Evangelical Engagement pt 6: Croats, Church Activities, & Church Buildings

I have observed something with Croats, and I wonder three things.  FIRST, am I understanding it correctly?  SECOND, does this dynamic grow out of the blurring of christendom into Christianity that comes from a strong state church?  And THIRD, is this same dynamic at work elsewhere in Europe?

My observation is that Croats do not seem to separate the church building from church activities.  If something happens at the church, it is a church activity.  If something happens OUTSIDE the church, it is not a church activity.

Understand: I have been part of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Christian Churches and Churches of Christ) my entire life, and am a committed restorationist.

One of the core convictions of our churches is that the BUILDING is not the church.  You will see this on the signs of some of our churches: “Northside Church of Christ meets here” (rather than labeling the building “Northside Church of Christ.”)

So part of the religious ocean I have swum in since birth (“swum” is correct, I looked it up) is that the Church and the church are the PEOPLE, not the building or the institutions.

But for Croats, and perhaps for other European evangelicals, the building and the church are more closely identified with each other.  Given the strongly institutional heritage most European believers come from and live in, this makes sense.

What this means is that if a church sponsors home Bible studies, European evangelicals tend to NOT view this as an official church activity.  It’s not at the church, on “sanctified ground,” so it’s not official.

But the reverse is also true.  At least in Zagreb, Catholic friends and neighbors are often willing to attend gatherings, including Bible studies, IF THEY ARE NOT IN THE CHURCH BUILDING.  They will come, talk, pray, study, share, … as long as these activities are in a home, or coffee bar, or anywhere NOT in a building identified as a “church”.

So:

  • Am I understanding the phenomenon correctly?
  • Does it grow out of the blurring of the lines between christendom & Christianity that comes from a strong, established state church?
  • Is this same dynamic at work elsewhere in Europe?

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