Three Reasons Why Your Church Building Is as Important as What Happens in It
The word “church” can mean different things to different people. Some would say that the church is the body of people who meet to praise God and share like-minded thoughts, but for others, the word is limited to the looming grey buildings with square towers containing bells. For some people, the word might implicate fear and even hypocrisy from bad encounters and childhood experiences. Whatever church means to you and however you picture it in your mind, the fact is that churches are important to a lot of people. But why?
1. It’s a sanctuary.
For many, churches provide a quiet place to reflect and be still in his presence. Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, churches are open for personal prayer, presumably because the government recognise the implications of prayer and reflection on a lot of people’s mental health. The Church Times quotes Robert Jenrick (the communities secretary) saying that “House[s] of worship are places of solace, of dignity, of provision, and play an absolutely central role in our society.” This is true for many and there seems to be something symbolic about physically going to a church to pray. Of course, there is nothing to stop people from praying wherever they are in their homes and some people might take comfort from that, but for many, the church building is a safe place, a sanctuary where they feel able to be closer to God.
Historically, people had a legal right to claim sanctuary in a church if they were in danger or accused of a crime. Until 1623 the rule of sanctuary meant that if you committed a serious crime but could get to a church before they arrested you for it, then you could escape the death penalty by claiming sanctuary. History.com explains that this idea predates Christianity, which means that since churches had walls in England, they have legally been a sort of safe, protected space. Somehow, that feeling of security still lasts today and even stretches to modern church buildings. Whatever kind of building your church meets in, it’s a safe bet that some people find a sense of safety and comfort inside its walls.
2. It’s a temple of praise.
In Ephesians, the bible describes how the body of Christ is like a building. According to OpenBible the church is “Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”. Corinthians states that “God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” So, if we are the temple then why build a physical one? That is just the concept that the many café churches, house churches and community churches run with and good for them. No, we don’t need a physical temple to pray and worship in. God hears us anywhere, but if you happen to have a church building, then by all means, take pride in it and let the physical building be a vibrant temple of praise.
If like in Ephesians, your church is in need of space to grow into then we at JBKS Architects can help. Of course, we can only help with the physical expansion of your holy temple with bricks and mortar, but our ethos is to make sure that enlarging your tent is done respectfully while achieving beautiful results. We care that your sanctuary is the best environment to be a temple of praise and peaceful haven that it can possibly be, because we think that the building matters for what it represents. The church may be a body of people, but we still think there is value in making God’s temple reflect His glory too.
3. It’s a community hub.
There are definite advantages to having a physical building to worship and meet in. One such advantage is that it can be more than a church. Churches are increasingly utilising their space for wider purposes than just Sunday services. Making the church building into a hub for community events can make your church building indispensable to the wider community and you better believe that having a community that appreciates your church can only be a good thing. Lots of people appreciate traditional church buildings for their history and heritage which is a wonderful thing. Just thinking about all those generations of people singing and praising through the centuries in the same pews can make a person tingle with nostalgia. Well maybe not tingle. “Shiver” is probably the correct word. Historical value is a wonderful thing but if it stands in the way of making your church building logistically comfortable and functional to be used by the community then it’s no longer helpful.
If ever you face opposition from the community on changes to your church building, such as installing central heating or modern toilets on the grounds of destroying its heritage, then why not discuss it at an evening meeting in November, and make it a lengthy affair. The attendees will soon realise the necessity of making your temple comfortable and functional not just for the congregation but for the wider community too. Just pray there is no lasting damage from the frostbite.
The community will find it easier to get behind reform if there is something in it for them too. For example, they will likely find it easier to understand why little Brownies should have access to central heating on Tuesday evenings than why the usual church-goers are entitled to it. After all, if the congregation love Jesus that much, aren’t they willing to freeze for him? After that November meeting, they might understand just a bit better that cold wooden pews and English winters may be a traditional combination but aren’t a practical one. If you succeed in making your church building feel necessary to the community then they’ll stand beside you, rather than against you when the winds of change and opportunity come.