Jeremy Myers: The church: More than a building

When one thinks of the church, a wide range of thoughts and pictures probably flood the mind.

Somewhere early in that deluge is probably the image of an actual church building. Perhaps it was the church you or a beloved family member attended when you were growing up. Maybe it was the location where an important, life-shaping event took place. Or it could be that it was or is just a prominent building in your hometown.

Whatever the case may be, all of us have seen a church building at some point in time in our lives, if not within the last few days.

The church in which I grew up was not a particularly beautiful building, but it is a building that is forever seared into my memory. It had two large wings, a newer wing to the north and an older wing to the south.

The north wing had what we called the multipurpose room. It functioned as our fellowship hall, our youth room, Sunday school classrooms and a gymnasium. It had a series of walls on both ends of the room that opened up, from floor to ceiling, revealing long, thick curtains that could be drawn out to separate the space for Sunday school or pushed back to make one large room. Special doors up above could open and allow basketball goals to emerge when needed.

The south wing had the smell and look of an old church building. It also had an abundance of what I considered secret doors that allowed one to move between the maze of nursery and Sunday school classrooms without ever entering the main hallway.

Between these two wings was a large octagonal sanctuary, and in the center stood a large white object we might call the altar. It was the central feature of the entire church. Most Sundays, it just held flower arrangements, but on special Sundays, it served as our communion table or the top could be removed and a baptistry would rise from the basement for us to celebrate baptism.

I will never forget that church building. I came to faith in Jesus in a bathroom stall in that building. I took an unforgettable ride and was baptized in that baptistry when I was 9. I attended Sunday school and youth group and had middle school basketball practice in the multipurpose room. I heard thousands of messages and participated in numerous concerts in that sanctuary.

But what makes that building special to me is not the space itself but the many relationships and life-altering experiences it facilitated.

Church buildings are just that, buildings. They are brick and mortar, wood and nails, paint and stain, tile and carpet, etc. There is nothing inherently sacred about the space. What makes the space matter is the people who gather or gathered there in the hopes that God would meet with them and transform their lives. The significance of any church building is predicated much less upon what happens within them and more upon the lives that are lived when the people leave them.

People often think churches are special because they are “the house of the Lord.” But in Acts 17:24, Paul reveals that “The God who made the world and everything in it… does not live in temples built by human hands.” Numerous times in the New Testament, we are told that we ourselves are the church and temple of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:15, 1 Peter 2:5). Our church buildings are simply workshops in which the true houses of God can be built, repaired and prepared to carry him into the world and make his compassion and saving grace known.

I love the church. I love seeing the buildings of all shapes and sizes that color the landscape of our world. I enjoy wandering around inside them and seeing how the space is set up and thinking about how it is probably used.

But those physical structures are just buildings. They lie empty more often than not, and when the people who gather in that space leave, the church leaves with them. Buildings, beautiful and meaningful as they might be, are not the church. We, the people who confess Jesus as Lord and savior, are the church. He lives in us, and we take him with us wherever we go. May we live and love accordingly.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at