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Church Buildings (rant)

church.jpgI have come to t he conclusion that the main reason God has given us 5 toes on our left foot and 1 big toe on our right foot is to remind us of the 6 good reasons why church buildings should never exist.

Reason #1
Church buildings identify the Church with a place, which leads to the ludicrous notion of “going to church”. Church buildings present a completely false representation of the living, dynamic entity of the Church, and reduce it to little more than a club that meets once a week in their clubhouse.

Reason #2
Church buildings nurture dualism. By congregating in a distinct physical location, the “going to church” phenomena creates an artificial discontinuity with the “rest of life”. If you don’t believe me, go and sit in a church building on Sunday and before long you will hear someone up the front say “leave the trouble of the week at the door, and come into God’s presence”. Rubbish. God is everywhere, all the time.

Reason #3
When Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman beside a well, she told him that her ancestors worshipped God here on this mountain, but that the Jews say we should worship in Jerusalem. Jesus said that the time was coming when we would worship God in neither place, but in spirit and in truth. Church buildings go right against this by linking worship back to a place. Again, if you don’t believe me, then head off to any church you want and you will here “Welcome friends … welcome into God’s house … Let’s worship Him here together …”. Just the opposite of what Jesus said!

Reason #4
Church buildings must be owned by someone, and that someone must be a legal entity. So now the “church” is just become another organisation just like any other organisation, and runs like any other organisation. Managers. Accountants. Leases. Repairs. Insurance. Maintenence. This building needs money to keep it going! Who’s going to pay? So now the church buildings have reduced the Church to an organisation that needs money in order to run. That just ain’t right. The church that Jesus spoke about was so different that even ‘the gates of hell would not prevail against it’. Now that sounds more like it!

Reason #5
Church buildings encourage a meeting model that works as far as I can see just like a kindergarden. Welcome everyone, all sit down on the mat, sit still, follow what the person up front says, lets sing a few songs “clap along now if you want to”, then lets listen to a talk from someone who knows more than us and is here to teach us. The church building with its rows of chairs and stage and microphones up the front just lends it itself so wonderfully well to treating people like children you would almost think it was designed that way!

Reason #6
Church buildings cause an artificial segregation of the Church. By splitting the Church into little units that go to buildings, those buildings then have signs out the front. Anglican. Catholic. Closed Brethren. Open Brethren. Exclusive Brethren. All these divisions are not real! All of these people in reality are bound together within the Kingdom of God in way that we will never fully understand. When we stupidly chop such a beautiful creature into pieces, we simply kill it.

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Categories: christian, church
  1. April 16, 2007 at 1:42 am | #1

    Very interesting perspective. You don’t need me to tell you that, but I wanted to speak out loud. I don’t have a problem with people choosing where or how to worship, but I do stumble over when that religion, faith, following is exclusionary or damaging to others. Since I’m speaking out loud here, I note that what I wrote seems contradictory as all religions are apparently exclusionary. Thanks for getting us thinking.

  2. April 16, 2007 at 10:39 am | #2

    Hi SurfaceEarth,
    Thanks for your post. I read your Open letter to God and found it deeply moving and honest.
    Jon

  3. April 17, 2007 at 7:03 am | #3

    Hi Jon. Appreciate you checking out the blog, especially that post which is dear to my heart. Look forward to reading more on your site.

  4. ptbeale
    April 17, 2007 at 12:06 pm | #4

    Burn the church! the cry went up
    The torch lit, licked the gilded cherubim
    ardent heat to melt the sacrifical cup
    and smote the cross that once carried Him
    Still more! the shout the vestments shred
    the hymnal leaves played in fire’s more timely mode
    what next the reformers dishevelled reason said
    and poetry wit and beauty were disrobed
    at last the embers spoke a quiet why
    and ashen and forlorn
    we saw our resurrection die
    for we had not been born

  5. April 17, 2007 at 4:57 pm | #5

    Hi Ptbeale,
    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful and challenging poem.
    The poem seems to me to place a unduly high value on the church building and the symbols it contains (cup, cross, hymnals, vestments) to the point that the loss of these symbols is equated with the loss of our opportunity for redemption. If that is the case, then this poem, although hauntingly beautiful, is very wrong.

  6. Kowie
    April 19, 2007 at 2:43 am | #6

    me? I like a congregation to meet under a tree – and everybody bring their own chair! No rules about the chairs – your choice. I understand the practicality of a building, but I agree that it firstly divide people into own little private gatherings and secondly, a place to put down things that become ideols. It is rather a place where I can leave God after the service – the ideom of ” God’s house” strenghten this. My God should be going home with me after the service, thus my house is also God’s house. Then my live during the week will be God’s live.

  7. April 19, 2007 at 10:56 am | #7

    Kowie – great post. Maybe not an apple tree – bad connotations! You acknowledge my points, but I gather you still go the clubhouse every Sunday morning. Why? I was unable to find a compelling reason and so finally gave up and stopped going (even though I was on the preaching roster and the music team).

  8. May 18, 2007 at 4:53 am | #8

    I still go to “the building” every week. I find it a place to learn, tighten my focus, challenge my thinking, and learn how to better love those who don’t know Christ.

    When the church begins to focus “inwardly” instead of “outwardly”, then the things you describe in your post occur.

    Jesus said to “seek and save the lost”. Seek and Save are both verbs and require action from us. If the only action from us is to go to church as you describe, then we are failing at Christ’s command.

    He also told us to “Love God and to Love one another”. Love in this case is also a verb and requires action from those of us who call ourselves believers.

    None of these things have anything at all to do with the 4 walls of a structure. It has to do with the humans that attend, and their misconceptions, misunderstanding, or general disregard for God’s word.

    Thankfully, as Romans states, ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. “All” takes into account, you, me, elders, pastors, prostitutes, homosexuals, adultereres, drug dealers, presidents, illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, murderers, etc. I think you get my point. We ALL need the redemption of Christ, and it really doesn’t matter whether we meet in a building with a steeple, under a tree, in a theatre, in a bar, tattoo parlor or wherever. It doesn’t matter what our sin is, because no sin is greater than another. The minute that the “place” becomes more important than the mission of Christ, label it an idol and move on.

    You’ll probably begin to sense a theme in my comments. People hurt people, and that sucks!!

  9. twolimeleaves
    July 1, 2007 at 1:06 am | #9

    Jon, some branches of our church have been moving services and sunday school to parks, beaches, etc. Partly in reaction to this idea, and partly to be where they are needed. This whole concept is very important to me. We need to be very very careful about our emotional investment in buildings.

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