Is the Church a Place or a People?

September 9, 2011 — 1 Comment

As we move two of our Sunday morning services to a school auditorium, a good question naturally gets raised by many?  “Aren’t we diminishing worship by not using our church building for all Sunday worship services?  Isn’t there such a thing as “sacred space?  If so, what makes it sacred?”  I understand the concerns. It is important for us to have a clear, biblical, and Christ-centered perspective on these questions.

In the early church we see believers meeting “house to house” AND having public assemblies for the reading and teaching of Scripture, prayer, and Communion (Acts 20). The settings for worship included small homes, larger homes, outdoors, rented halls, schools, and even catacombs!  Eventually, after persecution slowed, church buildings of different kinds developed.

The word for church is ekklesia – meaning “called-out assembly.”  The metaphors for the church are numerous and include God’s temple, field, flock, building, and of course, Christ’s Body.  Peter calls the church “living stones being built into a spiritual house, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession…”  (1 Peter 2)

As one scholar notes, “Scripture gives no command as to where …believers may or may not worship.  In the Old Testament, prayer and teaching could take place anywhere, but sacrifice was restricted to the central altar in the tabernacle and the temple.  In the New Testament, Jesus removes that restriction, for he himself is our sacrifice, our priest, and our central altar. And he resides, not at some earthly location, but in heaven – and by his Spirit, in and with his people, wherever they may be.” (John 4, from Worship in Spirit and Truth, by John Frame)

So is the Church a place or a People?  The answer is clearly a People. Certainly we seek to make our places of assembly as conducive to worship as possible and I love beauty and sacred architecture as much as anyone.  But it is the People gathered in Christ’s name, in the Spirit, that make a place “sacred.” Sometimes, that means making more sacred space for more people who need the Lord, beyond what our church buildings can provide.

It’s not primarily about us – or our preferences or our comfort.  (You and I know this but we need to be reminded) It’s about Christ and His Kingdom. So let’s put our best energies into being Living Stones, the Church that Christ said He would build – that would be the unstoppable hope of the world!


One response to Is the Church a Place or a People?


    Great article, Pastor Lyle. Thank you for all the time you spend on making things clear….

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