Scripture reading - usually give by the pastor or leader
  • Worship - led by a worship leader who is part of a choir or band, along with other singers and musicians
  • Announcements
  • Offering
  • The Sermon - usually given by the pastor and could last between 22 - 45 minutes
  • Benediction - a blessing the pastor speaks over the congregation

There may also be such things as
  • Communion
  • Baby Dedications
  • Baptisms
  • Alter call
  • Skits or special musical performance
  • Videos
  • Special prayers for those in need.

But where did all this come from? Have you ever questioned the way things are in the traditional church?
The fact of the matter is, you can study the entire New Testament over and over and never find anything remotely similar to this type of service among the early Christians. In fact, if you look at Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 14, you will easily see that the original church service was one in which every member participated and used their gifts to edify and encourage those around them. It was a service of freedom, spontaneity, vibrantly led, not by a single pastor, but by the Holy Spirit.

The truth is our current form of doing church grew out of the Medieval Catholic Mass.  The Catholic Mass was "based partly on the Jewish Temple service, partly on Greek mystery rituals of purification, vicarious sacrifice, and participation.".  It was not based on anything from the New Testament or the Early church way of doing things. It was Gregory the Great (540-604) the first monk to be made pope who had much to do with shaping the Catholic Mass. But if we dig into history to learn more of Gregory, we find he was a very superstitious man, heavily influenced by heathenism and magic. Therefor the Mass he created became a odd blend of pagan and Judaistic rituals, sprinkled with Catholic theology and Christian vocabulary. 

It is easy to see why Mass became fundamentally pagan. Things such as the priests's vestments, holy water, incense, burning of candles, the architecture of the Roman Basilica for church buildings, the title Pontifex Maximus for the head bishop.. all these things were taken from pagan rituals. So what, you might say? That's the Catholics. But where do you think Protestantism got it's way of doing things from?

 In the 16th century, Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church and began the Protestant Reformation. However, in doing so, Luther brought with him several of the traditions of the Catholic church, changing only those he felt were not Biblical. The most important of those involved the Catholic service centering around Holy Communion or the Eucharist. Luther made preaching and the pulpit the center of the service rather than offering Holy Communion and the altar.  He also changed the service from being performed in Latin to the language of the people, introduced congregational singing, abolished the idea that Mass was a sacrifice of Christ, and allowed the people to partake of the bread and cup.  But other than that, the service was much the same

Here is Luther's order of worship.
  • Singing
  • Prayer
  • Sermon
  • Admonition to the people
  • Lord's Supper
  • Singing
  • Post-Communion prayer
  • Benediction

Look familiar? Before you get mad at the messenger, I'm not against church or church ceremonies and I'm not against Catholics or Protestants. I'm merely telling you what I have learned about where our current way of doing things has come from.

Next week we will continue this discussion on the progression of Protestantism and how we got to where we are today.

Taken from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna  http://www.paganchristianity.org/


  1. Tues June 5th,
    "Morning, MaryLu."
    Thanks again, for sharing about Churches, and, various ceremonies.
    Very interesting on how Church 'began', and how it has evolved ... what different religions/people have made it 'today'.
    It's an eye-opener !
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  2. Yes, again, facinating. Thanks for sharing, MaryLu.
    I would love to 'partake' in 'church' the way is was in the early Biblical years. What a difference.
    Definatley an 'eye-opener' like Brenda said.
    Have a great day!

  3. Wow. The differences between church back then and church now is astounding. I would love to have partaken in the 'services' back then. It sounds so much more encouraging and beautiful!

  4. I've always seemed to get way more out of small-group Bible studies held in homes than I get out of church services (although I still attend both), and I've always felt almost...guilty about it. But looking at how you've laid it out here, I see there's absolutely nothing wrong with preferring to meet in home groups - it's how church was designed to operate in the first place. Thanks. ^_^

  5. Hi Everyone!
    The more I study this, the more I find myself longing for a home church like they had in Acts. Where they really knew each other and helped each other grow in their Christian walk and were there for each other through thick and thin. And even more important, where Jesus led the service and was allowed to heal and speak and give Words of knowledge and comfort to all. I know some churches are encouraging home groups and I think that's a great start!

  6. I agree, Sapphire - I've always gotten more out of home Bible study meetings too.
    Sounds like there are several of us longing for the home church of Acts. So .... I was thinking .... who wants to come over to my house this week??? LOL :)

  7. I'd love to, Caroline!! Wish we all lived closer.

  8. Wed June 6th,
    "Amen, and, Amen" to that (of living in closer proximity) !
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  9. Hi MaryLu, I've been following this series with interest, and finally felt compelled to comment. As a missionary in a South American country for almost thirty years, I am obviously not against Christianity or churches(!), but over the last few years I've become increasing bored (did I just say that word out loud?) with the ritualism in our tradition-bound (yes, evangelical) churches. The problem is that I don't see cell groups or small home studies as without negatives either. They frequently become a place to share trivia, pool our ignorance, and justify our sin. Assuming that the church services of the early Church were NOT like that, I wonder what conclusions Viola and Barna have to offer to all the questions they are raising? I realize also that the more a group such as the Church grows, the greater the need for some sort of organizational structure and the less possibility of meeting everyone's real needs. Guess it is stay tuned and find out...

  10. Diane, I'm glad you're getting a lot out of these posts. Like you, I've been feeling unhappy, unfulfilled with regular church, which is why I sought out this book from which I'm taking most of this information. Pagan Christianity. Yes, the authors have a solution.. so stay tuned! :-)