holy buildings?

Church buildings. There is much diversity in how people view church buildings in the life of a Christian, ranging from holy places of divine presence, to mere bricks and mortar, wood and nails, to a complete hindrance and distraction from God's people being who they are - God's people (not a building!). The issue recently came up in articles and responses in the MB Herald, my denominational magazine.

The following is my own contribution (which can also be read here):

Re “No pagan worship in the sanctuary” (Letters, January). Recent letters address the role of church buildings in a multi-faith society. There is an obvious concern that we don’t accept or blend other religions with our own – and rightly so.

But is closing the doors to our buildings the right answer to this concern? Is the Old Testament understanding of the temple our guide for use of church meeting spaces? While Jesus’ life and teaching renew the OT emphasis on the people of God and their role in the world, he continually pushed against an over-reliance on the religious structures represented by the temple. The temple, with all its pious religiosity, failed to represent the people of God to the world. The curtain was torn in two after all (Mark 15:38). The people of God were left without a building. Thus Paul talks about our bodies as “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

A church building doesn’t create or sustain faithfulness. We need holy living, not holy buildings. And let’s be clear: sharing space is not the same as sharing a god (e.g. joint worship/prayer). We can still maintain our beliefs and practices while sharing a building – look at any church that rents
public space.

In fact, perhaps sharing space is exactly what we need to share God in the proper sense – to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, the “good news” that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). Whether it’s through creative art, welcoming atmosphere, or general hospitality, we have the opportunity – through our buildings – to show God’s love to all people.

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