"Church Buildings"

Solomon built a house "for the name of Jehovah" (1 Kings 8:17-20), but knew at the time that God "dwelleth not in temples made with hands." (Vss. 27-30, Acts 7:47-f) The tabernacle, and later the temple, was God's house only in keeping with the typology of the Old Covenant. No amount of "dedication" could make it any more God's house than the truth of God allowed.

Today the people of God are His house, "dedicated" to Him, and built upon the true foundation. (Eph. 2:20-f.; 1 Pet. 2:5; 1 Cor. 3:9-11). No amount of "dedication" can make a pile of bricks, mortar and laminated beams the "house of God."

Then, what are these places where saints meet to worship? That's what they are—places, locations, enclosures of space. In order for Jesus and his disciples to keep the Passover it was necessary that they have a place, and that accompaniments be made ready, (Lk. 22:7-14). They may have paid for this from the "bag" (Jn. 13:29), but if so, no permanent "holiness" was imparted to the room or equipment. They used these ordinary things for their purposes (including feet-washing) and then others apparently used them for other purposes.

With "neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem" (Jn. 4:21) Jesus loosed the location of worship. Our "holy Place" is in heaven (Heb. 9:24) and our sanctuary is "not made with hands" (Heb. 8:2; 9:11). There is nothing about a "church building that can be "desecrated" for there is nothing holy there to "profane." It IS a "common thing" to be used by saints.

Then how is a "church building" justified? The scriptures offer very little information on the subject other than the principle of collective support of things purposed and done by divine approval. The church is to "sound out the word" (1 Thess. 1:8) so the church at Philippi "communicated" with Paul (Phil. 4:15). Paul asked churches to assist the poor saints at Jerusalem (Rom. 14:25-f), to which end he instructed them re. a "gathering" and its use. (1 Cor. 16:1-f) As saints are authorized to assemble (Heb. 10:25; 1 Cor. 14:23) and worship (1 Cor. 11:20; Acts 20:7) we believe it is in keeping with the above principle for them to pool funds to provide a place and accompaniments for this and all other assigned works.

A church that is governed by divine authority does not build a basketball gymnasium, because basketball is not an authorized function of the church. This does not mean that the church has been "defiled" if someone bounces a ball in the parking lot. It does mean we should not purpose and finance unauthorized functions. If a visitor becomes ill and we put a "church" towel upon his head and lay him upon a pew until a doctor arrives, we have not agreed to a church-financed First-Aid Clinic. Incidental uses of church property do not invalidate the basic scriptural principle by which the church remains a spiritual institution to administer to spiritual needs. Further, what "we do" or "have done" justifies nothing. Many things about "buildings" are fruits of human judgement and are subject to revision. Better to be inconsistent than to deny God's rule.

A brother asks, "Are weddings and funerals authorized works of a local church?" No, they are social functions. Marriage is of God, but church "sanction" is neither required nor suggested in God's word. "Then," (you know what's coming) "may the church building be used for weddings and funerals?" Yes, No, and I'm not sure!

The incidental use of buildings and accompaniments, use not directly related to their intended purpose, is most subject to abuse, and has raised soul-searching questions among brethren. There are three classes of such usage: unavoidable, inadvertent, and deliberate: and all originate with man and should not be used as a base for further judgments, nor bound as matters of faith.

A temperature-controlled shelter provides certain physical benefits to all present; and it is impossible to avoid all social aspects of an assembly. Removing other "violations" will involve impracticalities. Shall we forbid children (50 yrs. or older) to sleep on the pews? Allow no personal phone calls? No use of the water fountain except as essential to worship? No social remarks while in the foyer? It would tax the Soviet police force!

Deliberate "unauthorized" use of church property may not be as diabolical as it sounds. In times of disaster (tornado, flood, etc.) a well-built, centrally located building may be the only shelter available to refugees. The use is temporary, and incidental; we did not build for that purpose; and I do not believe such use would "authorize" anything. When in Arizona, a young couple drove many miles to a small town where I was in a meeting. Arriving at the close of services, they asked me to marry them. The church building was handy, and cool, so I invited them in and we tied the knot. In years-gone-by by the building was the most suitable place in town for the funeral of some well-known and loved brother. Of course these examples prove nothing—but they may illustrate, I hope, common sense.

But judgment depends upon circumstances, and different circumstances warrant different conclusion. I do not believe the church should have to bear extra expenses for such things, nor should they be allowed to interfere with regular church functions. (They could not then be called "incidentals.") Some things are "unseemly," and some would compromise the efforts of the church to teach truth. Today, when many churches have embraced "fun and frolic" as "church work," it has seemed necessary to avoid anything that would give solace to such error. (Our reaction may have given solace, but we tried, and God sees our heart.) Too, a few seem to have a very erroneous (almost Roman Catholic) concept of the "sanctity" of "church wedding." I would not want to encourage this.

Some feel it is better to ban all incidental uses than to have to explain "why not" to the undesirable cases; but this seems a coward's way out, and unjust to worthy cases. This may be the time for a searching new look at our concepts of "church property", "marriage ceremonies", and all. But whatever your judgment, have patience and charity for your brother.