The Lord spoke to David: “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’. . . The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” 2Samuel 7:4-13
The “household of God” is no longer identified with bricks and mortar … or animal skins and wooden stakes. It is the globally scattered (1Pe.1:1), locally gathered people of God (1Pe.2:5), built by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit for the display of God’s glory (see also Eph.2:19-22; 1Tim.3:14-15; 1Cor.3:16-17; 6:19-20).
We gather to thrive in our relationship with our Triune God in worship and praise (1Pe.2:9)
We gather to thrive in our relationship with one another in our shared life and ministry (1Pe.4:8-11)
We gather to share this grace with our city in our common witness and service (1Pe.2:11-17; 3:8-17)
In the church of the first and early second century, though public spaces were sometimes utilized (e.g., the Temple in Jerusalem or the Hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus), the Christian community typically met in private homes. Some congregations met in a single home, large enough to accommodate, “the whole church” (e.g., Rom.16:23). Others met in multiple homes (e.g., Col.4:15; Philem.1:2), or apartment blocks, scattered throughout the city – presumably out of necessity from space constraints. Over time, however, churches were able to secure dedicated facilities, typically converted homes, allowing the growing community in a particular location to gather altogether for teaching, singing, corporate prayer, common meals, and collections for the poor. It wouldn’t be until the fourth century, with the favor of Constantine, that churches began to acquire recognized, public buildings of their own. (Click here for more on the history of early church buildings.)
In the primitive church the building (primarily a literal house) served as a platform for the common life and mission in Christ. And the same should be the case today. A building shouldn’t define our mission or identity. Rather, our mission and identity as the people of God ought to define and determine our use of building space.
As we think about a building for our church family, we need to think through the utility of the space for accomplishing our mission, the Great Commission: “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” We make disciples by evangelism. We make disciples through training. We make disciples by raising up leaders. Last but not least, we make disciples through the corporate witness of our community – its unity, character, depth, and love. This is our vision. Namely, to be a people thriving together with our God and sharing that life generously with our city. So the questions we need to most basically answer concerning the property are these:
- Does it overall help or hinder our worship together?
- Does it overall help or hinder our fellowship together?
- Does it overall help or hinder our evangelistic efforts?
- Does it overall help or hinder our discipleship and training?
- Does it overall help or hinder our leadership development?
- Does it overall help or hinder our service to the city of Columbia?
And if we think it overall helps us in our mission, then let’s begin to pray, dream, and dialogue together to answer the how?