The Church is not the Building

Another day and another meeting with the architects. We are now fully immersed in plans and layouts. I love all that stuff. Before God led me and Jane into church leadership, I had trained as a surveyor. Last week, while I was rummaging about in our loft looking for something else, I found old architectural drawings I had done as part of my draftmanship training; they were rather good. Now I sit on the other side of the table and I look over other people's drawings: it's very exciting. Today we looked at floor layouts of the new building alongside a plan of our current St Barnabas Church, and got a better grasp of the sheer magnitude of what we are undertaking - Solar House is a massive building and we will have a lot more space.

But before I get carried away, we need to remember that any new church building is only a tool to help our church function in the mission and ministry that God has called us to. It is important to remember that the church is not the building. So often the church of England has got this wrong, not so much in its teaching, but in its constitutional structure. For instance, our current St Barnabas church building is legally "a church"; a consecrated building that is controlled by a completely different set of regulations from another "ordinary" building. However this approach to ecclesiastical edifices sits very uncomfortably with our biblical heritage.

The early church had virtually no buildings that we would identify as churches for the first three hundred years of its existence. And yet during that period the church also experienced a growth and vibrancy that led to a peaceful revolution that has no comparison in the rest of human history. How is it that the early followers of Jesus achieved so much without the provision of buildings? Perhaps we need to get things in perspective - that whilst buildings are good, God can cause the church work even in the absence of them.

When Jesus said to Simon Peter: "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18), he wasn't talking about building a physical structure. However, we do need a new building, and I believe that its provision can be an incredible catalyst for growth and life, enabling us to do far more and grow way beyond where we are at the moment, provided we remember that it is just a building.



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