Sanctuary or Auditorium – Does it Really Matter?

I had lunch with a friend the other day. The topic of church growth came up, as it often does. He informed me of a trend in his church that has provoked him as of late. He has noted that the place believers gather together to offer praises in worship to their God, the place where the bold proclamation of God’s word is presented to the people, the place once known as a sanctuary is now simply being called an auditorium.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence. When my old church moved from their sanctuary into the gym (preparing for growth) the term sanctuary was dropped and it became an auditorium. Even the conservative baptist church I attend now calls it an auditorium.

My friend was so troubled by the terminology he confronted the pastor about it. He argued that the church has been referred to as a sanctuary throughout history and carries with it a sense of awe and reverence in the presence of the Holy that should not be changed.

In light of our discussion, a question has been hammering in my brain the past few days:

Is it wrong to call the place of corporate worship an auditorium instead of a sanctuary or is it much ado about nothing?

Let’s explore the issue in depth.

First let’s see what the good old dictionary has to say about the word sanctuary.

From Dictionary.com:

  • A sacred or holy place
  • The biblical tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem
  • The holy of holies of these places of worship
  • An especially holy place in a temple or church

A sanctuary is a holy place that holds a special significance to those who occupy it. The tabernacle and later Solomon’s temple was setup specifically for the worship of God. Levitical priests offered sacrifices, burnt incense and performed other prescribed acts of worship on the altars according to God’s specifications. The temple/tabernacle consisted of three sections. The Courtyard, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was also called the Most Holy Place. The Ark of the Covenant stood in the midst of it. The Ark represented the very presence of the Lord God himself. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and that only at certain times. Nothing impure could approach God’s Holy presence.

Thus, in order to answer my first question, we must answer this one:

Should a church building (or at least the central place of worship) be considered a sacred or holy place?

Let’s first explore what sacred and holy mean in a biblical context.

The Hebrew word most often used for sacred and holy in the old testament is ‘qodesh‘ and its various derivatives. It is also the same word used for ‘sanctuary’.

A sanctuary is synonymous with that which is holy or sacred.

OK, with that fact firmly established from the scriptures, let’s move on.

What does it really mean to be holy?

The Greek word ‘hagio‘ translated in the new testament most often as holy means to be physically pure and morally blameless. It is also used to express the divine action to set apart. When believers are saved they become holy. Christ’s imputed righteousness makes us pure and blameless. We are then set apart for God’s divine purposes in our lives.

So how does all this relate to the topic at hand?

Let’s connect the dots. A sanctuary is a sacred place. Sacred means holy. Holy means purity and separation from that which is common. Historically, a church sanctuary has always been considered a sacred place where God’s people come together to worship Him in reverence and awe; in spirit and in truth.  They separate themselves from the common everyday elements of the world in order to glory in God’s goodness.

Speaking of the term ‘common’, it is interesting to note that when the bible uses the word ‘profane’ it is often in contrast to ‘holy’. But profane doesn’t always mean corrupted or defiled. In Ezekiel 42:20 the length and width of the outer temple walls were measured. The reason they were built is clearly given: to separate the holy from the profane – the temple from the world. The Hebrew word used here is ‘chol‘. It means unholy or simply common.

Fascinating.

Common everyday things in God’s eyes are dirty and defiled, because they are not set aside for his glory. The world is corrupted with sin, so everything that lies within is defiled and impure. But when God calls a person or a thing out of the world for his service, it is then transformed from profane to holy.

The word ‘church’ used throughout the new testament is the Greek ‘ekklesia‘. It means called out ones. The church consists of a people called out of the world by God’s effectual grace through the drawing of the Holy Spirit. The Lord separates us from the world, calling us to live very different lives. We are commanded to love not the world nor the things that are in the world. We are a peculiar people, purchased for service. We are pilgrims passing through a foreign land. A church building is a set apart place for the body of believers to come together and worship corporately. It is truly a sanctuary from the corruption and filth of the world; a holy place dedicated to proclaiming God’s word and for singing praises for His own glory.

So, what exactly is an auditorium?

In a nutshell, an auditorium is defined as a large room or building that accommodates an audience for public meetings or performances.

Well, some may argue, that is what a church sanctuary is! A church is a public meeting place.

So why fuss over the terminology?

In my friend’s conversation with his pastor, his defense of the term ‘auditorium’ went something like this: ‘Does it really matter? The true sanctuary lies within the heart. This is just another building. Monday through Saturday it functions as an office.’

These remarks troubled me for days. Should the physical church structure be considered just another edifice? Does not the Lord desire for us to consecrate it to Him, dedicating it for kingdom use and to bring Him glory?

I agree that every believer is a sanctuary. I’m certain my fiend’s pastor was making reference to 1 Cor 6:19 where Paul calls our bodies a temple of the Holy Spirit. I have no problem with that. But I think the logical extension of that thought is this:

If all believers are a holy temple unto God, doesn’t it follow that the place they gather to worship as a congregation should also be a holy place? A place where the common things of the world are excluded and forsaken. A place where no matter if we come during the week or on a Sunday, we should be able to focus our hearts exclusively upon the Lord of Glory and his kindness toward us unworthy sinners through the wonders of the cross of Christ. Remember that the place in the temple where God’s presence dwelt was called the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place. Does God’s presence fill our churches on Sundays? (If not, he should!) Doesn’t that make the place he presides a holy place? Our bodies becomes a holy place because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Our sanctuary becomes a holy place when we gather together for worship. Did the Holy of Holies become a common place every other day aside from the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest entered therein? So, neither should our sanctuary be called otherwise during the week when it goes unoccupied.

The term auditorium would seem to make allowances for it to be used for any purpose whatsoever, whether it be holy or profane. In fact, this is a common practice for many churches today. The auditorium is used for worship and preaching. But it is also used for a great many other things. Rock concert performances, dazzling drama productions and the like. Mega-church auditoriums are so well equipped with the latest technological gadgets that they are often rented out for secular use during the week. These things just should not be so.

I am reminded of Zechariah chapter 14 when the prophet is giving us a glimpse into the future kingdom after Christ returns to the earth in glory and power.

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, (Zec 14:20-21A)

There’s that word ‘qodesh‘ again. The same word used for sanctuary is now used for every common household item. For in the day Christ’s glory fills the earth, every common thing will be consecrated to God and made holy. Everything will be sacred and no longer profane because all the nations will honor and worship the Lord. So why should we, the chosen people of God, not be sanctifying the very place where we offer our worship? If common everyday cookware is declared sacred unto our God, how much more should we be sanctifying the very place we gather together to exalt the Almighty and extol his attributes. It seems ridiculous to me that this is even a point of contention with some people.

But I’m not naive to the marketing machine known as the Church Growth Movement. It is the primary reason for the relentless dereligifying (I think I just coined a new word) of American Christianity. The gurus of growth suggest to pastors several practical ideas to help seduce the unchurched into the pews:

  • Steeples and crosses must come down. Religious symbols tend to drive seekers away. (What? Are they vampires?)
  • Religious paintings and other Christ-centered artwork must be torn down and replaced with kinder, gentler neutral artistic expressions.
  • Religious jargon must be altered or eliminated all together in favor of Joel Osteen style expressions of pure sunshine and joy.
  • Doctrine must be dismissed. Difficult biblical subjects are swept under the rug and salvation is offered to all looking for direction, purpose and a positive self image. Bringing up the holiness and majesty of a supremely powerful God who righteously judges all people, demanding holiness and reverence is considered unwise for filling pews and offering plates.

A sanctuary, where holiness is implied in the meaning would make people squirmy and (God forbid) feel contrite and humble in approaching God.

No, auditorium is much less intimidating. The name suggests no stipulations upon those in attendance. Warm fuzzies, not reverence is the goal church growth experts strive to achieve.

God forgive us!

If you’ll recall, the pastor’s response to my friend’s question as to why change the name was ‘Why does it matter?’ Upon further reflection I find that statement ironic. If it doesn’t matter, why change the terminology in the first place. The word sanctuary has served the church well for 2 millenia. It’s meaning has not been lost on the congregations that gather there. A sanctuary is a sacred place of worship, praise and preaching. An auditorium is a profane place where any number of worldly activities are performed for the sake of entertaining the masses.

Some make think I am being Pharisaical, straining at gnats – so be it. I’m not going to leave my church over the issue, or impose legalistic demands upon the pastor and congregation. But I think we should look at these subtle linguistic changes as symptomatic of a much larger problem. Remember, a little leaven leavens an entire lump. If you witness these types of things going on in church, pray for God to sharpen your discernment to unveil other changes that could be far more damaging to a church’s spiritual health; changes such as a loss of reverence and awe toward our Maker, a dilution of the purity of the gospel message or a tendency to amuse and entertain audiences rather than equipping saints.

In summary, the answer to my second question is an unequivocal ‘YES!’ I absolutely believe we should sanctify and consecrate our houses of worship to the Lord. Soli Deo Gloria! So the answer to my first question is also ‘YES’. It is wrong to call a sanctuary an auditorium. God is big enough to not let terminology become an obstacle to stand between him and his people. The problem is the effect it has on his people. Brushing aside the sacred will eventually lead to distorted view of the majesty and holiness of God Almighty.

The total eclipse of God’s majesty is the church’s worst offense in this postmodern age. Like that old pop song from a decade ago intoned:

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus

This low view of God is slowly being adopted by modern evangelicals. After all, a God like that is easily approachable, a buddy we can chum up to. A peer on equal footing with us. This kind of God can be embraced by the masses.

John Hendryx of Monergism.com recently interviewed Dr. Steven J. Lawson, pastor and author of Foundations of Grace and The Expository Genius of John Calvin. Mr. Hendryx posed the question, “What do you think is the doctrine that is most foundational for the church of today to be solid on in order to be a healthy church?”

Dr. Lawson’s response:

“I believe that the most foundational truth for the church today, as well as in any generation, is the sovereignty and holiness of God. As one’s view of God goes, so goes the entire church. A high view of God inevitably leads to high and holy living. But a low view of God leads unmistakably to low living. A towering view of God in which He is seen in His unrivaled sovereignty and absolute holiness has the most dramatic and profound effect upon the church. Such a vision of God inspires transcendent worship, induces godly living, empowers tireless service, deepens spiritual fellowship, imparts supernatural joy, breathes abundant life, and motivates global outreach. The church will never rise any higher than her lofty view of God.”

I couldn’t agree more. God is sovereign, God is Holy. May our view of His glorious majesty match the revelation of him given in the scriptures. In light of a high view of God, I pray the holy people of God continue to gather together in the sacred place to offer him worship in awe and reverence.

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21 thoughts on “Sanctuary or Auditorium – Does it Really Matter?

  1. Wow…. Excellent post! I couldn’t agree more. It confirms my initial thoughts on the matter ever since I got that letter in the mail talking about the “auditorium” at church. As soon as I saw that word being used to reference a holy place, I was immediately disturbed. That led me to confront my pastor on the issue. Thank you for shedding light (or a spot-light) on this subject.

  2. Think of it this way. A sanctuary is a place set aside where people go to humbly learn about and worship the Lord. It is a place where it is all about Him. It is a place where believers can join together in unity for that purpose. It is also defined as a place of safety (i.e., taking sanctuary in some place).

    By that definition, many churches rightfully have auditoriums, and I don’t think it is any more proper for them to call their place of worship a sanctuary than it is for them to call themselves a church.

  3. Brandon,
    Like you, I am deeply troubled, only about different things. I’m troubled when we believe God can be made common by the use of the word “auditorium.” How is the name of our place of worship profaning God? You are right, our body is the temple, the sanctuary, the meeting place of God. It’s not a building. A group of committed believers could worship in a barn (seems like I remember reading somethign about that in Scripture) as well as a “sanctuary.” And no matter what you call a barn, it’s still a barn.

    You see, the trouble with “sanctuary” is seen in a comment by Janine – “a place where it is all about Him.” I think I know what she means, but just read the words. Isn’t all of a believer’s life – work, play, family, worship, whatever – all about God? Again, I don’t mean to be ugly – but that kind of thinking is what naturally happens when our meeting place is called a “sanctuary.”

    When your line of thinking takes root, we send the message that it’s about form as much as heart. I don’t think you beleive that, but most folks reading your post would assume that. Some folks get awfully offended when a teen wears a cap in “church.” Why? They are using your line of reasoning. My son-in-law leads worship at a cowboy church – meeting in a barn – and everybody wears a hat the whole time. Are they making God common? Well, go see for yourself.

    Using your line of reasoning, we ought to use different water for baptism than we do for a bath. I don’t know about your church, but in ours it’s the same water. It’s our VIEW of it that changes – not the water itself.

    The key is the condition of our heart – not what we wear, where we meet, or what we call that place. A high view of God has to do with the inside of us – and absolutely nothing else.

    • Absolutely right!!! A room in a church becomes a place of worship only when it is filled with little sanctuaries called “believers” who are focused on loving, obeying and SERVING God. This can also happen under an oak tree or in a barn.
      Having been a pastor for nearly 30 years I have come to understand how much easier it is to simply think of a room in a church building as the Sanctuary.
      First, it perpetuates a myth and tradition that denies the teaching of Scripture. It does not matter that church have for centuries called rooms in their buildings the “Sanctuary”. Popes have been around for centuries and they aren’t biblical either. Time does not automatically make something right.
      Second, it makes it easier for believers to forget who they are and what they are supposed to be about. If I focus on a man-made room as the holy place of God, I can easily forget that I am the holy place of God. I then tend to look at my body as “mine” and not God’s property. I tend to look at my mission as something that only happens on the church property and not in daily life. In other words, I tend to compartmentalize my life into “at the church” and “not at the church”… “God’s part of my life” and “my part of MY life”. I tend to think of worship as something that happens once a week in a building instead of an everyday part of the Christian life.

  4. I don’t necessarily think it’s the term that makes God common. I think the Church as a whole is starting to make God common and “relevent” and thus the term is becoming common more as a reflection of how the heart of the Church is changing.

    The Conservative Baptist Church we recently left (as they became a fully Emerging and Purpose-Driven mega-church) called their sanctuary the Family Living Center (FLC).

    New people at the church would always feel a little lost when there would be an annoucement about some evening program or activity that was going to be held in the Family Living Center. I had more than one person ask me where that was in the building. “Look around. You’re sitting in it right now.”

    http://thegreatapostasy.wordpress.com

  5. Mr. Edwards… I’ve been expecting you! 😉
    First of all, I’m not suggesting that God is ‘made’ common by our use of terms but is perceived as common by our low view of Him. A low view of God results from not understanding his holiness for starters. As an aside I would recommend RC Sproul’s ‘Holiness of God’, it is a great read on the subject.
    This whole sanctuary or auditorium debate is really centered around how we view and approach God, not so much about syntax. You are right, it is a heart issue, not religious form. The bible repeatedly calls us to fear God and give him glory. Deep reverence and awe is the way we should always approach him. Calling our place of worship a sanctuary helps to remind us of his holiness and the holiness he expects from us as we approach him. The fact is, our sanctuaries have changed into auditoriums. If terms have no real meaning or relevance then why change them at all! The terms have changed because so have our hearts. Our approach to God has become casual, not reverent; moving from God-glorifying toward crowd-amusing. The Lord of all Lords and King of all Kings is now our buddy that we take along with us on life’s wild ride. Do you not think this view of God is a problem? The sanctuary becoming an auditorium is not the issue, it’s not the disease. It is only an obvious symptom of a spiritually crippling pandemic infecting Christianity.
    The building is not the issue. It is our view of it in relation To God and ourselves that matters. Will we consecrate our place of worship to His glory and His glory alone? I believe we should.

  6. BeaconLight,
    I guess I wasn’t clear. What I was saying is that many “churches” have forsaken the basics of what it means to be a Christian church. They are all about exaltation of the self and disown doctrinal truth. They are “feel good” stations, which stroke the ego and give nice motivational speeches, but are void of the Spirit of God. For the Christian with his/her heart set to follow the Lord, these places of worship are no “sanctuary”, but are rather places where the truth and God’s people are often abused. The building in which they hold their services is more aptly titled an auditorium, rather than a sanctuary because they have stripped the place of its sanctity. Does that make better sense?

  7. Brandon,
    You say, “If terms have no real meaning or relevance then why change them at all!” The short answer is…the sanctuary is us, not the building where we meet! We are the body, the building of Christ – not the location of the brick and mortar. Will calling our meeting place a “sanctuary” help? If it does, we have sadly misunderstood what it means to be a follower of Christ. If the only place we revere and honor God is in our meeting place, how is God pleased? I know you believe God wants our awe and worship all the time, not just on Sundays at a “sanctuary”. Since you believe that, why are you perpetuating the notion that we will somehow magically worship God better by naming our auditorium a sanctuary? If that really helps somebody, I’d have to say that is a shallow response. And I’m certainly not attempting to offend.

    Honestly, I believe all of this is a knee-jerk reaction to PDL. You have such a disdain for that movement that anything that smells like PDL gets a thumbs down from you. Come on, your a very bright, thoughtful guy. Look at things honestly, not just through PDL glasses.
    Billy

  8. Brandon,
    In rereading my last reply, it sounds kinda ugly. I apologize for that if that is what you understand. I didn’t mean to be that way, but I am passionate about that. Sometimes, my passion turns into sin. Perhaps it did here as well. For that, I apologize.

    One more thing…if calling a building a sanctuary helps us worship, would wearing a suit and tie promote worship? I know some who think like that, and it is a grievesome thing. We are a Humpty-Dumpty church…we’ve got lots of broken folks who need God to put them back together. Some of them own no suits and few dresses. We had a couple leave our Easter service last year because they felt they were underdressed, even though I never wear a coat or tie. The saddest part of all is that we are convinced they are lost.

    I know this isn’t part of your post, but in my mind it addresses the same symptom as “auditorium vs. sanctuary” – form rather than reality. Thanks for letting me put it into words.

  9. Mr. Edwards,
    First of all, I wasn’t offended by your 2nd reply in the least – unless you were dripping with sarcasm when you called me bright and thoughtful 😉

    I think Perhaps you are looking at this issue inversely from the way I am. You say calling an auditorium a sanctuary will not magically cause us to worship God better. I agree with you. But this is not the case I am making. We are calling the sanctuary an auditorium because our view of God has changed. It is a heart issue. It is a theological issue. We want to bring God down to our level so we won’t have to feel uncomfortable beneath the majesty of his holiness. Changing the name back to sanctuary won’t solve the problem. Changing our hearts by proclaiming the fullness of God’s character will. An auditorium is about amusement, a sanctuary is about God’s glory. Do you agree with Dr. Lawson’s statement about our view of God being the primary factor in having a healthy church?

  10. Brandon,
    I know this will come as a shock to your system, but…I agree 100% with Dr. Lawson’s statement!

    You say that the case you are making has nothing to do with what we call the place where we gather to worship, but rather out attitude about God is primary. Now, I”m not the brightest bulb in the package, but your post sure does seem to indicate that that is precisely your point.

    Dr. Lawson says, “The church will never rise any higher than her lofty view of God.” Here, here. But as we both know, the church is not the building!

    Your words, “an auditorium is about amusement, a sanctuary is about God’s glory.” On the surface, that sounds right. But 2 points: 1) that would preclude worship in a barn, office building, school auditorium, etc. I contend that is utter nonsense! (Did the magi not worship?) We need to educate our people on what worship really is, convince them of the necessity of a high view of God. We don’t need to say “sanctuary” and hope they get it! 2) that kind of thinking leads folks to think that worship can only occur when we gather and when a certain building, set totally apart for that purpose, is used. Again, that makes no sense biblically or historically.

    For centuries, most believer in the world worshipped in a home. Today, in China, India, even the US, that still happens. Are you saying those folks have a low view of God because their living room isn’t called a sanctuary?

    And again, what about baptism. Taking your logic to that arena, we would need water set apart for baptism, nothing else. We would need clothes set apart for worship, nothing else. What if we used the “sanctuary” for a business meeting…would we then need to build another “sanctuary”? There could be no end to this thinking.

    You said, “We are calling the sanctuary an auditorium because our view of God has changed. It is a heart issue. It is a theological issue. We want to bring God down to our level so we won’t have to feel uncomfortable beneath the majesty of his holiness.” So, are you assuming that people who worship in an auditorium or a barn or outside or in a home have a low view of God? And your evidence for that is…
    Billy

  11. “I know this will come as a shock to your system, but…I agree 100% with Dr. Lawson’s statement!”

    …I’m speechless; please give me a moment to regain my composure 😉

    “You say that the case you are making has nothing to do with what we call the place where we gather to worship, but rather out attitude about God is primary. Now, I’m not the brightest bulb in the package, but your post sure does seem to indicate that that is precisely your point.”

    I said I wasn’t making a case that simply changing the name of our place of worship back to a sanctuary will magically transform our view of God, but that our view of God will transform our place of worship. That is really my whole point in the article, though I realize I took a mighty long winding (read: long-winded) road to get there.
    “Your words, “an auditorium is about amusement, a sanctuary is about God’s glory.” On the surface, that sounds right. But 2 points: 1) that would preclude worship in a barn, office building, school auditorium, etc. I contend that is utter nonsense! (Did the magi not worship?) We need to educate our people on what worship really is, convince them of the necessity of a high view of God. We don’t need to say “sanctuary” and hope they get it! 2) that kind of thinking leads folks to think that worship can only occur when we gather and when a certain building, set totally apart for that purpose, is used. Again, that makes no sense biblically or historically.”

    Point 1: Let me first say I have never made the assertion that believers aren’t free to worship God wherever they may find themselves. Secondly, a barn is constructed for whatever purpose barns are built for, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be used for worship if circumstances call for it. You are trying to turn my arguments into a form of legalism, which I would never prescribe.
    Point 2: Where have I ever implied worship can only happen in a sanctuary? How does using the term sanctuary impose such sanctions upon people? Did the church anywhere in history ever have such difficulties when they called their places of worship a sanctuary?

    “For centuries, most believer in the world worshipped in a home. Today, in China, India, even the US, that still happens. Are you saying those folks have a low view of God because their living room isn’t called a sanctuary?”

    I’m aware of this. Again a home is constructed for us to live in, not for the express purpose of worshiping God. Big difference there. However, we can worship there and should at all times. God calls us to be holy. Our homes should be holy. This in itself sanctifies and consecrates the house to God. It becomes ‘Holy to the Lord.” It is no longer a place for the common and profane. A believer’s home should be different from an unbeliever’s home, don’t you think?

    “And again, what about baptism. Taking your logic to that arena, we would need water set apart for baptism, nothing else. We would need clothes set apart for worship, nothing else. What if we used the “sanctuary” for a business meeting…would we then need to build another “sanctuary”? There could be no end to this thinking.”

    Let me ask you this; Do you think a baptismal should be used for staff to take baths in? Do you think that would be appropriate? Water is water, but the water we put in a baptismal tank is now set apart for a specific holy purpose. A church building is constructed from common everyday materials, the same materials as your local bar is built from. However, the building is set apart specifically for God’s purposes and his glory. We should act accordingly within. Do you ever refer to the church building as God’s house? If so, why don’t you call the worship room a sanctuary? Please look again for the definition of sanctuary (and holy) in the article. If you don’t call it God’s house, whose house is it?

    “You said, “We are calling the sanctuary an auditorium because our view of God has changed. It is a heart issue. It is a theological issue. We want to bring God down to our level so we won’t have to feel uncomfortable beneath the majesty of his holiness.” So, are you assuming that people who worship in an auditorium or a barn or outside or in a home have a low view of God? And your evidence for that is…”

    No, I don’t assume that. What goes on inside an auditorium, a barn or a house will clue me in on their view of God. Many churches have bowed their knee to the great god, Entertainment; showing movie clips, staging hip-hop and hard rock concerts, preaching explicit how-to sex sermons where children are not allowed, etc. etc. ad nauseum. These things are all done to feed our flesh. This results in the diminishing of God’s glory. And after all isn’t bringing God glory the chief end of man?

  12. Brandon, I think you made some wonderful assessements. It is true that the things once thought of as scared are now thought of as common. The changing of the name where we offer worship to the great I am, the Almighty, Lord of Lights, the Most High,the creator, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob does matter. These are names of our provider and our maker. Change these names and we change the meaning of who we are talking about. To those who think changing the name of where we offer our Worship does not matter or changing a name does not make the things of God cmmon this is what I have to say, Remember that every word that you say you will be held accountable. If God put so much value on the words we say does it not make sense that what we called the place where we offer our thankfulness matter. What does a sanctuary (light) have in common with auditorium (darkness).

  13. Thank you so much for this article. I was beginning to think I was not thinking clearly. I just saw on Facebook where someone from our church had posted a picture of a football game that was being fed on the large screen of our worship center (that’s what our sanctuary is termed). I know it was on off-hours, but I still think that the sanctuary/worship center should be set apart for worship only. It’s where we come to worship a holy God. People just seem to think that anything goes anymore. I’m assuming this is due to ignorance. I’ve also been in the back of the church on Sundays, where the ushers are speaking in normal to loud voices during the worship music and even during the PRAYER! I do not mean to call out my brothers and sisters in Christ or to sound judgmental, but my heart truly is burdened for how folks are approaching our Holy God. Perhaps I sound like a Pharisee. I suppose all I can do is focus on my own heart and ensure that I am approaching Him in a pure, holy, true, right way.

  14. You make the excellent point that the holiness of God fills His people and we are His Sanctuary. When they move in His holiness fills the room. I agree.

    But, I disagree that the building itself is a holy place to be set apart only for God’s dwelling. He goes with us, His sanctuary. So, when we have no building, is God’s sanctuary absent? When we gather to praise and worship in a home, is it less holy. When a historic and beautiful “sanctuary” burns to the ground, is God’s holiness limited or affected at all. No.

    The problem with terminilogy and attaching God to lumber and brick is that people begin to worship and serve facilities. When building a holy “sanctuary” it requires tremendous amounts of cash, icons and decorations to be worthy of being a holy place. The temple was holy solely because it was God’s dwelling place. The sanctuary, with the holy of holies, was not accessible to the common man. The temple was destroyed for a second time in 70 AD.

    Did it limit God? No, by then He had moved out to indwell the hearts of man, His new sanctuary.

    Terminology is important. So many churches worship their buildings and serve them at the expense of expanding the gospel. Every item in a “sanctuary” becomes an item of contention and squabble when churches look to move things or redecorate. My current church could use a video screen but has no place to mount one because, when lowered, it would cover the decorative cross at the from. It is anathema to block the cross even to display scripture or make teaching more effective.

    Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary … I am thankful when a church meets in a coffee house that God’s presence moves with them. In the back room of a restaurant? There too. In a school gym? Yes. Movie theater? Yes.

    I am so thankful that God does not reside in a building anymore so that we do not have to go for visits. I believe calling our meeting room a sanctuary lessens what the true sanctuary used to be and causes confusion.

  15. Just as a thought, if the temple (a building), or house of prayer isn’t important, why was Jesus angry about what was going on in the temple? Jesus said that this was a “House of Prayer” and should not have inappropriate behavior going on in it. It was a place that was set apart, a sanctuary and it was being profaned or made common.

    If we have a place for our church to meet for worship, Is it not our modern day “temple” or “sanctuary”?

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