About a month ago I put my hand up to say "Yes, I support the idea of building a church building". Since then I've been feeling like this was not the right thing to do. Over a couple of weeks I trashed around some ideas and wrote this to the head cheeses of the church I hang out with.
I’ve decide I can no longer support building a building. Not this building and probably not most other buildings. I have come to this conclusion not because of anything the leadership has done or decided but because of an evolution in my own thought about the issue. In other words “it’s not you it’s me”.
In short, I have decided until such time as we have no other way of being church other than a way that costs us more than the cost of building a building; I would rather not build a building.
I have written a quick explanation of the thinking behind my decision which is mainly for my own benefit so feel free to skip it.
The church component of the building
In the past I have thought we have to build a building the question. I no longer believe we have to. The church in China, the early church and most of the churches I've been a part of have all thrived or at least survived without a building.
Not only is God of course outside of a building but God asks to worship God without a building.
Exodus 20:24-26 You need make for me only an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. But if you make for me an altar of stone, do not build it of hewn stones; for if you use a chisel upon it you profane it. You shall not go up by steps to my altar, so that your nakedness may not be exposed on it."
The eventual building of a temple was inherently problematic. Solomon resorting to slave labour is but one example.
When Jesus set up his ministry he went outside of the temple system and was baptised by John in the wilderness.
The early disciples had no desire to recreate a temple like building for their own worship instead using their own houses.
Today, house churches continue to thrive in places like China, many churches meet without buildings.
The community centre component of the building
I realise the building is much more than a place of worship but also a gift to the surrounding suburban community. Simply, out of all the needs that our world has I cannot in good consciousness prioritise the need for the people of our suburb to have a community space above so many others. The opportunity cost of this gift to the community of our suburb is what could be gifted elsewhere, like a "gift" for a community in the third world.
Nothing would make me prouder than being part of a church community that owned property that generated income which was given to those in need. Each week we could hang a picture of the hospital, school or housing our money had bought with "Church Building" written underneath it.
When I look at the cost of the building and compare that to the cost and hassle of hiring space I just cannot justify it.
I realise that this is not the view of the rest of the church community and I have annoyingly come to this conclusion "mid process" so to speak when the question of should we build has already been resolved (although perhaps not irreversibly so). Therefore in future meetings I will abstain from voting.