My twin granddaughters were seven years old when they rode with me in the pickup from our house to the church office. Their family was visiting Grandma and me and I needed something from my study in the church so they rode along. There is a constant conversation going in the back seat whenever they are riding in the truck. As we pulled up to the parking in front of our church building I heard one of them say, “Is this the White House?!” She had spotted the four famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view), large pillars on the front porch. I chuckled and before I could answer her sister said, “Oh no, this is much more important than the White House, this is a church.”
From the mouths of children! That innocent little statement is full of truth. What happens inside a church’s facility is eternally important. Focus on God and His grace should take place in such a building set aside to be a “church.” We all know that a building is not the church; it simply is a tool for the church to use. It is a place for God’s people, followers of Jesus, to gather for worship, study of the Bible and fellowship. A well designed building can enhance those experiences. Styles of buildings vary with the culture and even subcultures of people groups.
I have worshipped in church buildings that rival shopping malls in size. Some have the most sophisticated audio visual equipment available. I have also worshipped in 100 year-old country churches that are only open on Sunday (And, only warm if someone remembers to light the furnace Saturday night. Don’t even think about air conditioning in the summer–just open the windows). In such a building the preacher really learns to project his voice. Often there is no sound system. I have worshipped God and remembered His Son’s obedient sacrifice during Communion equally well in both.
It is possible to attend services in a multimillion dollar church building and never hear the Gospel message. It can also be that a Bible message hasn’t been heard in decades in the most quintessential little white wooden church. It not the building that makes the difference. It is the people inside the building using it for God and His kingdom.
At LCC we have recently helped our sister church in Dargout, Haiti, build a building. It would be very plain looking in our eyes. But in Haiti a building gives a church legitimacy. It also becomes a community center. It is where people go for help and to hear the Gospel of Jesus. American church buildings should have the same goal. Whatever the design, is it helping that part of the Body of Christ, His church, proclaim the Gospel? That can happen with or without four massive pillars on the front porch. A building does not relieve a church of the responsibility of living for Jesus 24/7. In fact, a building should also be a dispatch center. It should never be the only place the Gospel is heard.
But my granddaughter was right. What goes on inside a church building can be more important than what goes on inside of the White House. The souls of men and women and young people can only be saved by the gospel of Jesus and only His church has that message.
The girls had obviously been studying national governments in school. That influence was present when as we walked up the sidewalk to the office door one asked, “Grandpa, are you Prime Minister here?” Ha! Love those girls! See you church, in church, Sunday!