When the Church Leaves the Building

Yesterday I had the chance to climb to the top of this dome for the third time in my life. IMG_4659

St. Paul’s Cahedral has been standing in one form or another on this spot since 604. It was rebuilt after the great London fire in 1666. It was repaired after being bombed in WW2. It is magnificent.

I love seeing many churches in the U.K. that have remained empty for years, now being refurbished and reclaimed, slowly filling with people – like the plants of Holy Trinity Brompton, where Alpha was started.

We entered into vibrant worship Sunday at St. Luke’s Kentish town – one of these church plants in a reclaimed building.


Nikki Gumbel (pastor at HTB) compares church revitalization to the story of Lazarus being brought back to life:

This passage indirectly provides a picture of hope for the church. There is a sickness in parts of the church and many are declaring its death. Some parts of the church seem to have ‘fallen asleep’ (John 11:11). And in some cases there seems to be a ‘bad odour’ (v.39).

This passage reminds us of Jesus’ power to bring even the dead to life. This resurrection power is still at work in the church today.

The church is not dependent on the building of St. Paul’s, or St. Luke’s or wherever.

Jesus said, “I will build this church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Mt. 16:18

The bottom line is that we are the church.

And something powerful happens when the church leaves the building.

For a season, some mentors of ours, Gordon and Gail MacDonald, were pastoring in New York City.  They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers. The bus drivers were discouraged because they felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry.  Gordon pushed back and suggested:

“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming (while still empty), walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”

The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life.  Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.

For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary.  I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home.  She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets!

Another friend moved to a new home a couple years ago and before painting over the walls of her living room, this is what she wrote:


She and her husband are declaring their home to be a sanctuary where the Lord lives.

The church leaves the building anytime you create a sanctuary in your neighborhood, or office, or on your team, or in your home.

Is there an everyday space that you might pray over and be intentional about making it a sanctuary?


  1. Hi Laura, this is such a timely reminder for me. When my husband and I bought our house, we dedicated it as a refuge, where people can come and be refreshed by the hospitality and the presence of God. My husband regularly prays over the property, asking God to inhabit every area. The number of weary souls that have served over the years, to the glory of God, helps us to be grateful, that despite it’s simplicity, when He is Lord and His Presence is, that is holy ground. Blessings and enjoy the rest of the trip.

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