I was asked recently by John Starke, the editor for The Gospel Coalition, to weigh in on the issue of whether or not churches should spend money buildings. TGC has put a series together on this issue. Here’s part one of that article:
First, let me establish that I am not an anti-building guy. I believe that God provides for His people in any context the resources necessary to reach that context. In most North American contexts buildings have produced useful tools in reaching a community. Thus, I don’t think that we are robbing people in other nations by building the facilities required to reach our community just because the cost of one our bricks equals 10 of their meals. To think like that, I believe, would come dangerously close to assuming that God is short on money. The God who multiplied the loaves and the fishes can provide, through our sacrificial giving, enough to reach people here while still giving away richly to missions around the world.
That said, in relation to facilities I believe we should be minimalists, for a couple of reasons: First, ornate buildings are simply not necessary to reach people in our day. In fact, ornate buildings often end up being more of a distraction for younger unbelievers than an aid, as our generation is characterized by “the Bono Factor,” which makes them question why so much money was spent on houses of worship when so many around the world are suffering. (I am not saying, by the way, that unbelievers are fair or consistent in how they hold that, just that it is a standard they apply to churches and charity organizations. Grand facilities become a stumbling block to them.)
Now, our culture is fickle, of course, and that sentiment may change with the next bull market. I have to admit, though, that it does seem odd that we would spend so much to build a monument to a God who does not dwell in temples made with hands. While God certainly can be glorified through architecture (Exodus 31:1-6), the divine beauty of the church is not revealed in its buildings but in the Christ-likeness of its people.