The most popular post ever on this blog is about nerdy church buildings. Its popularity has nothing to do with the written content but with the images in the post. If you Google “Helm’s Deep”, the second image is from this blog, which is why it’s important to include pictures.
In that post I wrote about what it would be like to go to church in a building shaped like Helm’s Deep or the U.S.S. Enterprise. It’s easy to think about ridiculous church buildings because my church already has a nice campus with two very nice buildings. If my church didn’t have a building, I would probably spend my time thinking about just having a space to meet instead of a space shaped like a starship.
After building a church in Honduras I came to the realization that I take our church building for granted. Joseph, one of the members of the church we worked with, was so excited that he and the rest of the congregation were going to have their very own space. Throughout the entire trip he just kept speaking about how overjoyed he was that God would finally have a house in the town of Balfate.
I’ve never spoken like that about our church building. As I said, I have always taken church buildings for granted. Every church I’ve ever attended had a space to meet so it never crossed my mind that some churches wouldn’t.
In the United States, we take spaces to meet for granted so much that we downplay the building. How many times have you heard a pastor or speaker say, “Now when I say church, I don’t mean the building; the building is just a building. But when I say church, I mean the people within the building, all of us gathered together.”? The only people who downplay the importance of having a space, of having a building, are those who take it for granted.
For the 10 days we spent with Joseph, he never once downplayed the importance of the church building. He never qualified his statements about “the church” meaning the people and not the building. He was too excited about having a building in which to meet to downplay that building. Because his congregation hadn’t had a place to meet, Joseph knew the importance of having a building. Joseph didn’t take for granted God having a house among his people.
It was refreshing to talk to Joseph and see his excitement for the church building. His joy showed me how thoroughly ungrateful I’ve been to have a very nice church building with a sanctuary, offices and numerous classrooms. I know that the church is more than just a building. But that doesn’t mean the building isn’t important and that we shouldn’t thank God every day for the space in which we gather to worship.
How can we avoid taking church buildings for granted?