Floor Plans are a common part of a sales brochure for homes today. Each room is drawn in and labeled. The schematic shows where you would eat, relax, and sleep. Now imagine a similar floor plan for an old Church. It sits in the Churchyard, at the front is a small entry foyer. The foyer opens into the main area where the people sit and at the front is a platformed area, where the Pulpit and the Communion Table are located.
It is interesting to note and ponder the names given to the parts of a Church building. These names are rarely used today, but they are unique with amazing meanings.
The Entry is often called the Vestibule, but its real name is Narthex. A vestibule is actually a storeroom in a Church Building. In Classical Greek, the narthex was the name given to a whip, that a person used on themselves. In modern Greek, it means a brace for an injured limb. The use of the term is bought across into Church architecture and it was traditionally the place where scoundrels and unconverted souls could come to hear the Word of God.
Sadly many people are happy being ‘narthex Christians’. They are John 3:16 believers. They know that God loves them and they know they are forgiven. But like the scoundrels of old, sin still has its grip on their hearts. They have decided to be Christian in name, perhaps saying a well-memorized prayer before a meal, sending up a plea in times of trouble, and turning up to Church on Sunday, that is if there is nothing better happening.
The main part of the Church is called the Nave. It is where the people sit. The origin of this word is Latin and it means ‘ship’. Hence a fleet of ships is a ‘navy’. Here the idea is that the Church brings souls into the presence of God, the people being her cargo. It also fits with the concept that we are carried through the storms of life by the Church.
The nave is where most Christians will be found. They have grasped the basics of the faith. They are committed to the local Church. They can be called upon for special events and will even go onto some rosters. Not only do they trust God for their salvation, they also seek to be Christian in their values and beliefs. They are Matthew 7:24 Christians. They have built their lives upon the rock of God’s Word.
The front of the Church is known as the Sanctuary because the Communion Table is there. Traditionally the sanctuary is separated from the nave by a kneeling rail, where the people would kneel and receive communion. In later Methodist tradition, it was here that people would kneel to seek the Lord.
Sanctuary Christians wrestle with the Holy. They are not content simply to be part of the Church, they want the presence of God in their lives. They struggle with every deviation away from purity. For these folk, there is no such thing as a small sin. It was our sin that sent Jesus to the Cross. Therefore, even the smallest of sins is foul and to be despised. These are Luke 9:23 Christians. These people take up their cross daily, following Jesus and dying to themselves.
As a Pastor, I have an image of such a Church layout in my mind. I see the names of those associated with the local Church and I seek to understand where they are in the Church. Are they inquirers standing in the Narthex, wondering if they should come in? Are they happy just sitting in the pews of the Nave, content for the Church to take them to Heaven? Or are they kneeling at the Sanctuary Rail, seeking the face of God? Each precious soul I need to bring closer to the holy place. Where are you in the Church? Are you ready to move forward, ever closer to the heart of God?