When Is A Building A Church?
“When does a building become a church? The building on the photo above was at one time, a thriving church. Many years ago, the church encountered leadership problems and the people scattered.
Question: Can we say this building is still a church? The answer is “No.” A building does not make a church, people make a church.
John Piper defines a local church like this: “A local church is a group of baptized believers who meet regularly to worship God through Jesus Christ, to be exhorted from the Word of God, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper under the guidance of duly appointed leaders.”
We read in Acts 8:1-3, 1 “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. “2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”
In this verse, Paul is said to have gone “from house to house,” possibly a reference to him breaking into their “house church” assemblies. In any event, his anger stopped at nothing. He attacked women, as well as men, dragging them to court, throwing them in prison.
Notice, Paul attacks the “house churches” by attacking the people. He drug the people to the courts, he threw people in prison. If the building was the problem, all he had to do was destroy the building, but a building without the people is just a building.
As I stood looking at this rundown, dilapidated building in the town of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, during a recent Vision Trip. I was excited at the potential of planting a church in this community in partnership with Bolivian Pastor Ruben and IMB Missionaries Marilee and Steve Flook. We know the first step in planting a church is to spend a season in prayer. But as I pray for God to give us wisdom and guidance in the planting of this church, there is a great sense of urgency in my heart. When I look at this empty building, I also see it as a reminder to the community of Satan’s victory.
Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Satan is prevailing for now, but with God’s blessing and God’s people, His church will prevail. How do I know the church will prevail? Because it’s personal. Notice the first person pronouns in the verse, “I will build…”. When He builds it, it prevails.
Join us on November of 2012, as we take a team to Santa Cruz, Bolivia to plant “His” church.