We should not underestimate the power of a building as “a church.” As Jeanne Halgren Kilde reminds us, the “material world is far from neutral,” nor is a “church building” any less neutral [Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture and Worship, 199]. Although reflecting on earlier church history, yet still valid to our contemporary building-centered church, Kilde continues, “Christian space is dynamic space. It is powerful space” . The power of sacred space, including a building designated as “a church,” changes everything. Power shifts. Sustainability becomes necessary. Maintaining approved and acceptable hierarchies become absolute. Habits associated with the use of a “sacred” building and the division it makes with everyday life orients our social mapping. A building-centered church experience is not nuetral to the church’s associations and human relationships in and outside the church community (i.e., a local church community).
The use of building-centered sacred space as church is a language itself, a specific “god-talk” that that creates a separation from other non-sacred church space, reinforcing a incongruence, a cleavage between everyday life and, also, a barrier between human and human social mapping (or a redefining of social mapping). The shift to now long entrenched habits and meaning associated with building-centered, addressed sacred space made with human hands known as “a church” has provided an interpretive lens for reading the New Testament. The question is not whether we should have specific buildings as centers of “church” activities, but how such building-centered church experiences influence and mold both our interpretation of biblical texts and our understanding of church—and thus, form our parameters for church growth. Interestingly, the Ephesians household code suggests how “members” are understood as persons, and in doing so, there is potential to move beyond mere numbers of people as the only outcome for church growth.
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