Church, Mission and Buildings
Updated: Jul 6, 2019
Most Christian people spend far too much time in the church building on church-related activities and not enough time out there in the world building meaningful relationships with people who will not come into our church building and even if they did they would feel very uncomfortable. Note I referred to church buildings instead of the church because the buildings that we gather in are merely places that we gather for various activities. The buildings that we often refer to as the church, in reality, has little to do with what it means to be the church because we don’t go to church we are the church. The early church in the first three hundred years did not own any buildings for the sole purpose of religious gathering or worship. They mainly met in homes. The church as a whole rarely if ever met altogether at any one time instead they met in houses scattered throughout the city. It wasn’t until the fourth-century that church buildings came into vogue when Christianity was legitimised under the imperial influence of Constantine. For over a thousand years, during the Christendom period church buildings played a significant role at the centre of the Christian community, but today the church and its buildings are largely invisible to the vast majority of people in Australia and the rest of the Western world. If we continue to think of mission in terms of attraction and the church building as the focal point of our mission activities, then we will fail miserably in living out our missionary identity as the people of God. Yes, there must be a gathering in of those who come to faith in Jesus Christ and a community worth belonging to, but first, there must be a going out into the world to creatively and relationally engage those who will never come to us. There must also be a realisation that as we move out to engage the world on its ground and not ours that we may need to establish new communities of faith out there in the world instead of bringing them back into our community where they would find it very difficult to belong without radical re-socialisation and change on both their part and ours. Also, by bringing them back into our community, we diminish their potential to evangelise the post-everything communities from which they come and the networks to which they belong. We seriously need to rethink both the use and the importance of church buildings and not become over dependant upon them both in our thinking and in our God-appointed mission. Church buildings may be beneficial but not if they hinder our mission or become objects of our idolatry.