What should we do with church buildings? More often we ask what is appropriate to do in church buildings, particularly in what is commonly called the “sanctuary”.
A few insist that it’s wrong to eat in a church building, and they cite 1 Corinthians 11:22 (“Don't you have homes to eat and drink in?”) as “proof”. Others, seeing (or tasting?) the value of covered dish dinners, are fine with meals at church, but may insist that there shouldn’t be laughter and levity in the sanctuary. It’s a place for reverence, these would insist. But, then others feel that most anything moral is acceptable in the church house.
Who is right? Here’s a radical thought. Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe that’s fishing in the wrong pond. Instead of disagreements that lead to divisions about proper church decorum, maybe we should notice what God did with his church building.
He tore it down!
Think about that. Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem was sanctioned by God. It was an imposing structure designed to dazzle with glittering gold interior walls and bejeweled priests. Plus, God promised that it would house his presence among his people.
Then along came Jesus. No that he was opposed to the temple. He frequented it. But leaving one day, his followers called attention to the impressive construction (perhaps wondering if they would soon have a corner office there).
Jesus, not surprisingly, said something surprising. “Do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Mark 13:2).
A few years later, the temple was gone. Maybe God didn’t personally tear it down, but he clearly saw it coming and did nothing to stop it. Why?
Jesus taught a new concept of temple that seems hard for us to grasp. The building was to be destroyed. But in three days it would be rebuilt as a body (John 2:19-22). His body raised would be God’s dwelling. His body reincarnated in his people would be God’s temple that none should dare to divide (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The temporal temple was replaced by a holy house of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).
Is it wrong to have church buildings? No. Dangerous? Maybe. If a building blocks our view of the body, if we revert to rituals over relationships, then it’s time to ponder a God who tore down his own temple.