By Curtis E. Flatt
Practically all churches of Christ have church buildings. There is much emphasis placed on church buildings in this generation. Pictures of new buildings occupy prominent places in the papers published by our brethren. When a new church is begun, one of the first things to be done is to build a building. Often plans for a new building are already in the making by the time the first one is paid for. Right or wrong, this seems to be the way of the day.
Is There Bible Authority for a Church Building?
During the past several years very little has been said in our writings about the authority for such buildings. So far as I can recall, very little restraint has been suggested except to occasionally warn against being extravagant or to warn against worshipping the building. However, toward the close of the last decade, some brethren began to speak and to write as though they think we do not have to have Bible authority for church buildings. These brethren are quick to say they think it is all right to have such buildings. But they raise the subject of authority in a vain effort to give some justification for the existence of their institutions which they have already created to do the work of the church. They hope to leave the impression that we have some things without authority and we can have these too. If there is no authority for church buildings, then lack of authority condemns them just like lack of authority condemns these brotherhood institutions. It looks like anyone could see that. The amazing thing about this is that when our denominational friends told us that they could have the mechanical instrument in their worship on the same ground that we could have church buildings in which to worship, these same brethren were quick to point out that one was without authority and the other was with authority. But is there authority for a church to have a building in which to meet for worship? I am glad to say there is such authority. You will not find it in the form of a command, but you will find it. In Hebrews 10:25 and also in I Corinthians 11 you will find the necessity of assembling. That gives authority for a place. Any suitable or adequate place will do. We know that we can’t assemble without a place. It appears that the Jerusalem Church met in the temple. In Colossians 4:15 we find Paul sending greetings to Nymphas and the church which was in his house. In Romans 6:5 we find that a church met in the house of Aquilla and Priscilla. In Acts 20:8 we find the church in Troas made arrangements to meet in an upper room. There is a place involved in the command. I know that Christ did not say: “build a house in which to worship.” I am glad he did not say that, for then it would be necessary to have a house built before we could worship and nothing else could be used. Christ gave the perfect law of liberty. It is adaptable to the needs of all. When he gave the command for the church to come together, he also gave the authority for the church to provide a place to meet. This is fundamental and we have understood it through the years. Our brethren need to show authority of some kind for their institutions instead of making great problems greater by casting doubts on practices that can be established by the word of God.
For What Should the Church Building Be Used?
It is also needful to give some consideration as to the proper use of the church building. Some people say the church is sacred and that should determine its use. However, I doubt that many people are of that persuasion. We know the use of the building would be determined if the building were sacred. However most people, who object to the way many churches uses their buildings, do not do so on the basis of the church building being sacred. The use of the building must be determined by considering the purpose for which it was built. It is a misapplication of truth and right to build it for one purpose and justify its existence on that ground and then use it as we please. There is no way to justify the use of a church building for political purposes or for community projects or for entertainment purposes. When we object to such misuses, let it be understood clearly that we do not object to the ingathering, to the eating, or to the drinking that is incidental to and necessary for the performance of the required to go by the Bible. People can make fun of service. But I know we can see a difference between these things and the practices of many who conduct secular education classes, who have non-religious services, and who eat and drink in an assembly which has gathered together under church direction for purely social entertaining purposes. Making fun of a water fountain or a blackboard or a baby’s bottle and comparing such things to many practices of the day may satisfy a number of people, but it will not satisfy people who want and ridicule conscientious Christians who object to such abuses all they choose, but such ridicule does not produce the authority for the church to provide a building for these misuses.
Let us build good buildings in keeping with our needs. Let us equip them with the things which are incidental to and necessary for the required service. Then let us use them for the purposes by which we justify their existence.
Truth MagazineVI: 9& 10, pp. 11-12
June & July 1962