Recently, having read a brief synopsis of the development of evangelicalism, I realized that we moved the essence of the Christian faith from a holistic lifestyle, flowing FROM reconciliation with God through repentance toward God (denying self-supremacy, embracing and living for the supremacy and glory of God) and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (trust in His atoning sacrifice for deliverance from sin and His teaching, producing the obedience of faith, in contrast to obedience that produces reconciliation) TO the attendance of a ritualistic “church service” that involves certain spectator oriented activities (with some minor personal involvement lead by an “instructor”), in a particular building on a particular day of the week for a prescribed period of time (making sure to keep it reasonably short for the convenience of getting back to “real life” without an overwhelmingly intrusive delay). As well, we lean toward viewing success as having the largest number of people gathered for this event (possibly two or three shifts of people). If we have a really good “church,” we even have other events throughout the week IN THAT BUILDING.
I am not against the gathering of the saints for corporate prayer, worship, fellowship, teaching, learning, encouragement, sharing and training. I am not, however, in favor of reducing the essence of Christianity to, what we call, “church services,” going to church instead of being the church. Concepts generally shift in increments and with each shift, a new generation is born into the new normal. Once a people have accepted a “normal,” it is very difficult to have them see the original reality properly, often reacting to the description of the original as a radically new idea.
It is true that the expression of our faith will involve slight variations from age to age and culture to culture, but these must not alter the essence of the faith. Such variations are only properly understood against the backdrop of the essential nature of the faith. Replacing a holistic, lifestyle oriented relationship with God with a “church service” focused concept of Christianity strikes at the essence of the Christian faith. This tends toward the production of people who compromise moral standards and convictions in their daily activities while convincing themselves that they are “good Christians” because they partake of the weekly service, even contributing on some tolerable level.
There are varied opinions about how the Christian faith, life and messages influences the culture, society, the nation(s) and the world, but it will not happen if we view the activity of gathering people for a religious routine as the essence of Christianity.