Fallacy Number One: You Must Worship in the Right Place
The Samaritan woman said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20, nkjv). She was making the same mistaken assumption that many church people do today—that worship must occur in a certain place, or that worship is something that happens only on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. We Christians have erected great shrines to mark our places of worship.
In reality, worship transcends place. In fact, it has little to do with a place, but everything to do with a Person. You could even say that assigning worship only to a particular place is a form of idolatry.
The human race has a tendency toward idolatry, and sometimes it is hard to see. For example, consider the idolatry that Hezekiah opposed. (See 2 Kings 18.) As one of the righteous kings who came after King David, Hezekiah had his work cut out for him. He became king at twenty-five years of age, and his first act as king was very unusual. Did he erect a monument to his father or try to improve the economy? No. His first act as king was to reestablish true worship in Israel.
Second Kings 18:1–8 records the following things he did to refocus the people in true worship:
• He removed high places.
• He broke the images.
• He cut down the groves.
• He broke in pieces the brazen serpent of Moses.
The people at this time were steeped in idol worship, and yet it is interesting to note that some of the things Hezekiah destroyed were not dedicated to idols, but rather to the worship of God. The brazen serpent of Moses had been fashioned according to the instruction of God for the healing of the people of Israel after they were bitten by serpents (see Numbers 21). This was a God-ordained, sacred object, so why would he destroy it? For the simple reason that the people had made it into an idol. They had started offering incense to something that God had once used, but they were not really looking to God Himself. Anytime our worshipful attention gets directed toward an object, a methodology, or a place instead of God, it becomes idolatry.
Several years ago, I was trying to help a church that was experiencing a split. The conflict had started because they were renovating the sanctuary to accommodate more growth. A certain group within the church was against the renovation project because it altered their “sacred” sanctuary. In prayer, I was rebuking the devil of division in this church when the Lord interrupted me: “This isn’t the work of the devil; this is Me.”
I said, “Lord, I don’t understand. How can this be Your work?”
He replied, “This group of people has made this place more important than Me. It must be destroyed or others will be swept into their idolatry. Sometimes I have to pull down and destroy so that I can build.”
Please do not misunderstand; I strongly believe in the importance of corporate gatherings in houses of worship. I love the local church—I am a pastor! Clearly however, we have to avoid the belief that “church” means a place, a building. We are the Lord’s Body, and we carry His presence everywhere we go. A true worshipper enjoys the presence of God in his home, at work, or on vacation.
When King David desired to build God a house, God told him, “I never told you to build me a house (paraphrased from 2 Samuel 7:4–12) Then God promised David, “I will build you a house….” (see verse 27). In essence, God was saying to David, “I don’t want a place in which to dwell. I am looking for a people in whom to dwell.” Jesus stated this same principle to the Samaritan woman when he told her, “Believe me, woman. The time is coming when neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain will you actually worship the Father” (John 4:21, ncv).