Your Bible question was:
> I have a tough question: what scriptural authority do we (as churches of
Christ) have to own buildings and property? The scriptures are silent on
this concept. <
It is true that we do not read about churches owning buildings in the NT.
It is equally true that we do not read about churches owning song books or
chairs for its members to sit in while worshipping. Does the fact that
these _specific_ things are not mentioned in the scriptures mean that a
church is forbidden to own and use them to accomplish their God-given work?
The answer is, "no."
All of these items (including buildings), are authorized as "aids" which
expedite the carrying out of one or more of God's commands to the local
church. Let me illustrate: God commanded Noah to "build an ark of gopher
wood." He also gave him some additional building specifications (Gen.
6:14-16). God specified the kind of wood (gopher), therefore, it would have
been _adding_ to God's word for Noah to use gopher AND oak.
However, how did Noah construct the ark? Did he use tools? None are
specified in the text? Does that mean they were not authorized? Not at
all. Whatever tools were needed, in Noah's judgment, to obey the
commandment to "build an ark of gopher wood" were allowed. He could have
used saws, pegs, ropes, ramps, etc. with God's approval. None of these were
specifically required, but allowed, to "aid" him in building the ark.
Likewise, we are under commandment to assemble with the saints to worship
God (Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Cor. 14:26). But where, what kind of building, etc.
are left to the judgment of each congregation. One church may rent a place
to meet. Another may build a permanent facility. Still another may meet in
a home. All are allowed -- authorized -- as means of carrying out the
commandment to have assembled worship.
So, the NT does indeed authorize whatever tools or aids are needed to carry
out our obedience to the commands we have been given. In this case, the
command to assemble necessitates a place and its provisions. Aids or tools
are authorized by reason of the commandment they help us obey. Additions,
on the other hand, change the force and effect of the commandment we have
> * The apostles NEVER took the property or homes, but used the money from
their sale (as sold by the owners) to help those in need,
> * Christians met in borrowed buildings (i.e., synagogues, an upper room),
in people's homes, and even out doors,
> * The nature of God's Kingdom carries an overwhelming spiritual emphasis;
apart from the human body, the water for baptism, bread and juice for
communion, and the use of sacred writings are its only tangible assets,
> * Christians themselves are called the "temple of God" and "God's
We must be careful not to demand a _specific example_ of everything before
saying it can be done today, or saying that no authority exists for the
practice. Such logic (as expressed above) would prohibit the use of
electric lights, indoor plumbing, a public address system, an overhead
projector, etc. Remember, whatever aids us in accomplishing the spiritual
work we have been given is legitimately authorized.
For instance, we NEVER read of the apostles using a bank account to hold and
distribute the collected money for the work of the local church. Does that
mean that to use one today is forbidden? No, not at all. The authority to
collect and distribute money for benevolence, evangelism and edification
(which is the area of work a building facilitates) allows a church to use
its judgment to decide how to best care for and distribute that money. In
some cases a "cash only" system is most reasonable. In others, real
property may be the only reasonable way to carry on the work. In other
cases, cash deposits are made to a checking account and then draw upon to
fund the work of benevolence, evangelism and edification. Any and all of
these are acceptable ways to see that the work of the local church is
To say the apostles "NEVER took the property or homes" is, I believe,
carrying your conclusion beyond where the scriptures allow. Let me
illustrate. We agree a church can receive monetary contributions to carry
on its work (Acts 4:34-37; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). So, a man can sell his house,
give the proceeds to the church, and that money be used to support the
spiritual work of the church. Why would it be wrong for a Christian to
contribute the property itself to the local church? He signs the deed over
to the congregation. It is now its property to use in the work of that
local church. Could the church accept that sort of contribution? I see no
scriptural prohibition against it doing so. A church may accept such, under
the same authority which allows it to receive cash contributions.
(Whether or not it would be the wisest method of contributing to the work of
the church is an entirely different issue. The authority exists for
contributions to occur. How best to transfer that property - via cash, real
property or checks - is an area of judgment which the scriptures allow us to
> In light of all of this, HOW do we get church buildings? Where is the
scriptural authority for them? Like musical instruments, they do not appear
in church history until the 4th century. Today, even the simplest building
would cost well over $100,000 (more like $250,000 and higher).<
Whether it is the wisest and most expedient to build, purchase, rent,
borrow, etc. is a separate issue, and one which should be carefully
considered by a church when weighing its responsibilities against how to be
fulfill them. We have the latitude to determine which aid(s) best expedite
our obedience to the commandments we have been given. And, because we are
discussing an area of authorized judgment, we should not bind our judgment
upon others (Rom. 14:10).
> "Necessary Inference" cannot honestly be used, either. Based on the
examples clearly presented in scripture (and noted above) for where and how
Christians met, there is nothing to be inferred. <
I believe I have shown how it can be honestly used. There are some things
to be inferred in this matter. Noah honestly had to use tools to accomplish
the commandment to build an ark. Those tools were therefore authorized.
Likewise, a congregation honestly has to have some facility at which to meet
to worship and fulfill its other authorized areas of work. Judgment is
allowed to decide how to best provide that facility (borrow, rent, buy,
etc.). If purchasing a permanent building expedites the church's work, then
it is just as authorized as were Noah's tools.
> Am I opposed to church buildings? Well, I haven't been in the past, and
I'm honestly looking into this question with an open mind and an open heart.
The question is: what method of interpretation do we use to justify owning
land, buildings, and furnishings therein? <
I appreciate your openness to the subject and your earnest desire to simply
do what is right in the sight of the Lord. I share your sentiments. I hope
I have help you see the interpretive method which allows a church to own
property. They fall under "aids" which expedite our obedience to the
commands we have been given. They do not change the force or effect of the
command, but help us carry out our God-given responsibility. If the
property is used by the church to do unauthorized work, they would be
authorized as "additions" to the will of God.
> Finally, I think it odd that Jesus our Lord was a carpenter, and Paul was
a tent maker, yet neither addressed the idea of the local congregations
having a common roof. <
They did speak to a local congregation meeting at a common place to
accomplish spiritual work (1 Cor. 11:17-20, 33-34; 14:23, 26; 16:1-2; Acts
20:7; Heb. 10:25). Therefore, securing a place to do that work is
authorized by the very authority which allows the church to "come together
in one place". This is the place to use inference, and it is both honest
Thanks again for your good post. I appreciate your willingness to study
such matters. If you have any questions regarding my comments please feel
free to reply.
May the Lord bless us as we hear and heed His word in all things (Lk. 8:8,
18; Col. 3:17).
Sincerely in Christ,
Joe R Price
Mt. Baker church of Christ