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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « A Word for the Church: Isaiah 22 & The Valley of Vision | Reading the Bible Less? »

    Ancient Magical Rituals (should) Have No Place in Church

    What conservative Christian would argue otherwise? But magical rituals do take place on Sunday mornings around the world and have for centuries.


    "the established form for a ceremony; specifically : the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony

    a : ritual observance; specifically : a system of rites b : a ceremonial act or action c : an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner

    Synonyms: custom, fashion, habitude, pattern, practice (also practise), habit, second nature, trick, way, wont

    Related Words: addiction; disposition; bent, inclination, proclivity, set, tendency, tenor, turn; bag, convention, form, mode, style; usage, use; deportment, manners, mores; drill, groove, jog trot, regime (also régime), regimen, rote, routine, rut; affectation, airs, pose; attribute, characteristic, mark, trait; eccentricity, kink, oddity, peculiarity, quirk, singularity, tic


    Latin ritualis, from ritus rite,  First Known Use: 1570 (http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual)


    The term “ritual” for a Christian, typically has negative connotations. The word harkens back to Medieval wizards, modern secret societies, or ancient religious worship of false gods/goddesses.


    Rituals involve the repetitive actions or words with the expectation something wonderful or powerful will happen. Symbols, beliefs, traditions, and superstitions all play a role in rituals. The only true rituals in a Christian life are the communion of all believers (originally a shared meal) and baptism of new believers.


    Our Sunday morning church services, while they have been around in the same basic style for centuries, do not resemble the first gatherings of Christians described in Acts. What Catholics have done is assimilate the rituals, beliefs, and gods of other peoples over the years. What Protestants have done is kept all the basic ritual forms, leaving out words that do not line up with scripture.


    Think about a typical Sunday morning “service”:

    (Why do we gather on Sunday if we are supposed to be resting? Why is it called a “service”? Are we supposed to be serving God by attending? How does this count as service to God when it is never described in the Bible?


    Are we serving others? How if we do not interact with them-I mean REALLY interacting by talking, playing, etc.? Who said it should be in the morning? Where did the idea of a church building come from?) The questions are endless, but you see my point; why do we do the things we do?


    It is truly human nature to want traditions and rituals. It makes things easier to control and more predictable in a chaotic world. While God is a God or order, we have unduly burdened ourselves and others with human traditions and ideas.


    Sunday morning service outline:


    Come in and sit down quietly, listen to music and wait for program to start.

    A speaker comes out, gives news, prays, invites everyone to shake hands for a minute.

    Sing 2-3 songs.

    Pass collection plate during special music or another song

    Hear sermon

    Sing another song

    Have communion


    Last song



    …or something similar, every week with little alteration. (Sunday Morning video)


    This is a ritual. And we expect to be better people, better followers of Christ, more knowledgeable of the Bible, receive God’s blessing, and bless others by performing in this weekly ritual. As if this is the only time and place God communes with His people.  


    To add more paganism to it, the people typically dress up, the pastor maybe wears a robe, there is a choir/worship band, candles/special lighting, incense (in some places), lofty music, and inspiring windows/screens.


    None of these things in and of themselves are wrong, but why do we implement them in church? If it is with the idea of honoring God, why does our God care about dress clothes (which can be an undo burden on poorer Christians), candles, or pretty windows?


    If it is with the idea of playing on people’s emotions in order to elicit devotion, while well-meaning, it is not the place of Christians to emotionally manipulate one another.  


    The idea of the church as a “house of God” is also foreign to the Bible. The word for “church” refers to a gathering of believers, not a building. Why do we feel the need to honor the building by walking, keeping low voices, and being meticulously clean?


    It is not special because God resides there; He doesn’t. It is a pagan idea that a god/goddess needs a temple/house in which to stay or commune with people. Rather, it is the people of God (in whom He lives) who are special wherever they go. 

    “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).


    The first Christians got together to eat, teach, encourage, and hang out with one another. Surely they sang songs and took offerings as well, but the offerings went solely to help the poor among them, not pay for screens, program print-outs, or preacher’s salaries. In fact, there was no single preacher/pastor of the early church. They all taught each other.


    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

    46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47).


    “ 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

    And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (Acts 4:32-35).


    There are many more examples including holidays, clergy vs. laity, how we conduct missionary work, etc. The bottom line is do we do what we do because it is explicitly in Scripture, or because we are just used to it?

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    Reader Comments (1)

    What other gathering of people shares in what they have, loves one another and daily communes together? A family. We are supposed to be just that, Christians, Christ followers, brothers and sisters in Christ and in that we are the Church. I think it was that family tie, the openness and togetherness that made people feel welcome, and in some ways I think the imposing walls of our churches now hinder those from coming and are at time more of an intimidation than a feeling of welcoming.

    August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

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