Good Job CT

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : April 29, 2005

Its good to see Christianity Today occasionally publish articles that are gently subversive.  Yesterday, I ran accross an article by Howard Snyder that challenges the assumption that church buildings are a good and essential thing.  Now, this is hardly a newsflash for many of us…but to see CT go after this assumption is a big step.  Traditional churches cling to buildings, as do seeker churches.  It is assumed that the only reason you shouldn’t have a building is if you can’t afford one.  Here’s a snippit of the article:

Many Christians sincerely believe that church buildings are "God’s
house"-holy places, set apart for divine purposes. And many church
buildings do indeed give glory to God in both their architecture and
their use. Still, this view can easily distort biblical teaching about
Jesus Christ and the church, causing an exaggerated focus on buildings
and budgets, and eclipsing the biblical focus on Christian community (koinonia)-close Christian fellowship seven days a week, not just a few hours on Sundays.

Snyder suggests we demolish our ecclesial building fetish by:

  • turning buildings into
    seven-days-a-week multi-use facilities;
  • sharing facilities with other
    organizations or churches;
  • moving most church functions into homes or
    other venues.
  • Some churches have found that the most faithful option is
    to sell their real estate and invest the money in missions and ministry
    to the poor, where the long-term dividends are much higher.

for further reading . . .

  • None Found


9 Responses to “Good Job CT”

  1. Chris on April 29th, 2005 12:13 pm

    I think it’s really interesting to describe church buildings as giving glory to God in their architechture. I wonder though if it’s a leap to say that really asthetically pleasing architechture “glorifies” God. If that’s true, then skyscrapers glorify God because many are really impressive and beautiful. I guess most people would see skyscrapers as glorifying humankind and not God, but I find it interesting that we don’t see churches that way sometimes.

  2. Michelle on April 29th, 2005 2:21 pm

    Yes, but I still think that motivation plays a factor. Churches should have been built with the intention to glorify God. I mean we would know better than to make something towering to glorify God, because of bable.
    I’m going to “The Kingdom” thats my pet name for willow creek, because my first visit overwhelmed me. I mean they have their own meditation ponds and parks. Yikes. Its for a bachlorett party.
    Anyway I’m going to blog about this, but when I first talked to Chris about home churches my inital thought was: If all the chruch duties were “consolidated” into one role that person should be paid for what they are doing (ie. a pastor). Consolidated is a very business term. I can’t believe how much I related church to business until now. I think the analogy is easier than defining or performing chruch. Sometimes we will take complex things and relate them poorly. Like my students always relate physical intimacy to scoring. Sports is easier to relate than the intricate nature of human relations. My suspiscion is growing that to accept the church model presented in the home chruch it might have to come by a sort of revelation.
    Alright I’m going I hate long posts.
    P.S. though having even small group at my home is really challenging, so Its difficult to imagine performing even more church functions there.

  3. Van S on April 29th, 2005 2:28 pm

    I tend to agree Chris…yet I think we have to leave some room for acknowledging the power of art. If literature can point people to God, and film can, then so can paintings and architecture…even though they are the works of human hands. I think there must be some middle ground between the notion of sacramental (I’m using this word instead of sacred, because people always read the word sacred differently) space (which we both reject, I think) and the recognition that a work of art can point people towards God (and can in a sense, by implication, glorify God). I would be very interested in feedback on that.

  4. TheYod on May 1st, 2005 4:45 pm

    While church buildings might not be as important as true community, there is a tradition in the Old testament for setting aside sacred space, and, indeed, lavishly decorating that sacred space. Because of the incarnation of the Word, all space is now sacred in a way that it wasn’t during Old Testament times.

    If I am understanding right, sacramental space may be what our church buildings should be. As a way of pointing to God and evoking in us a sense of wonder.

    If natural beauty reflects the beauty of God in some analogical manner, shouldn’t we desire buildings that display that truth? Maybe we don’t need a seperate building to do that. Maybe we can create in our homes “sacramental space”. Yet, seperateness is a part of what it means to be holy. A separate building may help in reminding us that we are called to be seperate people.

    Am I making any sense here?

  5. Van S on May 1st, 2005 11:29 pm

    You are making sense, but I believe the New Testament message is that the Temple has been replaced by the presence of Christ among his people, which for believers today is made manifest through the spirit-filled community. It would be a challenge to find a New Testament foundation for a theology of sacred space…in fact, the New Testament tends to dismantle (or more accurately, fulfill) the Old Testament theology of sacred space.

  6. TheYod on May 2nd, 2005 7:55 am

    Are you saying that having a church building is bad or are you indifferent to the idea?

    I’m not sure that I think the NT message is to abolish church buildings per se. The Temple really signified the sacraficial system and the necessity of the priesthood to mediate forgiveness. I think that is what is abolished in the NT. Peter and John still went to the temple to pray (Acts 3:1) after Jesus died. Paul never entered a synagogue and demanded they be dismantled.

  7. Van S on May 2nd, 2005 10:05 am

    I’m indifferent. I think buildings are fine for places of worship; they keep out rain and other inclement weather. ;)
    It is true that the apostles met in the Temple and whatnot to pray, but they never treated it like the Temple again. My only beef is when people treat church buildings as temples…the simple practice of meeting in a church on Sundays isn’t troublesome at all…but people have invested such meaning into sacramental distinctions that no longer apply (church as temple, clergy/laity distinction, sacred days, etc.)

  8. Michelle on May 2nd, 2005 2:46 pm

    When my mother in law found out that Kel and I were getting married outside she asked “Don’t you want Christ presant?”
    Initally I was ofened, but then I just said “Um yeah.. He made the guest list.”

  9. djchuang on May 13th, 2005 5:49 am

    the precedence has been set in the religious history of Judeo-Christian faith with altars, temples, and synagogues, as TheYod alluded to, and now cathedrals and churches give that concrete (pun intended) expression of faith.. physical buildings and architecture and institutions do have a certain role to exemplify and embody and reflect the values of a people, as much as a house does for where people live.

    granted, now, there are people who cannot distinguish the reflection of faith in a church building, and thus treat it as a temple; just as the light of the moon is a reflection of the sun. what can you do with those people, really? challenge their understanding and assumptions, and they still won’t move off their dime.

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