Baobab trees tower over the countryside, reaching one-hundred feet tall with trunks up to thirty-six feet in diameter. Thirty-six feet… Growing all over the African continent, I’ve seen the huge trees in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique. There’s a very special baobab tree just outside of Tete, Mozambique.
In Mozambique, Carla and I were doing hut to hut, person to person evangelism outside a village where tiny thatch-roofed homes were scattered across the landscape and separated by winding footpaths. We’d done the same thing in other areas. There, when we had shared the Gospel, we’d encourage our new friends to go to the church in the village. In this area, though, there was no church… or rather, there was no church building. In this area, we told folks about God’s people who met regularly under the baobab tree.
When the sun was blazing, the baobab tree provided shade. When it was drizzling rain, the huge canopy of leaves provided shelter. And always, when the church worshipped under the baobab tree, God was glorified.
It reminded me of Philippi, where the minimal population of Jewish immigrants didn’t warrant a synagogue. They didn’t have a building, so they met on the banks of the Gangites River.
After seeing the vision of the Macedonian urging the missionaries to cross the Aegean Sea for northern Greece, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke headed for “Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of the district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for several days. On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there. A God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying”(Acts 16:12–15).
Lydia was saved, not by walking down the carpeted aisle at First Church and coming to the altar in a climate-controlled church building. She was saved by grace through faith in the resurrected Jesus while sitting on a rock on the banks of the river.
After Pentecost, the earliest church in Jerusalem met in a covered walkway called Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 3:11; 5:12). They didn’t have a building with pews and a steeple, so the met where they could.
Our dear friends at Tradewind Community Church have discovered that owning a building isn’t necessary. They are growing and glowing as a new church, while meeting first in a school cafeteria and now in an event venue called “The Shop.”
In fact, South Georgia Baptist Church has a similar story. Fifty-nine years ago, in 1964, our church was constituted before it owned a building. Our forerunners met for a time in the cafetorium at South Georgia Elementary School.
I’m grateful for our building. It’s a great place to meet. We don’t gather in a school or under a tree. But I’m ever more grateful for God’s people… the church.