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  • Writer's pictureLES HENSON

The Church is not About Buildings

Les Henson

Most Christian people spend far too much time in the church building on church-related activities. Yet, not enough time out there in the world, establishing meaningful relationships with people who will not come into our church building. Even if they did, they would feel very uncomfortable. Note I referred to church buildings instead of the church because the buildings we gather in are merely places we gather for various activities. The buildings that we often refer to as the church, in reality, does not have anything to do with what it means to be the church because we don’t go to church, we are the church. In the first three hundred years, the early church 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 all together at anyone 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 became legal under the imperial influence of Constantine.

For over a thousand years, church buildings played an important role at the centre of the Christian community during the Christendom period. Yet, today the church and its buildings are mainly invisible to the vast majority of Australians and the rest of the Western world. Suppose we continue to think of mission in terms of attraction and the church building as the focal point of our mission activities. In that case, we will fail miserably in living out our missionary identity as the people of God. Yes, there must be a gathering 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 create 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 drastic 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-dependent upon them both in our thinking and in our God-appointed mission. Church buildings may be useful, but not if they hinder our mission or become objects of our idolatry.

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