The Church 02: Are Church Buildings Necessary?

16May08

I think this question is so relevant to this whole hairy issue.

Are church buildings necessary? Assuming we’re a body that must meet regularly, obviously we have to meet in something, but must we necessarily buy and maintain expensive buildings?

Why or Why not?
Please explain your answer.

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5 Responses to “The Church 02: Are Church Buildings Necessary?”

  1. 1 jessephillips

    My answer is: no. Well, obviously they’re not necessary, right. The Chinese underground house church has EXPLODED. Maybe it’s a bad question.

    I think that they’re not necessary, and – in many cases – a waste of resources. It costs so freaking much money to buy, renovate, maintain, pay taxes on a building (how many times have you heard the pastor say – “just to keep the lights on”).

    One might argue that they are necessary to meet in (“where else are you gonna meet?”). I believe that they are prohibitively expensive, and it would be better to meet in homes.
    + They would respond that you can’t reach enough people without a building.
    I would say that we could if we still met 4,000 ppl in 400 homes.
    + “where would you get 400 pastors”
    Jesus has gifted the body to minister to itself and that the 4,000 contain 400 holy-spirit gifted and empowered pastors.
    + the quality of preaching would not be the same.
    I believe the quality of spiritual discussion, accountability, and inspired speaking does rival that of good preaching.
    + the quality of worship would not be the same.
    Worship is not about show, it’s about heart. More intimate worship would actually be better b/c it’s more authentic – which is what this postmodern generation is looking for
    + no building = no staff = no programs
    Well, if you were organized enough, you could still gather tithes to support a staff and programs. I would argue that you don’t need paid staff and programs. If the members of the body were allowed/empowered to use their gifts, we could get A LOT more done than we currently do. Imago Dei tries to empower their people and they have all kinds of programs. Imagine if we let ppl use their tithe or own money to create/run church sponsored programs that they want to do and are excited about. Guaranteed they would spend a lot more than their “tithe” to make it happen!

    I believe the obsession with buildings comes from 1) the wrong idea that we have to meet in large groups – the larger the group the better! 2) tradition 3) NOT early church history 4) our hollywood, consumer culture that is looking for a CEO-like leader and a concert-like worship experience (not achievable w/out a building)

  2. I think the obsession with building comes exactly from church history – just not the moments that we really need to be mimicking in our day & age. It was the rise of the cathedrals as the church became institutionalized and nationalized that began that obsession. It was a reaching back to embrace Old Testament structure (the temple, the priesthood) that pushed us into that direction.

    That’s not to say that the early church (the ones meeting in homes) never gathered together. There was definite structure as you see Paul writing specifically to Christians in a city. The ‘house churches’, so to speak, still gathered together at times, but who knows if that was weekly and it very much wasn’t the primary focus of what they were doing.

    Of course if the church is really the gathering of people on journey with Him, than a “church building” becomes wherever those people are: homes, coffee shops, boats on the lake, bars, restaurants, schools, offices, etc.

  3. 3 Mark Stevens

    OK, heres the elephant in the room for western church. I’m wlilling to contribute to the salary of a 23 year old man who can put a ball in a hoop at an above average rate or move said ball a t a 5 yard per average clip where they get paid average $5 million a year, or seen a catchy tune,memorize and recite lines with sincerity, ie PLEASE ENTERTAIN ME AND SUSPEND MY REALITY FOR 4 minutes (song) or2-3 hours (movie, play, sporting event), sooooo, is my spiritual experience to be measured by it’s entertainment value and if so how much should we spend to maintain the theater/stadium/church. How much, for lighting/sound/ambience.

  4. Great question Jesse, I would say that you are right. Church buildings are not necessary. The truth is though that none of us are called to follow one exact “model” for how we do church. If a church can leverage the building to have a greater impact for the kingdom than if there was no building than by all means they should have a building.

    Just saw this morning that Saddleback has sent more that 25% of its’ people over seas on missions, how many churches can say that? I would bet that the story would be different for them if they did not have their facilities.

    Then on the other hand Xenos Fellowship is reaching tons of people that would not have been reached if their community was limited to a building.

    So… whatever that was worth 🙂

  5. 5 jessephillips

    Mark:
    Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure what you’re getting at though. Are you saying we should focus on entertainment as much as many of us do, or are you saying that we should be willing to pay more b/c it’s a high level of entertainment, or … well, I think you’re making a good point.

    Chris:
    GREAT POINT! If a church can have a greater impact with their building than without, then they should keep the building. This is a great point! I think the trouble comes in our definition of “greater impact.” I’m sure all the people with buildings will claim they have a greater impact with it than without – I don’t know if I would agree. I’d LOVE for us all to be on the same page with our definition of “greater impact”.

    About Saddleback, 25% of their people! Was that paid by the church? I doubt it, probably by the folks themselves. I wonder what percent of the church budget goes toward that? I LOVE what Rick is doing, awesome focus, I wish we would all get behind the peace plan and help out – AWESOME.

    Problem with a building for me is many-fold. 1 problem I think is that Sunday tends to become a big show, which seems less authentic and can turn non-Christians off. I was just talking to a Catalyst intern and she said her Dad refuses to go to church b/c he was turned-off by Willow Creek’s huge building and thought they should be spending the money on helping people. I don’t agree with him, but I think it’s a serious issue for non-Christians.


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