First, this is largely a matter of judgment. The Bible doesn’t specify how a church building ought to be built and I am unwilling to make demands where the Bible does not.
Second, let me give you some history. In recent months I have been in some church buildings that are very beautiful and ornate. Some are new and some have been redecorated. I am wondering if we spend too much on our places of assembly. Many years ago Clark Sims and I were visiting a large church building in a distant city. As we drove through the iron gates and onto the property Clark looked asked, “I wonder how many hungry people you could feed with those gates. ?” It was the kind of question you chuckle at but then keep thinking about for years.
Third, there is a central question here that strikes at the heart of what we do in our churches:
“Would Jesus be pleased with our building budgets as compared to our Evangelism and Benevolence Budgets?”
Here are some thoughts for your consideration.
Church Buildings Have Long Been A Part of Christianity
Some today argue that the ancient pattern included only churches that met in homes. That line of reasoning as been well refuted. The church often met in public places including the temple grounds (Acts 2:41), homes (1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15) and even a school building (Acts 19:9). The above linked article also notes that there were places that were “peculiarly set apart for Divine worship.” The question is not whether a church building is appropriate. It certainly is.
My concern is that church buildings of today seem to focus more on the people inside the church and less on those outside.
Church Buildings Must Be Functional
As a congregation grows numerically, so must its facilities. Some have tried to keep a large congregation in a small building by offering multiple services but that seems to take away from the idea of family. Would we ever think of turning our own children away from the dinner table because the family was too big? Of course not. We would get a bigger table. Likewise, a large congregation needs a larger building.
Congregations need places to carry out the functions of the church which include worship, evangelism, education, edification and benevolence. Classrooms, fellowship areas and an auditorium or assembly place are all needed.
With larger numbers comes the need for larger parking spaces and many building improvements that are required by law. Function is essential.
A Church Building Is Not A Goal, It Is A Tool
The congregation does not exist to build a church building. The building exists for the congregation.
It seems that we have begun to view a fine building as a goal to reach. Why do we need high dollar paneling, expensive light fixtures and expensive sound systems? How does expensive crown molding convert the lost? Sounds systems worth thousands of dollars certainly provide good sound and entertainment but how many hungry do they feed? Churches have begun to stage “capital campaigns” to raise money for their building funds. When was the last time we had a capital campaign to fund the food pantry or to provide for an evangelistic outreach?
Saving the Lost and Aiding the Poor IS A Goal
Jesus said he came to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus commands us to do the same (Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 16:15-16). The poor and needy were often in the Savior’s mind and he taught his followers to aide them (Matthew 19:16-26). James says pure religion is founded upon serving the downtrodden (James 1:27). The early church was busy about the service of widows (Acts 6:1). Our goal is to serve others as if we were serving the Lord himself (Matthew 25:31-46). Indeed outreach is vital for disciples. Outreach is a goal.
Notice the number of times Jesus speaks about evangelism or helping others. Compare this to the absence of any discussion on how we should outfit the church building!
Church Buildings Suggest Our Priorities
The adage is true: “I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” What sermon do our buildings deliver?
My fear is that beauty of modern church buildings suggest we are turning inward at the time we should be working harder to reach out. What do you think? I would like hear your thoughts here on the blog.