Bare with me here. I'm going to start a series (or at least hope to) that helps explain how we as a Christian culture ended up in buildings, sitting in pews or chairs, facing forward, and listening to sermons each Sunday. Where did all our present "Christian" methods, rituals, schedules, events.. whatever you want to call them, come from? And are they Biblical?
New Testament scholar, Graydon F. Snyder states, "The first churches consistently met in homes. Until the year 300 we know of no buildings first built as churches."
Although Christians had picked up some other pagan practices along the way, it wasn't until Constantine, emperor of Rome (285-337) came on the scene that things began to change. After Constantine's questionable conversion to Christianity, he was determined to make the Christian faith legitimate. In his pagan beliefs, that meant a sacred building, priests, and sacred rituals. So after 327 AD, he began erecting the first church buildings throughout the Roman Empire. In doing so, he followed the path of pagans in constructing temples to honor God (More on Constantine's pagan beliefs in a later post)
He built church buildings upon cemeteries of dead saints because these places were considered "holy"
These early buildings were magnificent and spacious designed after Greek pagan temples with large basilicas which provided ample space for seating passive and docile crowds to watch a performance. And much like the Roman basilicas they possessed an elevated platform where the clergy ministered with a rail separating them from the laity. In the center of the building was an altar or altar table considered the most holy place in the building because it often contained relics of martyrs and because the elements of communion, the sacred bread and the cup sat on top.
Interesting, don't you think? As I've been reading about this, it has brought several questions to my mind. Many of us were raised in Christian churches. We don't know anything else. It's what our parents did, and their parents before them. Church is just church. It's just the way things are and always has been.
Now, I'm not bashing church or church buildings at all. I still go to church. But all I'm saying is what if all these years we've been doing it wrong?
Information taken from Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna