Church is not a building

Today we equate Church mostly with that which mainly happens on Sunday mornings at a Church service.   Certainly, even by today’s Church traditions, Church is more than that.  There are home groups and missions and often various ministries tied to a local Church but today’s Churches are, on the whole, associated with a particular building that is owned by a non-profit legal entity that is recognized as a Church.

When we ask each other what Church we go to we are asking what particular Church building we attend on Sundays and associate ourselves with.

When we invite someone to go to Church we mean to invite them to a particular building for a Sunday service.

The building and what happens Sunday during the Sunday service has become Church for most professing Christians.   Take away the Sunday service and most “Churches” would disintegrate and be no more for the Sunday service forms the very core and backbone of what Church has come to be.

It was not that way in the New Testament and that is not the way the Lord wants His Body to be.

A local Church (vs the Church universal), as the Lord intended it to be,  is defined as a group of believers that together form a representation of His Body.   They express His life and love among themselves and interact with the world to be all that Jesus was and wants to be within and through them.

Such a biblical Church is not confined to a building on Sundays.  In fact it needs no building at all.

Unlike a building, it is an invisible entity that cannot be readily identified and seen unless the members of the Church are together someplace (a “Church” building with no members of His Body in it during the week is no Church at all!  It is just a building!).

A biblical Church can be a Church and act as His Body with as little as 2 or 3 members meeting in His name (or in His place) to do what Jesus would have done while on Earth.

Matthew 18:19-20

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

The place where the Church physically meets makes absolutely no difference.

Although there was a house of the Lord in Old Testament times or at least a place that was associated with the Presence of God, namely the Temple, there is no such place today.  Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection and the reconciliation with God that is made possible through the Gospel, blew apart the need to meet God in a Temple and opened the way for the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell all Christians such that they now form an invisible Body of Christ that is not tied to a physical location.

To equate a physical Church building today with being the “House of the Lord” is to deny the invisible nature of the Church and the Presence of God through His Holy Spirit in Christians.  It is to deny the truth that God has chosen to no longer associate Himself with a physical building or place at all.

We are the new house in which God choses to dwell.  Not a building.

1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

1 Peter 2:4

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:20

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The Church is a spiritual house not a physical building.  That bears repeating!

The Church is NOT a building!  It is not, not, NOT that building that you might meet in on Sundays.   The Church is what meets in that building.  As such it needs no Sunday building at all to still be a Church!

It is still the Church whether the members physically meet in a parking lot, the woods, the trolley, at a ball game, or even at a bar (if 2 or 3 are gathered in His name to be among the “sinners” it doesn’t matter that they might be in a bar…they are still the Church meeting as a Church!)

When does the Church cease to be the Church?  In other words when does it stop being His Body?  His Body never stops being His Body!  It always is.  The members of His Body may not always meet together but when they do meet it doesn’t take hundreds to consititue an assembly of the Church.  It only takes two or three!  Church doesn’t stop just because you leave the confines of a building with a cross on top on Sunday mornings!  It goes on all week long wherever you happen to be with other members of His Body.

Think about that!

Church doesn’t start when we step into a building on Sundays and it doesn’t stop when we leave that building at the end of a Sunday service (at least not if two or three continue to meet in His name). 

At what point does the spiritual house that we are cease to be a spiritual house?  It doesn’t.  We are always a spiritual house inhabited by God wherever we are.  All week long. 

We can’t “go” to Church!  We can’t “attend” a Church!  We can’t label ourselves a particular Church just because we attend a particular building on Sundays as if we are the Church of that building (remember the Body is not tied to one building or any building at all!).

We are the Church!  You can’t go to or attend something you are!

To “go to Church” is like saying that we should go to marriage.  How do you go to marriage?  That’s ridiculous.  You don’t go to marriage.  You are married!  You are married just like you are the Church.   You are a wife and husband no matter where you are.   Your home is not your marriage, it just happens to be the place where you most often meet but whether you meet mostly at home or anyplace else, no place is so associated with your marriage that it becomes your marriage!  For that matter as a married couple you don’t even have to meet anyplace in particular at all to still be…well…a married couple!  Likewise with the Church. 

Why do those who profess to be members of His one Body, a spiritual house which He dwells in by His Spirit, continue to persist in equating Church with a building?  The preoccupation with a building in which we meet on Sunday’s in our modern Church practice is utterly perplexing to me.

Theologically I venture to say that most Church leaders and professing Christians would give verbal credence to the truth of what I am saying here but the question is not whether we give intellectual assent to the truths of what the Church is.   Anymore than it matters whether we give intellectual assent to the Gospel.  The real issue is whether our lives line up with what we say we believe.

Are we living these truths out?

Can someone looking in from the outside say that we believe that the Church is a spiritual house that is not a building and which does not cease to meet just because we leave a particular building on Sundays?  Or will they conclude that we believe that the Church is a building and that it starts when you enter that building on Sunday and stops when you leave it?  What we say with our lips doesn’t matter much at all.  It is what we live that demonstrates what we believe.

If we truly believe that Church is a spiritual house why the preoccupation in modern day Christian circles with attending a particular building on Sundays?

Church is not, not, NOT a building!  If we repeat that 100 times every morning on waking up and endeavour to live that out in practice we might, just might begin to get it right!

A physical building is held together by the bricks, wood, and whatever other materials are to be found in it’s structure.  The Church, as a spiritual house, is held together by the loving relationships that each of the members have, first with God, and secondly with each other.

If we do not have true and loving relationships with members of His Body we are not connected to His Body in vital fellowship with each other.  We can attend a Sunday building faithfully for years and years and have little to no relationship with His Body!

It is our relationships with each other as members of His one Body that determine our connectedness to the Presence of Christ within His Body.  Not whether we meet in a particular building on Sundays.

Think about the implications of that!

If my relational involvement with members of the Body span a number of “Churches” (i.e. Churches defined by buildings that is) which “Church” am I involved with?  Biblically it is not the one associated with a particular building on Sundays!   Rather the local Church of which I am a member is that which is defined by the relationships I have with members of His Body locally (irrespective of which “Church” building they attend).

Leaders still lead (and we must still be submissive to them) and prophets still prophesy but in the Church as the Lord intends for it to be these individuals are mainly to operate within the framework of relationships that members of the Body have with each other.  They are not tied to one particular building or denominational Church structure.

Our practice follows our belief and for the majority of Church goers, our practice…the ways we speak of Church, and our overall perspective of Church makes it quite clear that we generally equate Church with a building not as the spiritual house that we are wherever we happen to be. 

The modern practice or tradition of Church is completely off base and sad to say, it is unlikely to change from the inside out. 

Look at what Jesus said about introducing a “new” way of doing things into an old tradition.

Luke 5:33

And they said to Him, “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.”  And Jesus said to them, “You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you?  But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.” 

And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.'”

John the Baptist was a good man.  In one place Jesus called him the greatest man born of women up to that point in time.  John taught his disciples to fast and pray as the Pharisees taught theirs.   Yet, despite the godliness of John the Baptist, look at Jesus’s recommendation for how best to work alongside existing practice respecting the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer when contrasted with eating and drinking.

It is best to put new practice (in this case, if I may apply it to the topic of this page, not really new but rather old with respect to how the Body is to be) into a new framework (that of Jesus with his disciples as seperate from John and his disciples and the Pharasees and theirs) than to try and change the old to the new way of doing things.   If you try to change the old to the new you are very likely, according to Jesus, to end up ruining both. 

There is way too much of “the old is good enough” going on in Christian circles these days.  We need to start as from scratch and build a Body as it was meant to be seperate from existing Church practice if we are to preserve the usefulness of both the old and the new to the Lord in the building of His Kingdom as we all seek to do His will. 

Carlos

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