Church as Building and Environment

Christians don’t grow as well on their own, but their growth is enhanced when they are interacting with other believers in a family of faith. Let us consider two examples of famous church environments and considering the implications of church as place.

Arguably the most magnificent church standing today is the Sistine Chapel. Compare it with the descriptions of the beautiful temple Solomon built in 1 Kings 5–7. Compare these two magnificent buildings to our modern churches.

Sistine Chapel

Dimensions: 134 feet by 44 feet. The vaulted ceiling is 68 feet high. There are six windows down each side and two at each end. The dimensions match those recorded for Solomon’s Temple.

The pavement uses a decorative style, using marble and colored stone. The ceiling was painted by Michelangelo in a series of nine paintings showing God’s creation of the world, God’s relationship to humankind, and humanity’s fall from grace. The work was done between 1508 and 1511.

Raphael was commissioned to design ten tapestries to hang around the lower tier of the walls. The original tapestries were stolen, but replacements have been made. The work
on the original tapestries was done in Brussels and began in 1515. It took the weavers four years to complete the work. The wall paintings were created by the most respected artists of the fifteenth century. The first mass was celebrated in the Sistine Chapel in 1483, and the church has been functioning as a place of worship ever since.

Solomon’s Temple

Floors and wainscots were manufactured from the cedars of Lebanon. Walls and floors were overlaid with gold. The temple contained two cherubim1 created from olive wood, each standing ten cubits2 high and measuring ten cubits from wing-tip to wing-tip. They stood side by side, the wings touching each wall, and then touching each other in the center of the room. There was a two-leaved door, overlaid with gold, between the temple and the holy place. There was also a veil of blue, purple, crimson and fine linen.

The holy place was lined with cedar, carved with cherubim, flowers, and palm trees, all overlaid with gold. There was a gold chain that further separated the holy of holies.
The altar, table of showbread, candlesticks, and tools to care for the candlesticks were all made of gold. Even the door hinges were made of gold.

Consider these questions:

1. How might these extraordinary buildings help or have helped people to experience God?

2. In what ways do we find God in our church buildings today, whether grand or simple?

3. In what ways might the grandeur or simplicity of worship surroundings influence the development of spiritual growth—or in what ways might they inhibit it?3


1. Cherubim are a class of winged angels (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

2. A cubit is a traditional measurement, the length of a forearm, about 18 inches.

3. Adapted with permission from the iFollow Discipleship Resource, ©North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.