The building is not the Church.
The Church is the people.
The Church of Jesus Christ can meet together under a tree, in a home, in a rented cinema, in a school hall, in a market-square, in secret or in a purpose-built auditorium. The location is largely irrelevant; it’s about God’s people gathering to worship, to pray, to share and to conspire for a better world.
I’ve preached that stuff multiple times. I believe it’s the truth.
But I also now preach ‘territory’. I believe in spaces and places.
I believe that there are spaces and places that the Church should be contending for.
By SPACES I mean ‘territory yet to be taken’. A location that hasn’t yet found its meaning. An unoccupied void that is waiting to be filled.
By PLACES I mean ‘territory that has been designated or consecrated for a purpose’. A ‘place’ is a ‘space’ that has an envisioned destiny.
Jesus contended for both.
He was involved in conflict scenarios in the wilderness and at sea, declaring His Lordship over unclaimed SPACES. Commanding the wind and the waves to be still. Going toe-to-toe with the devil in the desert.
He also fought for a PLACE. He walked into the Temple and fought for it to be the place of prayer it has been consecrated to be, rather than the place of commence it had become.
Jesus contented for territory. He fought for SPACES and PLACES.
The church I lead has been learning to do the same.
Around four years ago we sensed the Lord speak to us about contending for a SPACE, a prominent and well-known theatre at the centre of our city. We sensed the Lord say that we should turn a secular space into a sacred place. To surround that space with prayer and fill it with songs of worship. For four years we have contended for that space and have prayed for heaven and earth to collide right at the heart of our city. We have repeatedly prayed that this space becomes a thin-place.
At the start of 2019 the Lord started to speak to us about our PLACE. We also have a building. Forty years ago it was designated as a place of worship. A place where God’s name would be given the highest honour. Through prophetic words we heard the Lord ask us to create a facility that will facilitate all that He planned for our future. And so we began a refurbishment plan and as I write it will soon be completed.
So here’s the question: if the Church is the people and not the building, why should we invest in a building? Why should we invest in a PLACE?
Can I suggest a few reasons? (and you can add some more in the comments section below!)
- It provides a visible statement to the city that the Church is alive and advancing rather than dead and retreating. When the city sees church buildings being turned into housing and restaurants it accepts the ‘fake-news’ of the Church’s inevitable decline as being the truth. But when the city witnesses a local church investing in its premises it counteracts that lie and makes a visible declaration that the church is refusing to shrink-back but is taking action to advance.
- It makes a prophetic declaration that the church is preparing for a ‘visitation’. By that I mean, a fresh ‘visitation of the presence of God.’ It’s like the church is prophetically rolling out a red carpet and saying, ‘we’re expecting Someone important to arrive soon!’
- It says ‘we are expecting guests’. My guess is that when you have people come over to your house for a meal you tidy up! You make your place look nice. You vacuum the carpet and make the room smell good. When a church invests in its building it is saying ‘we aren’t just here for us; we’re getting the place ready for new friends!’
- It allows for a greater freedom of speech. There are subjects and biblical themes that if communicated in a ‘secular space’ may make that space unavailable to the church. Often those subjects can be discussed with greater freedom in a place that has been designated for Christian worship.
- It allows the church to update its methods of communication. While investing in a building project, the church can invest in technological advances and new forms of media which, while they don’t alter the Message of the church, they can create contemporary ways to communicate that same Message with greater effectiveness.
- It provides Creatives with a space where they can create an environment that opens people’s hearts to God. For centuries creative people have used images, sounds and smells in buildings that have been designated for worship to stimulate the human senses and to facilitate an experience of God’s presence.
- It’s about the spiritual significance of taking physical territory. I love this from Brian Houston, ‘I strongly believe there is something about church buildings that the devil hates. The permanence of believers putting real stakes in the ground in a city and nation irks the Enemy.’
Can you add more reasons?
I would love to hear from you….