No Church Buildings

Look deeply into this question.

What would the church look like if we had no buildings?

And by church, I mean you and me, the body of Christ. Think long and hard about this. We have invested a ton of money, technology, planning, time and energy into building and maintaining church buildings. I can drive in a few mile radius and pass all kinds of churches and some really big ones (I live in Texas). I’m amazed sometimes at how much we put into these structures. We have gyms, conference rooms, classrooms and worship centers set up to hosChurch-Construction-Framet all kinds of events. Not only do we put lots of energy into building them but we also put lots of energy into filling them. We constantly push out publicity in hopes that people will show up to fill these structures so that we can captivate their attention, if just for an hour, in hopes that they will become deeply connected with Christ.

But what if we didn’t use buildings like these? What would we do and where would community happen? Could we still be the church without these buildings? Don’t worry, I enjoy going to worship in a beautiful sanctuary but I often wonder if we invest way too much in them. The reality is that much, if not most, of
ministry happens outside the church walls. Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes the Spirit blows randomly.

When we experienced the devastating loss of a child, the church showed up at our doorstep. When I saw my neighbor (whom I hardly know) in his yard yesterday I walked over and talked to him. We talked about life and faith, God was present. A group of high schoolers after spending a week at camp recently spent each day texting encouragements and Bible verses to each other. A mom takes her two young children to the park and reads Bible stories to them as they lay on a picnic blanket in the sun. A man consoles a friend in the parking lot of the grocery store after hearing of the loss of his mother. A group of parents get together on a Friday night for dinner to talk about the challenges of parenting and pray together. Neighbors get together for a backyard worship. The list goes on (or should go on).

The church is a living, breathing thing and we need to trust it to be that rather than trying to box it in to an hour a week. What if more of our time were spent seeking out ways to bring God into our daily conversations? What if more of our time was spent building circles of faith nurturing relationships around people? So take some time to wrestle with the question, deeply and long. Look for places outside the church walls where God is mentioned and questions of faith are asked. Intentionally seek ways that the arms of Christ can reach out into the community.

Perhaps the walls will grow thin and God’s unending grace will pour out into the community.

Tom Schwolert  ~ Tom Schwolert


  1. I am a part of Triangle Community Ministry in downtown Madison, WI. For the past 35 years this ecumenically sponsored ministry has called itself a “church without walls,” meaning there is no church building. The church therefore becomes the caring actions of the Chaplain, the Parish Nurse, the office volunteers and the hundreds of other volunteers who support this ministry with their time and money. I applaud your courage in moving toward a church without walls.

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