Pilgrims and Strangers and Church Buildings

LordsSupperParkI never was a member of a church that met in a church building.

Back when I was with the one true church, we met at a women’s club.  We prided ourselves on not having a church building.  We were like the nation Israel that were God’s called out people who were also homeless.  Cities, buildings, and permanent residence led to trouble so we thought.

This played well into the idealism of those Jesus movement days.  We don’t need no building.  Or traditions.  Or religion, especially religion.  We just had Jesus.  In those days, we could sit on the grass with our Bibles and rap about the Lord.  If someone had a guitar (or not) we would sing simple love songs to the King.  I heard of some who were out camping on the beach and had communion with slices of oranges – maybe that was taking it a bit far.

After we left this church, we found ourselves at the church of the clean feet.  This church met at a converted elementary school.  The school auditorium served as  its sanctuary.

Later, we moved cross country and joined a nice little fellowship in town that evolved into what is now the doctrinally correct church.  For the first three years, we met in a converted bus station.  Later, we obtained a Christian school building.  We met in the gym doing the best we could to keep up with the big boys with stage lights, dynamic Powerpoint, coordinated banners that matched the bulletins and the sermon’s color scheme, and a professionally mixed worship ensemble.

The vision was cast and embarked upon to build a real church building just before the nation decided to throw a recession in 2008.  By the time we reached our twenty year mark at the church in 2015, our hearts stirred us on to a small, organic, liturgical fellowship.  At this point, the expected building that promised community and discipleship had not yet come to fruition.

This week, our small, organic, liturgical fellowship met in the park for the summer months.  Apparently, liturgy travels well with a few photocopied song sheets and readings.  Some passersby joined us for the singing, a heartfelt sermon, the open free-expression prayers of the congregation, and the communion of bread and wine.

I’m not against church buildings as I may have been in my young, idealistically spiritual days.  I’m thankful for the hundreds of meetings I’ve attended that utilized the space provided.  I love sitting quietly in beautiful church buildings and cathedrals.  Space and facilities dedicated to God’s work is not a bad thing.

Some Christians have lost buildings that were hundreds of years old to terrorists.  Some in my small fellowship had been in churches that lost historic sacred places because they wanted to uphold the Bible as authoritative and their governing denomination had not.  When I was in Kenya, I heard of an evangelist who started a church with two women sitting under a tree herding their goats.

Its nice to have a place to meet.  But if we don’t, we are still the church.  What I learned in my Jesus movement days is still true.  We are the church with or without the building.