Howard Snyder has written a very important book entitled THE PROBLEM WITH WINESKINS. In it he deals in depth with the problems of church structures.
He tells of the unfolding purposes of God for His Church. He speaks of our inability at times to make the proper adjustments to these purposes. The following is from the chapter entitled “Are Church Buildings Superfluous?”
“Just think of it! Imagine yourself in any important city in the first century where Christianity had penetrated.
“Now ask the question, ‘Where is the church?’ You would be directed to a group of worshiping people gathered in a house.
“There was no special building or evidence of wealth with which to associate church. There were only people.”
Walter Oetting in his book THE CHURCH IN THE CATACOMBS wrote:
“‘Christians did not begin to build church buildings until about A.D. 200. This fact suggests that buildings are not essential for numerical growth or spiritual depth.
“‘The early church possessed both growth and depth. Until recent times, the church’s greatest period of vitality and growth was during the first two centuries A.D. In other words, the church grew fastest when it did not have the help — or hindrance — of church buildings.’”
I believe the Lord is calling His people to repent of the over-emphasis we have given to buildings in past centuries. He is calling us to get rid of all barriers to the rapid planting of churches.
This is so that “the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified” (2Thess 3:1). One of the primary hindrances, in many cases, is the building we call “the church.”
BREAKING THE STAINED GLASS BARRIER
Dr. Donald McGavran, in his book, Understanding Church Growth, says: “House churches enabled the tiny church of the 1st Century to grow mightily. At one stroke they overcame four obstacles to growth. These were obstacles which the Church met as it liberated new populations:
(1) “The cost of a church building. Without any cash outlay at all, house churches provided as many places to worship as there were groups of Christians. This first common obstacle to multiplying churches never appeared.”
(2) “The obstacle of the Jewish connection. House churches pushed the Church away from the synagogue into the Gentile population.”
(3) “The obstacle of turning inward. Each new house church exposed a new set of intimate friends and relatives to close contact with ardent Christians.”
(4) “The obstacle of a limited leadership. Each house church thrust the responsibilities and prestige of leadership on able men of the new congregation. These leaders worked within the teachings of the Old Testament, oral tradition of Jesus’s life and a letter or two of Paul’s. With these flexible boundaries, they were free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
“In modern form, these four obstacles and their solutions are still important. When we talk about causes of the growth of the Early Church, we should take into account the physical fact of the house churches.”