Matthew 16:18, 18:20 | Hebrews 10:24-25

It’s more than a building.

Why is it so easy to picture the church as a building with a steeple, a cross, and odd lighting? Consider how we talk about it…

“Where do you go to church?” If you “go to church,” then ‘church’ must be a location. 

The headline reads: “Church Burns Down Due to Faulty Wiring”. Clearly, what burned down was a building.

“We had church this morning.” When you say it like that, ‘church’ is an event on your calendar.

Is this really what church is? 

“Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

Matthew 16:18 NLT

Jesus told Peter he would build his church on a rock…and the ‘rock’ was him! While there are different interpretations of exactly what Jesus meant by ‘building his church upon upon this rock’ (Was his church to be built upon Peter, or upon Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah, or even upon himself?), it is pretty clear that the statement had nothing to do with building construction.

The ‘church’ was the ekklesia, a greek word that is a combination of ek- (a form of ex, meaning ‘out’) and kaleo (meaning ‘call’). The ‘church’ he spoke of was a “call out”–a meeting. Therefore church, as Jesus prescribed it, is the meeting of (or collection of) of his followers.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT

Paul encouraged the collective of believers to continue meeting and encouraging each other. This meeting is really what ‘church’ is all about. It’s not the building. It’s not the place where they meet. It’s the people–the people getting together in the name of Jesus.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20 NIV

That said, consider changing how you use the word ‘church’. Instead of “Where do you go to church?” try, “What church are you a part of?”

In lieu of “We painted the church,” say, “We painted the church building.” And maybe drop “We had some church up in here!” in favor of “The Holy Spirit got all up in our business!”

Most of all, remember that as a follower of Christ, YOU are the church. And the church is a calling out of people like you to meet together, encourage each other, and be the Body of Christ.

You don’t need a building for any of that.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • If church is not a building, what is it? (Besides a building…) What is it not?
  • Why might it be important to speak of the church as a people, and not a place? Is it really so awful to say, “I go to church at First Presbaptodist”?
  • Is watching a church service online the same as meeting together as Paul recommended to the Hebrews? Could the difference be that ‘watching’ is a passive activity? Could you ‘meet together’ online in an interactive way and be true to Paul’s advice?
  • What if you watch a church service from a seat in the church building? Is that what Paul is talking about? Could it be that just ‘attending the service’ is not what Paul meant? Do you need to be involved at a higher level to encourage each other and motivate each other to “acts of love and good works”?

Challenge: Change Your Language

You don’t need to have your mouth washed out with soap. You just need to change your mind and let your mouth follow. 

If you agree that “Where do you go to church?” is a flawed question, change it! Don’t say it anymore. How can you say it more accurately?

Keep a list of ‘church’ expressions like this that you want to change, along with an alternative phrasing for each one. (NOTE: They don’t have to use the word ‘church’.) 

Below are some suggestions.

Where do you go to church?Church is not a place; it’s a people.Which church are you a part of?
The church
You’re talking about the building again.The church building needs
We sang in
worship this
Worship is something we do to express how good God is; it is more than just singing or a musical segment in a church
Our church sang this morning.
ORWe sang in church this morning.
They left the
Too broad. This sounds like they no longer believe in Jesus
and are therefore no longer part of the Church as a whole. 
They left our church. OR (more accurately)They joined a different