Church buildings may be architecturally grand, cathedral-like, or as simple as a retrofitted storefront. Congregations meet in leaders’ homes and rented auditoriums. Many houses of worship are somewhere in the middle – modestly beautiful buildings that have been loved, cared for, and developed by generations of members.
All these places where believers gather are sacred. They are holy ground. They are sacred because of what happens in them. It is the worship, fellowship, teaching and learning, spiritual growth, budget decisions, program planning, laughter and fun, personal prayer, and lives encouraged and transformed. All this and more, over years of honest human experience, is what makes a building holy.
Think of the church as a rendezvous. A rendezvous with God. A rendezvous with people who want to know God in a personal way. A rendezvous with friends old and new who are drawn to this unique person Jesus of Nazareth and the way of life he taught and embodied.
The Acts of the Apostles, in the New Testament, recounts how the gospel spread from the Middle East to Europe. It is the story of one rendezvous after another. Here’s what happened when Paul and his group arrived at the city of Philippi in Macedonia: “On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there” (Acts 16:13).
A remarkable Jewish businesswoman named Lydia listens, is convinced by the gospel, and brings her whole household to be baptized. Paul and Silas proceed to another rendezvous (in the local jail!) and then . . . where do they go? “After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed” (16:40). Lydia’s house had become a church! They could have named that rendezvous “The Church of the Encouraging Word.”