There is nothing righteous about a building. There is also christian mysticism churches about a home or a living room. Most people agree that the building where people meet is not the church.
It’s funny though how 99 out of 100 individuals will emphatically nod their head and say “Right, the building is not the church.” But, then ten minutes later if you point to a religious building with a steeple on top and say, “What is that?” They’ll say, “It’s a church.”
Jesus said, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart….,” (Matt 15:18). Out of their mouths, all of the time people say, “We are going to CHURCH”, or “Meet me at THE CHURCH,” or “That’s a CHURCH,” – because THEY BELIEVE in their heart that it’s A CHURCH. You might say, “C’mon, Terry, what’s the big deal, it’s just what we call it, we really know that the church is the people and not the building.” I’m not so sure about that and I’ll tell you why.
Our Words Represent Our Actions
Let’s take a look at your average group of people who meet in a traditional church setting. They have services twice a week, Sundays and Wednesdays. They have a nice building they meet in. The building is outfitted with all the traditional markings. It has a sign out front with the name of the church. The sign contains a weekly, catchy, thought provoking phrase. The building has a steeple on the top. If not a steeple, then some other traditional looking top to make it look like a church. Inside, the building has long benches for the audience to sit on. It has a raised platform or stage at the front. It has a nice wooden box for an orator to give speeches from. Behind the speech making box and stage, there is a big bathtub which is raised higher than the stage.
While in this building, we are to conduct ourselves in a certain manner. There is special, extra reverent conduct expected from you as you are in this large meeting room. It is frowned upon anyone to eat or drink a beverage in this meeting room. This room is considered sanctified, which is why it is called the sanctuary – which means that this room is set apart or holy. This meeting room is viewed as though God Himself were living in it.
Let’s do some experiments. Let’s remove all the pews. Let’s also remove the speech making box called the pulpit. All it is now is an empty room. How would this affect our meeting? Would it still seem like a church? Let’s say we sat on lawn chairs and the preacher stood on top of a milk crate. Would it now still be a real church?
Let’s say we took away the entire building. Let’s say a tornado picked it up and moved it to Kansas. Now remember, we all agree that this building is not the church. But what if this building were obliterated? What would be the response of the people who met inside it? More importantly, what would be the emotional response of these people? Would they say, “Our church has been destroyed?” And if this building were gone, how would it affect their fellowship and their practice of meeting together? Do we really believe that the church is really just the people?
We all agree with the concept that the church is the people and not the building – but only in concept. If you were to take away, change, mess up, or alter people’s sacred building, they won’t really feel comfortable.
People associate the building, the pews, the pulpit, the steeple, the baptistery, a pastor – all those things are necessary with “having a real church.” If you meet outside in a park, at 3:00 pm on Thursday instead of 10:45 am on Sunday, then you wouldn’t have a “real church.” If you baptized people in a lake or a river, instead of the bath tub behind the speech making stage, it would seem like the baptism was not quite as official or holy. In 1993, I baptized a man in a bird bath because it was all that was available. Was that baptism somehow less official than being baptized in a bathtub behind a pulpit on a Sunday morning at 10:45? In Acts Chapter 8, the Ethiopian Eunuch jumped out of his chariot and was baptized in some water right along side the road. The thief on the cross next to Jesus was never baptized at all, yet he entered into paradise. Perhaps we should consider if possibly God does not care about the things we care so deeply about.