God Authorizes Church Buildings as Expedient
God Authorizes Church Buildings as Expedient
By Paul R. Blake
(I was asked the following question by a brother in Germany: "Authority for the building is necessary to be established first before the expedients that follow. We are commanded to assemble in places like James 2.2; Heb. 10.25, but paying for them out of the treasury rather than meeting in homes or catacombs or synagogues or such, we have no example. How do you defend this practice? The liberal brethren use this as a stepping stone for their many practices without authority. ")
(My answer) With regard to expediencies, God often commands a thing without giving specific instructions on how to carry it out. The common illustration is Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said to "Go." He did not tell them how, but rather left it up to us to do it in the most expedient way we can. I "go" by car. Some preachers do so by radio broadcast or social media. Some brethren go by way of the correspondence course, or tracts, or home Bible studies, or sermon recordings. All are "going" out with the message to make disciples, but each uses the method most expedient for him and his hearers.
The work of the church is edification, evangelism, and limited benevolence. Offerings and collections are made to accomplish these works (1Cor. 16:1-3; Acts 11:27-30; 2Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15-16; et al). In the matter of edifying the saints, Christians are commanded to assemble. Inherent in the command to assemble is the necessity of a place of assembly. In the first century, disciples met where it was expedient. Early on they met in synagogues, until the Jews would have no more to do with them. For a time they met in one another's homes, as long as there was room. They met by riversides, on hillsides, in marketplaces, in forums, until persecution arose and it was no longer safe to meet publicly; so, they went underground into catacombs and tombs. After persecution ended and Christianity began to be looked upon with favor, kings and governors began to seize pagan temples and give them to Christians for places of worship. When I was preaching in Washington, PA in the late 1970s, we met in a fire hall; at Walnut Street in Osceola, AR, we met in a storefront; at one time in East Pittsburgh, the members met in a YMCA. In every case, the determining factor has been expediency... what works best under the circumstances that satisfies the command of God without violating any other matter of authority.
Likewise it is so with the matter of purchasing a church building for the members to meet for worship and edification. Preachers are hired with the Lord's money to help keep the command to evangelize and edify. But it is not always expedient or necessary to have a preacher. In places where the elders are good public speakers, they should do the preaching at that local work and send the preachers out to start new works, just like the elders did at Jerusalem and Antioch. To have a preacher or not, to have a building or not, depends upon the needs of the situation. Good judgment is called for in determining what is expedient.
In some places, the most expedient means of keeping the command to assemble is to build a meeting house. Is it wrong? Let's ask a few questions:
1) Is it mishandling the Lord's money? No. The church is using those funds wisely to accommodate the needs of the saints for evangelism, edification, and worship.
2) Can a church building become a misuse of the Lord's money? Yes, if the brethren use it for activities not authorized for the disciples as a collectivity (as a local church). Edification, worship, evangelism, limited benevolence are all authorized for the church as a collectivity, and the building purchased with the Lord's money is a means of facilitating those works. However, social activities are not a work of the church as a collectivity, but are individual works instead. Therefore, the building may not be used for these unauthorized activities.
To suggest that because liberal brethren use the building as a stepping stone to other wrong practices and therefore we can't have a building, is tantamount to saying that because the denominations use baptism as a sacrament, then we can't baptize. Just because one group misuses an authorized thing does not mean that it becomes a wrong thing for others who use it correctly. In logic, this kind of faulty reasoning is known as a sophistry. Technically, it is a false appeal to the slippery slope dilemma.
The church building is not a sacred structure, but it is purchased with the Lord's money; therefore, that which is practiced in it must be guided by the authority of the Owner... God. We purchase a church building in order to properly carry out God's instructions to teach the lost and edify the saved. This is the essence of a scripturally authorized expediency.
What to Tell Myself when I Feel Discouraged
1) This is tough, but so am I.
2) I may not be able to control the situation, but I am control of how I respond to it.
3) I haven’t figured this out, yet.
4) This challenge will teach me something.
5) All I need to do is take it one step at a time, breathe, and then do the next right thing.
Test Your Bible Kinfolk Knowledge
Who was a daughter-in-law to Naomi? __________________
Who was the great-grandmother of David? _________________
Who was the mother of Timothy? __________________
Who was the older brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? ____________
Who was a half-sister to Abraham? ______________________