Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Burn the Sanctuary!


We no longer have a room where we do corporate worship called the "sanctuary" or "worship center"...here's why:

1) Dictionary.com defines the word "sanctuary" as a holy place, especially refering to the Jewish Tabernacle/Temple of the Old Testament. God's "sanctuary" is the place where He literally lives and dwells. While we do believe that, when we gather together to worship God, He is glorified in a unique and holy way, but we also understand that God no longer dwells in a building. We know that Christ came to literally change the law and make our bodies the living, holy sanctuary/temple of God (John 2; I Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19). So, to call the place/room we use for corporate worship the "sanctuary" is basically bad theology.

2) "Worship center" implies that this place/room is/should be the central hub of our personal and corporate worship. We believe that our bodies and lives are to be the central hub of our worship (Romans 6:13; 12:1). At our church building, every Sunday morning, there is just as much worship going on in the lobby as people hang out together, in the kitchen as people serve coffee and donuts, in the nursery as people change diapers, in the kid's area as people invest in the lives of young kids, even in the bathrooms as somebody changes the toilette paper. Also, there should be just as much worship happening at our work place, our schools, our homes, and our hang-outs throughout the week as what happens in our church building on Sunday mornings. Our worship center should be any place we take our bodies.

Instead, we try to use either "auditorium" or "gathering place" to talk about the place where we gather for corporate worship on Sunday mornings. Here's why:

1) "Auditorium" is a word that everyone can understand and recognize. Both churched and unchurched people would know where to go and what I was describing if I explained that we meet together in the auditorium. As I've said before, anything we can do to build bridges to anyone who gathers with us to worship or observe our worship to make them feel welcome and comfortable to consider joining in on what we're doing is a good thing.

2) "Gathering place" helps us to reinforce some of the things I talked about in my "Death To the Worship Service" post. It's not the place that we come to worship, it's one of the places in which we can gather to worship together.

So, what do you think? Have you ever considered what a sanctuary really is? Have you ever thought that you're basically fighting with yourself and confusing people by teaching both that our bodies are the temple of God and your building is the "sanctuary" of God?

Nate

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read the other posts in the Rethinking "Worship" series:

Gag The Worship Leader!

Fire the Worship Leader

Terminate the Worship Team!

Death to the Worship Service!

6 comments:

TerryKM said...

Good post.

Steve said...

Is that picture from "The Outsiders"? You know that movie back in the 80s with Ralph Machio...

MilePost13 said...

no...it's a real church fire I found on the net. and, no...I don't remember much from the 80's...not because I was stoned or drunk, but because I was in elementary school...

higgie07 said...

Ok, first let me say that I feel really old now, Nate, because you "don't remember the 80s" because you were in elementary school. (rolls eyes)

It's interesting to see how your church is adapting to the times even in the terms you use in your culture. We go to a church that uses similar terms as yours in its culture. I have a hard time NOT calling the auditorium the "sanctuary," NOT calling our children's program "Sunday School, summer outreach "Vacation Bible School" and our Community Cafe "social hour." I grew up Lutheran, so now I have to adjust to the new lingo (which is a very, very good thing).

Anonymous said...

Words have multiple meanings and I have always thought of a church sanctuary as a place of refuge. That is certainly what a church should be. So I personally don't see anything wrong with the term.

William Frey said...

The church, the Body of Christ, allows us to worship and fellowship together with other believers. However we can worship God in our car, our house, our bathroom, anywhere. You are no safer from troubles and problems that you are fleeing inside the building where you gather on Sundays than you are in any other place. Our God is awesome and mighty, but there is nothing special about the doors on the building where you gather that will keep you from harm. Hence why placing belief or reliance on relics is folly. As Christians our bodies are the sanctuaries where God dwells inside of us, and therefore everywhere is a place of refuge because God is always with us.