How Important Are Church Buildings?

There is a good conversation going on over at The Gospel Coalition blog. So far, there are four entries:

  • Should Churches Spend Money on Nice Buildings? — The series opens quoting David Platt, who argued in Radical Together that churches misuse God’s resources when they invest in buildings.
  • Reforming Church Architecture — David Gobel looks at the history of the Church’s views on architecture, and argues for a balanced view of the importance of seeing the Church as a body of believers rather than a building, while also recognizing that art and beauty do matter. This is something I’d never considered until recently, when I read about the importance of church architecture in Culture Making by Andy Crouch.
  • We Want to Stay Light and Mobile, Flexible and Ready — J.D. Greear agrees that architecture is important, but believes that modern times call for modern architecture and the ability to make use of other modern spaces. This is in contrast to the view of the Reformation (and of the previous article), where architecture assumes an objective standard of beauty and is designed to focus our worship on a transcendent and beautiful Creator.
  • Buildings Matter Because People Matter — Matthew Lee Anderson’s article looks more at the pragmatic concerns of buildings. Our physical environment affect us in subtle ways, and while architecture is far from the most important component of our worship, it is not irrelevant.

One example of a congregation that put a lot of thought into the architecture of a recently-constructed church building is R.C. Sproul’s church, St. Andrew’s (pictured at the top of this post). You can read about their building here.

My own opinion on this matter is still relatively unformed. Like I said, I hadn’t given it much thought one way or another. I see merit in all four of these arguments. My cop out answer is that this falls under Christian liberty, and that there is no one way that is right for everyone. Still, it’s good to consider stuff like this. What do you think?

4 comments on “How Important Are Church Buildings?

  1. Christie says:

    I tend to line up with Crouch on this one. Those leanings also make me think the principles apply to other buildings as well, such as schools. I think a school’s building should speak to the type of activity that goes on inside. If we believe learning is a high and lofty, serious, and glorious endeavor, then our architecture should help communicate that, when at all possible. Just a thought as we look towards the future at HRA. 🙂

  2. Adam says:

    It bugs me the way people treat church buildings. No where I go does it EVER occur to me that when I am through with my gum that I should just stick it under a table or seat. Nowhere. Yet, once a month we have to go under all the pews and scrape gum off from under our pews. A lot of gum. And its not just where the kids set either.

  3. John Gardner says:

    Christie: I definitely lean more toward Crouch’s position, but like I said, I haven’t given it a ton of thought yet. Having since read a book about cruciform sanctuaries, I’ll admit to being drawn to the symbolism (not to mention the acoustics… I LOVE playing trumpet in cruciform churches!), though I certainly wouldn’t consider it necessary by any means.

    Adam: The sign only says no food or drink. You don’t see food and drinks left under the pews, do you?

  4. Jason Cohoon says:

    It’s hard to say, I’ve seen churches run down by neglect or stingy people that make me feel sick, and I’ve worshipped in shanty shacks and found it beautiful. I suppose the diff is that the former is the result of people who refused to use their money to build up their church bldg and the others were in a shack because it’s all they could afford. Sort of a “widows mite” sort of thing.

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