Yesterday I put this comment in my Facebook status box: "Eric is looking for a church building in the bible. I still haven't found one."
My FB status updates usually generate one or two comments at the most. Well, for the above status, I received 33 comments. Some of them were mine, but over half were from other Christians.
Why is it that the topic of the church generates so much discussion?
I believe the answer is that there is much disagreement about what the church is and should be. In the bible, we see much commanded about the church. We don't tend to disagree on these things. However, we also see much modeled about the church. This is where the disagreement/discussion arises.
In my experience, this is how we handle much of what is modeled about the church in the bible: we point out and emphasize the descriptions of the church that we both like and follow in our modern practices. On the other hand, we tend to ignore and/or de-emphasize those things that are modeled that we do not like and do not practice.
Quite simply, in the modern church we pick-and-choose what things we want to follow that are modeled for us. When it comes to what is modeled in the bible, we act as if we are eating at Golden Corral. We select what we want and leave the remainder behind.
This attitude toward scripture is ironic for Protestants. One of the primary cries of the Protestant Reformation was "Sola Scriptura!" This means, "Scripture alone." It applies to our authority in the church. It rejects tradition as being authoritative.
However, if we dare to take a close look at many of our church practices, we will see that these have come from tradition as opposed to scripture.
One healthy thing for a church to do is to look at all the activities that happen in the life of the church during a typical week. These should be written down. Then, the church should look in scripture and write down all the activities of the early church. Finally, the two lists should be compared. Do they line up? Do they look the same? The answer most likely is, "Not even close!"
If we are to really claim that the bible is our authority, we should listen to both what it commands and what it models. If we were to do this, we would most likely find that we would agree on much more related to the practice of the church.
We disagree and discuss so much about the church because we mostly ignore what is modeled for us.