Do We Have Authority for a Church Building?

This question about whether or not the New Testament contains authority for a church building often comes up when discussing other issues that relate to Bible authority. When one points out that things like instrumental music in worship, missionary societies, and “fellowship” halls are unauthorized, there is sometimes the response that we do not have authority for a church building, either; therefore, it is inconsistent to oppose the others.

Most of the time, those who argue that there is a lack of authority for church buildings do not believe they are wrong. They just believe that we do not need Bible authority for everything we do and are simply pointing out what they believe to be is inconsistency (or hypocrisy) in those who oppose things such as instrumental music.

We must not be too quick to take the question of a congregation owning a building and lump it together with various unauthorized practices. Just because someone likens church buildings to fellowship halls and then demands that you either accept both or reject both does not mean the two belong in the same class. Each one must stand up to the scrutiny of the Scriptures alone. In this article, we will consider the question: Are church buildings authorized?

First of all, we know that each local church is to assemble. The Hebrew writer admonished the brethren to not forsake “our own assembling together” (Hebrews 10:25). Paul wrote to the Corinthians about what was going on when they “come together as a church” (1 Corinthians 11:18) and what they were to do “when [they] assemble” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Local churches are to assemble. Of necessity, this demands a place to assemble.

Does the New Testament give us any indication as to what kind of place churches are to use to assemble? We actually read of several different kinds of places that were used. The church in Jerusalem at one time met in an area of the temple called Solomon’s portico (Acts 5:12). Paul and the disciples in Ephesus spent two years meeting in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10). In Troas the church met in an upper room (Acts 20:7-8). Some of the early Christians met in homes (1 Corinthians 16:19). Notice there is no uniform pattern that the churches in the first century followed with regard to the type of place they assembled. Without a specific type of place given, each autonomous congregation is free to determine the most expedient way to assemble. This does not necessarily mean a bought or rented facility. But it would include that.

Keep in mind the purpose of the assembly – edification, worship, and evangelism. Therefore, if a congregation is authorized to have a building, it is for these purposes. The work of the church is not recreation, entertainment, social gatherings, etc. Therefore, things like “fellowship” halls and family life centers are not equivalent to, and are not to be a part of, a church building.

Do not be tempted to think that church buildings are unauthorized and, therefore, that we are hypocrites for opposing the innovations of men. The New Testament provides authority for a congregation to own a building in which to assemble. It is an expedient that, if a congregation chooses to use it, must be used lawfully in carrying out the work of the church.


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Comments

  1. Read It Again says

    “Notice there is no uniform pattern that the churches in the first century followed in regards to the type of place they assembled.”

    There is a uniform pattern to the places they assembled: None of the assembling places described in Scripture were bought or rented by the assembled. Each was a freely provided place, either by virtue of being public (Solomon’s Porch, seashore, etc.), or by being a space freely donated by the owners (the school of Tyrannus, the home of Prisca & Aquila, etc.).

    I can find plenty of examples of preaching “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20), but I cannot find a single example that would justify discarding this pattern in favor of expending money to create a special house of worship never needed or requested by God.

  2. Your claim of a uniform pattern is based on an assumption. We don’t know that all of the assembly locations were freely provided to congregations. Some certainly were (homes of the disciples). But for others, like the meeting place in Troas (Acts 20:7-8), we have no way of knowing whether they were bought, rented, or used without charge.

    Again, the instruction to assemble necessarily requires a place to assemble. There is no uniform pattern that can be established in the New Testament that would prohibit a congregation from owning or renting a facility in which to meet.

    Granted, good judgment should be used. Do some congregations spend too much money on a building? Sure. Do some congregations own or rent a building when they could meet in the home of one of the members? Probably. But that does not justify the blanket statement that congregations cannot pay for a place to assemble.