We use the word “church” in so many different ways that sometimes it becomes quite confusing. When we say we are “going to church” we could mean we are meeting with others to worship God, or that we are just going to the building. Sometimes we use the word church to mean a denomination, and other times we use it to mean the wider body of Christ of which all believers are part.
Sadly, none of these ways of using the word are from the Bible. In the New Testament the word we translate “church” is ekklesia, which means a public gathering, assembly or meeting. Never throughout the New Testament does ekklesia refer to a building; it only always refers to people.
Nevertheless buildings are important. While many churches exist without a building, they can serve a useful function. For Hobart Baptist our buildings help us go about the ministry God has called us to. What is more, did you know that our buildings are used seven days a week? Many other groups find our buildings helpful too.
From time to time, for many reasons, churches need to develop their buildings. These may include the buildings being too big or too small, they could be falling down or crumbling, or often they are wrongly designed for today’s church or community needs.
Hobart Baptist Church is in the middle of a process of dreaming about how we might develop and use our buildings to help us in our ministry both now and in the future. When we began the journey nearly two years ago we were just looking at upgrading the kitchen and having meeting rooms with appropriate technology, but since then the vision has grown and we are now in serious discussions with the owners of neighbouring properties about how we might do something quite large together.
The church has appointed a taskforce to work with the interested parties to work out what is possible. We are aware that any development needs to reflect and to speak of what the church stands for, what it wants to promote and how it can best be used in response to contemporary and future needs. So all our dreaming and discussion has taken place within the context of the mission of the church and our place in neighbourhood in mind.
Everyone the taskforce talks to is very excited with our vision and are keen to see the vision realised. However, the Taskforce is very mindful that despite this truly amazing opportunity, “the church” is not a building, no matter how beautiful, spacious or practical it might be. The building only exists to serve God’s people who are the church, and it is important for us to constantly remember this.
“The building only exists to serve God’s people who are the church, and it is important for us to constantly remember this.”
That, however, doesn’t take away the reality that the Taskforce is at a very important stage in our discussions and we as a congregation are praying earnestly. A full update will be given at our church meeting in April, but in the meantime we will be praying that God will oversee the process and that a shared understanding on how to proceed will be approved by all the respective parties.
We are looking forward to all that happens as Hobart Baptist Church charts its course into the future, with our great God at the helm.
Stephen L Baxter