What does these even mean? How did this become the "fad phrase" of Christians? The most elementary of Christ followers already understands this. The "unchurched" don't comprehend it. So who's the intended audience for this "fad phrase?" Sadly I think we've created more "Christianese."
If I walked around to 100 different people and said, "The church is not the building" then asked, "What does that mean?" I'd likely get a few different responses with underlying veiled meanings. I might get, "That means we the followers of Jesus are the church." That would be correct. I might get, "That means I'm the church and wherever I am there's church." Um, ok. Or one might even get, "That means wherever we meet to have church that is going to be church that day." Um, again, ok. But again, the fad phrase of "Christianese" is nothing more that nonsensical sentiment with no common definition. So does this phrase mean we are "blow off" our buildings?
This past week a four year old boy in our county went missing. What ensued was a 10 hour manhunt. Hundreds of first responders, police, fire, SWAT, EMT, etc. and additional civilians pitching in. What suddenly became apparent, those in charge needed more space than their emergency command truck. As the local fire chaplain and pastor of the church who's parking lot got commandeered, I offered our church building to be "command central." This meant FBI, State Troopers, police detectives, Fire Chiefs, etc. all working together in a church building to conduct a ten hour manhunt for a four year old boy. Not to mention the numerous media that were there to report. What ensued was a building providing multiple stations to multiple people. After ten long hours we found the young boy safe and unharmed. You know what greatly assisted them, that's right, a CHURCH BUILDING. All the first responder leaders and FBI to a person said, "We will not forget what you've done for us and we greatly appreciate it."
Consider this. If the phrase, "The church is not the building" is played out in full and the building didn't matter, could the church had been a hub for a three county wide man hunt? What about the use of the churches kitchen, wifi, bathrooms, TV's? Your church building matters because when it all "hits the fan" where did they go? The church building.
This leads me to what the church building should be, a community hub. You know who wasn't allowing their buildings to be used as a "command hub"? The local restaurants, truck stop, even the clubhouse at the local housing subdivision. You know who and what WAS there in the hour of need? That's right, the CHURCH BUILDING and the Jesus followers who gather there!! We did not bill the county for the use of our facility but instead provided a loving helping hand. Our church people showed up and coordinated McDonalds and Chic-Fil-A. We provided drinks, snacks, and served hundreds of people. Why? Because the building matters.
Now imagine if the church building was run down. If it had not been maintained? Or if we didn't want all "that traffic"? Honestly, it's unthinkable.
Here's the undercurrent of what's not being said but being said, "The building doesn't matter." One solid study of scripture and you'll see yes AND no.
The word church in the Greek is “Ekklesia” it literally means those (plural; we) who are called out and different from the world. Now if a group of people are "called out" the intended meaning is two fold. First, you are leaving someplace. One might argue that you are leaving the "world" behind and in duality of meaning that makes some sense. It may perhaps mean you are leaving your old life behind, again, um "ok" and yes.
Secondly, it means you are going to something. What is it you're going to? Towards Jesus and heaven? Yes, but others can't physically see that. More over it means you are leaving not only your "old life", the "world" etc. behind but also physically each time you attend a church service you are moving your physical body from one place to another. Making a physical statement that others can see and follow. That is one of the hundred things a church building provides.
In Exodus 40 God gives Moses specific instructions to build what is called a "Tent of Meeting." That's right, a tent for Israel to physically be called out of their homes on a specific day, a specific time and to a specific building (tent) to meet in. Then as Israel settled God gave David instructions to build an absolute elaborate temple (1 Chronicles 28) and if an Israelite lived too far to travel to the Temple they could build a local synagogue as a "campus" of the Temple. But you say, "Tyson, that's Old Testament." Ok, do you know where churches were started in the New Testament? The temple!!!
The temple was the hub for Hebraic law, religion, science, philosophy, economics, etc. The Temple WAS where the community gathered. While, theological it's true Solomons Temple was a signpost to our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God desires, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to live in the hearts of man. Yes, Jesus didn't die for a building we get it.
However, have you noticed throughout history that church buildings like the Hebraic Temple and synagogues became the central hub of the community? Sure humans lived through a period where church buildings were built to display the beauty and grandeur of God. Don't get me wrong those cathedrals are simply astonishing and really do display the "bigness of God."
Let's look at another example of church buildings. Old town Savannah, GA is laid out in squares. Most squares have 2 things, a park in the middle, and a church on one side of the square. Why? Because church buildings use to be the "hub" of society much like the Hebraic Temple.
This is where, if our church buildings are going to be affective we must get back to this. We would do well to move our church buildings from "houses of worship" (shrine) to "houses of community." What goes into a "house of community"? What speaks to you local community? Is it a coffee shop, a workout facility, a sports complex, a library, a place for Alcoholics Anonymous, a place for employers and the jobless to connect, a barber shop, etc. This is where our buildings become meaningful. After all, is God not honored and given glory when we His people connect to those around us? Are we not worshipping and telling of our savior when we use our facilities to build a bridge between us and the community? Is it not worship to better our communities through the use of tools God has blessed us with? IT IS!!
So is your church building a "house of worship", just a shrine to some pious lofty ideals, to be used a few hours a week? Or is your church building a hub for the community?
Next week I'll go into more detail on this topic in part two. Trust me it matters more to God and your community than you ever imagined!!
Look at building question laziness of congregatio
Church s/b hub of community like temple/synagogue was philosophy, economics, science, etc.
Shrine vs community hub