We frequently get letters or calls from atheists and skeptics complaining about the amount of money churches spend on buildings. Those conversations never last very long because I agree with the atheist challenges on this issue. The critical question is, “Why do churches have buildings?”
In the Old Testament, there was great emphasis on a building as a place for God to dwell. However, knowledgeable people even then realized that God could not be confined to the “Temple.” In 1 Kings 8:27, Solomon said this about the Temple he built, “The whole sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you. Certainly this Temple that I built cannot contain you either.” In Jeremiah 7:1-11, the prophet deals with what people were doing and what God wants. His reference to the Temple at the end of his discussion is, “the Temple is nothing more to you than a hideout for robbers.”
John 4 describes a discussion between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. She was concerned about where people ought to worship. In verse 20, she points out that the Samaritans were worshiping on Mt. Gerizim, and the Jews were worshiping Mt. Moriah. She wanted to know which was the right place. Jesus responds that neither place is the answer for true worship because “a time is coming and has come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Biblical worship is not just something that happens in a building on Sunday morning. Throughout the New Testament, we see worship described in other terms. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Colossians3:17; Acts 9:31.)
So why do churches have buildings where they meet and worship God? Buildings are vehicles to help Christians address the needs of others and to stimulate and motivate each other to be about their lives and work as Christians. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, the worship service was used to collect resources to meet the needs of others. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, Paul writes about communion. It is not just between the believer and God but between the members of the family of God as well. Paul says that without the mutual acts of communion, “many of you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
Meeting together for worship allows us to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19-20). Colossians 3:16 also tells us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” Finally, Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Paul then goes on to emphasize the importance of meeting together by saying, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some of you are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…”
“God does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands as if He needed anything … for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:24-28). Worship is 24/7, not just on Sunday mornings. Why do churches have buildings? Buildings help Christians meet in worship and encourage each other to go out and spread God’s love to the world. Using massive amounts of money to provide a building where Christians can be entertained is painfully ignorant of the true nature of God and what God wants His children to do.
— John N Clayton © 2021