Recovering Church as Sanctuary

by E.L. Anglin

In my adolescence Christians referred to the main meeting room of a church as "the sanctuary." Over the past few decades I've noticed the term has been replaced with "auditorium" or "campus."

An auditorium is a place where performances are given. "Campus" refers to the physical grounds of an entity - historically a college or university. "Sanctuary," on the other hand, refers to a safe place, a haven, a refuge.

Any gathering of Christians should engender a feeling of security. This is why we often tell non-Christians to "Come as you are." The concept expressed is that believers, and the place they gather, are sanctuary.

In a sanctuary fellowship is based upon a shared desire to come near to Jesus, not one's economic status, ethnicity or clothing style.

-In a sanctuary externals are minimized, community promoted.

-In a sanctuary abuse is unwelcome, as are the words and weapons of war.

-In a sanctuary healing flows.

-In a sanctuary there are times when no words need to be spoken, it's enough to feel safe.

Far too often religion invites the hurting to "Come as you are" only to change the expectations at a later date. "Come as you are" morphs to "You're not separate enough, holy enough, and/or good enough." At that point sanctuary is shattered. Abuse enters what was a safe place.

Far too often the message of the church is exclusive instead of inclusive, self-aggrandizing instead of humble. Church becomes nothing more than an auditorium where religious performance is celebrated and a campus where people are indoctrinated.

Jesus did not come to promote religion, He came to "seek and save the lost." Luke 19:10

To seek is to include. That action implies approachability. Openness.

We never see Jesus excluding people based upon their performance or obedience to rules. The only time we see Him angry is when the uber religious block access to God.

While the term "sanctuary" may now be archaic, its meaning must remain relevant. Join yourself with groups who promote wholeness. Refuse to promote movements that use their standards, or God's, as weapons.

The concept of sanctuary is best expressed in the mission statement of Jesus from Luke 4:18.

"The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,"

Sanctuary is not prison, it's cathedral.
Sanctuary is not a courtroom, it's liberty.


This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.


Page added February 28, 2015

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