There are numerous examples in the Bible where we see Christian churches meeting in homes, but yet there is not one single example in the Bible where we see Christians meeting in any kind of building that was specially built for any church related reason, let alone for their comfort and convenience. There is also not a single example anywhere in the Bible of Christians renting or building even modest buildings for church meetings, let alone huge palatial facilities, ornate cathedrals or sprawling multi-building “campuses”.
Regardless of all the clever justifications and excuses for church buildings that we constantly hear from pulpits across the land, these structures are not only unnecessary; they are unbiblical, wasteful and highly problematic. Yet astonishingly, it seems the average pastor’s number one priority is to pressure church members into raising funds for building related initiatives.
Not only is it Biblical (yes Biblical!) to meet in homes, it is actually unbiblical to burden any congregation with the initial and on-going expenses of a purpose-built church building, be it a rental, lease, mortgage or out-right purchase. Such is not only exploitation and abuse, but is also not according to the clear church traditions found in the Bible. This extremely popular and widespread practice is a direct violation of the simple no cost traditions that we have been given, wonderfully uncomplicated traditions that are not open to tampering and revision.
Yet astonishingly, all this considered, today’s widespread practice of renting or building buildings for church meetings is not only assumed to be a true Bible-based tradition of the church, it is taught as if it is pure biblical truth. This practice is packaged as if it were a biblical doctrine that is to be upheld as virtually the most important tradition of Christianity, even more important than genuine Christ-ordained traditions of worship, prayer, Bible reading, communion and simple fellowship. Not only is the false tradition of building church buildings totally incorrect, it is an outright lie. No such doctrine exists in the Bible.
Additionally, we do not see church buildings coming on the scene until around 300 AD when Constantine started this whole building mess. This was centuries after the Christian Church began. But I do not want to make history the subject here. Many other authors have written excellent materials on this informative topic. My focus is the biblical view.
What The Bible Says…
House-to-House Not Facility-to-Facility
That being said, let’s begin by taking look at the many Scriptures that refer to churches meeting in homes:
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Acts 2:2 KJV [Notice they happened to be sitting in a house, not in pews in a theater-like lecture hall.]
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple [a preexisting Jewish structure not a purpose built church building], and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart… Acts 2:46
And daily in the temple [a preexisting Jewish structure not a purpose built church building], and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Acts 8:3 [This is likely referring to both an assault upon actual house churches and an assault upon other church members in other houses where church meetings may not have been held.]
20And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly [meaning openly to the public socially – this does not mean in a public building], and from house to house, 21Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:20-21
3Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ. Rom 16:3-5
The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 1 Cor 16:9
Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. Col 4:15
And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in your house: Philemon 1:2
These last four passages are greetings to house churches; twice to one church in particular and yet we do not see one single greeting anywhere in the Bible that was sent to churches that met in specially built church buildings. Why? There were no such buildings.
More of What The Bible Says…
The Church is a People Not a Building
The Bible irrefutably establishes that the church is a people not an architectural structure or series of brick and mortar buildings. In the Greek we see that the word “church” (ecclesia / ekklesia) means a called out people. When we read this word in context, we see that it more specifically means a called out people of God, and even more specifically a people of Christ. Accordingly, the church is not to be thought of or referred to as a facility or even as a meeting place.
The early church as recorded in the Bible didn’t care about erecting buildings. That was not their mission. Making disciples was their mission. And so the church was once accurately known exactly as the Bible describes, as a people of Christ. However, centuries of manmade traditions have obviously altered how most people view the church.
Sadly today it seems that the average person, believer and unbeliever alike, thinks of a church as a meeting place rather than a people of Christ. This degradation in thinking marks a massive departure from the traditions that were handed down to us from the Apostles.
We Must Not Alter the Traditions Given
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught whether by word, or our epistle. 2Thess 2:15
The Bible commands that we are to hold fast to the traditions that were handed down to us. This means that we are not to alter or add to those traditions. We know that an original Apostle is speaking here and referring to himself and other original Apostles when he says “whether by word, or our epistle.”
Altering biblical church traditions also alters underlying doctrine and therefore actually changes what the Bible teaches. So messing with these traditions is very dangerous stuff. (I have covered this topic in more depth in another article. See The Danger of the Traditions of Men http://www.truthguard.com/Articles/the-danger-of-the-traditions-of-men-a6.html)
We Are God’s Temples
You would think with so much emphasis among Christians across the world on the building of church buildings, that certainly the Bible must teach this course of action somewhere. But not only does the Bible not teach this, the Bible teaches the exact opposite:
18For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom you also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit. Eph2:18-22
Could it be any clearer that we (Christians) are God’s building, that we are His habitation and His temple? If this were not enough proof, we see this same teaching in a number of different forms in several different places in the Bible. Here are some examples:
We find that the Spirit of the Lord no longer dwells in temples made by the hands of man (see Acts 7:48, Acts 17:24), and that we (Christians) are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19). We see that the Spirit of God Dwells in us (Rom 8:11). The Bible further states that we are God’s building and also that Christ is the foundation of that building. (See 1Cor 3:9-11). [Note: the word “building” here in the Greek means an architectural structure! So Christians themselves are God's architectural structure, not bricks and stone. This means no purpose-built church buildings are necessary. No sanctuary needs to be created. We are God's sanctuary!]
9For we are laborers [co-workers or fellow workers] together with God: you are God's husbandry [land that is cultivatable], you are God's building [architectural structure]. 10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1Cor 3: 9-11
So not only are we God’s building we are also his LAND for building upon! This verse alone puts to death the popular practice today of acquiring land and building church buildings.
In verse 10b we read, “…But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon.” So we are to take heed how we build upon the real buildings, which are God’s people. This shows we need to be very careful that we live, act, and serve others properly, which of course is a direct result of being careful that what we believe and teach is biblically accurate. But sadly most Christians act just like the world in so many ways (and astonishingly even more so than the world in some respects), and so exactly like earthly businessmen and entrepreneurs, Christians are incredibly preoccupied with building, maintaining and expanding commercial buildings, things that have nothing whatsoever to do with Biblical Christianity, with being a Christian and living a normal Christian life.
Earlier in this same verse we see that the Apostle Paul said that he laid (taught / revealed) the foundation, which is Christ and another built upon that. Nowhere do hear anything of Paul raising money to lay the foundation of a new church facility or others building upon that.
Let’s look at the rest of this chapter (1Cor 3:12-23):
12Now if any man build upon this foundation [with] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble [straw]; 13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abides which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 16Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 18Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness. 20And again, The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23And you are Christ's; and Christ is God's. 1Cor 3:12-23
There are countless Christians that are not only building on the wrong foundation; they are doing so with wood, hay and stubble, which will one day be burned up and exposed as worthless. Although these Christians are saved (all Christians are saved otherwise they would not be Christians), they will suffer loss of rewards in heaven for spending their lives building and supporting the kingdom of man rather than the kingdom of God. We see it is the wisdom of the world, which is foolishness that they are following and propagating. Not only do they do this, they glory in the men who are behind this error.
What we see from this and other passages is that the bottom-line overall is God is clearly not interested in bricks and mortar. He is interested in living stones.
You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1Pet 2:5 (NASB)
Man however has an inordinate preoccupation with concrete and glass.
But Isn’t a House Still a Building?
A common and somewhat clever argument against churches meeting in homes goes something like this: “But isn’t a house still a building built by the hands of man?” Yes it is, but we are not claiming that it is a special sanctuary or that God’s Spirit dwells within those walls. Not to mention, houses already exist. Everyone lives somewhere and there are no added costs to also meet at that same place as the church. And by common sense we know that someone’s “house” is wherever that they happen to live and consider to be their home. Obviously this could also be an apartment, condominium, town home, mobile home, etc. All these are acceptable meeting places.
What About Meeting in an Office or Warehouse?
Once Christians start meeting as the church in a place where someone doesn’t also live, it seems that this is the exact point where problems quickly begin and rapidly compound. Anything less than a home (such as meeting at an office building, warehouse, business, etc.) is moving in a colder, more institutional and less intimate direction even if those spaces are believer-controlled and obtainable for free. This is partly because meeting in these kinds of “professional” spaces lacks the hospitality and intimacy of a home and this disconnection from close fellowship somehow almost always leads to a strange overall desire to rent or build a special facility and travel even farther down the wrong road to an even colder more institutional setting.
Of course it must be said that Christians who meet in a home yet lack understanding and self control still often have an inordinate desire to incorrectly use that home as a stepping stone to one day rent or build a building. This happens all the time. Regardless, the Bible commands us to make straight paths for our feet and to give no place to the devil. This means that we should not tempt ourselves. More on why professional spaces are not a good idea in an upcoming article.
But Didn’t the Early Church Also Meet in a Temple Building?
Yes they did and the larger size of the temple could accommodate multiple house churches meeting together to hear the original Apostles speak (more publicly) in a building that already existed. Multiple churches were able to make use of a Jewish facility that was apparently available to them without any charge or cost. However, as we saw from the list of Scriptures earlier in this article, individual churches were identified and associated with houses of specific people, not with the temple.
Some argue that since temples are not freely available today that we need to build Christian versions of them. This is not true. Time and again, the pattern that we see in the Bible is home assembly. Never once do we see any meetings conducted in specially built church buildings. So the lack of “temples” today is not a license to build them.
We should also keep in mind that the Apostles were special messengers who God was writing the New Testament through and who lived in a different time in history. The Bible is now complete and there are no such “capital A” Apostles today. The Apostles were also Jewish men who had access to the existing temple building.
Also, the church was brand new and was being formed at a rapid pace and so they conducted daily meetings in both the temples and homes. Not that daily home meetings wouldn't be a good idea today, but daily meetings generally do not presently occur except maybe in some 3rd world countries and possibly some home assemblies. Nevertheless, we must ask: do even today’s modern Evangelical churches meet daily in their popular special church buildings that they commonly build? Almost never. These buildings typically remain vacant most of the week.
The following are where the temple building and houses are mentioned together:
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart… Acts 2:46
Further trying to justify their desire for a building, some may claim that this verse proves that church meetings were conducted in the temples and only eating, communion or the breaking bread in general was done house to house. This is not true as the following verse shows:
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they [the Apostles] ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42
Obviously there was much more going on in these houses than just eating.
Some Brief Closing Thoughts
Regardless of all the empty rhetoric and constant urgent appeals for money that we endlessly hear “ad nauseam ad infinitum” from ambitious churchmen everywhere, church buildings are simply not necessary. In fact, they are actually huge unbiblical distractions and major time wasting and money wasting endeavors that open up a Pandora’s box of other problems. I plan to cover what happens when a church travels down this precarious rabbit hole in an upcoming article.
- Paul Howey
Download my new song: We Are God's Building (Acoustic Version. Recorded Live in the Studio. This is a companion to this article.)