The original New Testament church and on into the first 150 or so years met in homes and worshipped around a regular household meal, which helped promote, facilitate, maintain a connection between faith and life as a whole. A separated worship began the process and habits that produced a dualistic spirituality in our faith—one for Sunday and one for the “real world.” When the building (a building) is considered the liminal* space between God and people, a dualistic religious experience is established and maintained through continued use and habits associated with the building (a building). In other words,
“Church is conceived as a sacred space; the ethereal architecture, lighting, music, rituals, religious language, and culture all collaborate to make this a sacred event not experienced elsewhere in life in quite the same way” (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, p. 103).
Our habit of “going to church” cannot be separated from our habits of worship that create ways of thinking about our faith and the Christian life. A building-centered church, and in this case, worship experience codifies a dualistic spirituality that maintains a cleavage between the sacred and the secular.
I am as guilty as anyone on this matter, I must confess. Among protestant churches in general and evangelical churches more specifically, we tend to draw our worship patterns, structures, and elements from the Old Testament temple worship experience (and texts) of ancient Israel—strangely enough the very thing that Jesus confronted and of which the very professional temple-class that killed him. We justify our building-centered and professional clergy-based church and worship experience from the Old Testament patterns rather than New Testament affirmations and instruction—and, rather than from the very nature of the gospel itself.
“A building-centered church, and in this case, worship experience codifies a dualistic spirituality that maintains a cleavage between the sacred and the secular.”
Most of what we see, experience, and affirm in our church experience is a long by-product of Constantine and the long-standing power invested in a professional clergy class. For sure, there are positive benefits for such a clergy, that is the maintaining and protection of the gospel itself and for preserving a tradition; yet, as in all social experience wherein a guardian class is created (or needed), power becomes the necessarily element in maintaining its (understanding of) purity and rightful inheritance. And, at least in part, the building-centered system we have is a means to protect the rightful inheritors of ecclesiastical power. This, then, becomes part of the building-centered church experience for the congregation, further teaching by habits and world (i.e.,religious) view a dualistic spirituality that separates the sacred from the secular.
“Everything about most modern, theater-like worship affirms the separation of our faith from everyday life . . .”
Everything about most modern, theater-like worship affirms the separation of our faith from everyday life: from “going to church” outside our neighborhoods to seeing and developing the habits of us-them in worship where a professional clergy class are the stewards of all the elements of grace, where from 80% to 95% of the worshippers are passive participants in the worship, where a select few (mostly qualified and/or approved by a designated ecclesiastical power) perform the worship while the rest of the congregation follows, and where there are clear lines of separation between the few (leaders) and the whole of the participants in worship.
*Liminal, that moment or space between earth and heaven, the entrance or threshold between the ordinary or profane and religious or sacred.