In our spring quarter in Sunday school, we worked through select passages in Exodus and Leviticus. As I’ve gone back through my notes, I have realized how many thoughts I intended to blog but never did. So, over the next few weeks I hope to post some of those thoughts in retrospect.
The first of those thoughts was found in Exodus 25:8-9. These verses are found in the middle of God’s instructions to the Israelites through Moses, and they are the introduction to His instructions regarding the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings.
The language of these verses struck me greatly as I was preparing for Sunday school that particular week. God told the Israelites to make a tabernacle for Him according to His instructions. When I think about the construction of the tabernacle, it dawns on me that there wasn’t much about it that filled the needs of the people. There was no nice, large auditorium in which the people could gather for meetings. In fact, the sheltered portion of the construction was not even open to the people as a whole. Only the priests could enter. The building was not for the people. It was for the accomplishment of God’s purposes.
How does that compare to the construction of our buildings? We have massive facilities for the purpose of gathering together as a church. But, does the very construction of those facilities reflect the fulfillment of God’s purposes or our own?
We no longer need a centralized location from which to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him for our atonement. The sacrifice of Christ took care of that. Now we are His temple. We are His body. With or without the buildings we are His holy and universal Church.
However, we do have to take into consideration the fact that in our culture we build buildings in which portions of the Church gathers. In fact, in our modern language the very word “church” has many meanings. The body of Christ is only one definition of the word. Church also refers to a local portion of that body, the time or service of gathering of that local portion, and, yes, even the building in which that portion meets.
So, acknowledging that fact, does any Biblical pattern exist for the construction of our church buildings? We obviously cannot follow the pattern of the tabernacle or the temple – the entire purpose of those buildings was eliminated with the death of Christ on the cross. But, I would argue that although the blueprints of the tabernacle and temple are no longer applicable, perhaps the concept behind their building is.
The purpose of the Church is to glorify God through the growth of His kingdom. If that is our purpose as a universal church, then that is our purpose as local churches as well. And that, therefore, should also be the purpose of our buildings. With so many local churches existing under the massive weight of debt from their buildings, I have to wonder how many of us have built our buildings to accomplish that purpose of glorifying God through kingdom growth? How many of our buildings are instead built to make us comfortable week in and week out as we gather as a local body of believers?
As we continue to exist in our comfortable buildings may we consider more and more how we might use them as they should be used. And, as we do so may we find ourselves less burdened by the buildings and more blessed by them.