not a typo, but unbiblical teaching

I am normally a fan of all things Southern Baptist.  I even preach from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB…”Hard-Core Southern Baptist”).  I have been troubled by something that continues to appear in the Sunday Literature from Lifeway that my pre-school children have been using.  The literature continues to talk about the Temple in the Old Testament and use the word “church” instead of Temple.  At first I used to think it was semantics.  Until I really started to understand what the church is (and is not) and what the Temple is.

I know, you have to teach children at their level.  I understand that.  Can’t we teach children what the Temple really was?  Why must we call it a “church” for simplicity sake?  Many people (myself included) are troubled at statistics which tell us more and more young people are dropping out of church after high school.  Maybe it is because we don’t teach them the truth?

In the Old Testament the Temple was the place where God dwelt.  Yes, they understood that He was everywhere, but if you wanted to be near God, you had to go to the Temple.  It was a special building that God Himself designed and gave the people the blueprint.  There was no other building like the Temple.  God’s people had unusual reverance for the building.  In the New Testament, believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  1 Cor. 6:19 is clear on this matter.  When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in you.  You are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  God’s people used to go to the Temple to offer sacrifices to the Lord, but Jesus is our sacrifice once for all.  We don’t need to go to a building and slaughter one of our animals.

The church is a whole other matter.  In the New Testament the “church” never means a building.  The church is never a “place” it is always “people”  We are the church.  For that matter we are the Temple as well (that may be the only similarity!)  When we begin to think of our church building as an equal to the Temple of the Old Testament, we are thinking unbiblically.  When we teach our children that the Church where they have their Sunday School class is just like the Temple in the Old Testament, we are teaching them unbiblical things.  I would go as far to say that we are teaching them harmful things.

When the church building is seen as the Temple it reinforces our cultural idea that there is something special about the building we use on Sunday.  It is a subtle way of making the children think they have to act differently at church because it is “God’s House” (did He ever give us the blueprint for it?)  We do more for our children when we teach them what the Temple was, and that they are the Temple.  It will give them more respect for their own bodies.  In fact, Paul is speaking in 1 Cor. 6 about not sleeping with prostitutes at the pagan temples.  He says not to join your body (the temple of the Holy Spirit) with the prostitutes.  We need to teach our young people that their body belongs to the Lord, He dwells there!  We also need to teach them that the place where we worship on Sundays is only a building.  It is not mandated by God.  It is amazing that the church got along so well for 300 years without their own buildings!  We would do well with that today!  How many billions of dollars have we spent on our buildings, stained glass windows, steeples, and pews that get used for a couple of hours each week!!  Many believers know the frustration in their churches when people will spend tens of thousands of dollars to pretty-up our buildings while we have to squeeze out a few thousand to help people hear the Gospel.

If we continue to teach young ones that the Temple is a church, what will we say when they ask where we are to sacrifice, or ceremonially wash, or where are the places that only the priests (pastors) can go?  We have to correct them on these matters.  It seems to me that it would be easier to explain thing correctly from the start.

Author: Jon Glass

Jesus Christ has made all the difference

10 thoughts on “not a typo, but unbiblical teaching”

  1. Amen. Were we to teach children their bodies are Gods Holy Temple, they would think twice about alot of things that they do with their bodies. They would act like they are in “church” when they are in the Walmart. It’s far easier to teach the truth the first time than try to un-teach fallacies. No matter what “good” intentions.

  2. Well said Jon. Just think of the money that could be saved and used for missions (local or Ethiopia or where ever) if the Sunday Literature was not purchased. What would we use in its place? Why not the Bible? What other untruths might we be teaching in Sunday School? Thanks for being so open and truthful.

    1. We Southern Baptists hold to Verbal Plenary Inspiration (every word of the Bible was God-Breathed), yet we don’t teach straight from it in most of our Sunday School classes. We teach from the quarterly with a few verses thrown in along the way.

  3. One of the big things I took from my class last semester was that the Bible is the curriculum, the quarterly is just the supplement….too many times the Bible isn’t cracked open.

    Children have wild imaginations and using the correct words is essential which makes me nervous sometimes! One of the underlying thoughts above being that since people are the temple today we are to live each day the same…not just Sundays etc…..for me growing up my small mind saw church as one thing and it didn’t carry over to Monday through Saturday. I saw Monday through Saturday as life and Sunday as a “recharge.” Which then makes me realize how much the worldly flesh has overtaken humanity and Christians as well that we become so preoccupied with our daily “duties” that we forget the one important share the love of Christ in every aspect of our life…

    I will stop rambling….looking forward to the future!

  4. In LifeWay preschool resources, we are laying foundations for preschoolers to understand biblical concepts. We want our resources to help boys and girls understand what the Bible teaches and develop a foundation for future understanding. Preschoolers are concrete thinkers and understand new concepts based on their own experiences. In teaching biblical concepts, we seek to choose words that help them understand the meaning behind stories and verses in the Bible. We use words like “church” with younger preschoolers because they are beginning to understand that church is a place we come to learn about God. We use words like “temple” and “synagogue” in kindergarten resources (and introduce them to 3s, 4s and pre-kindergartners), and define those words as places similar to a church where people learn about and worship God. Also in the kindergarten year, we introduce the idea that church means more than a place. As children grow (into grades 1-6), LifeWay’s resources are designed to develop the concepts further; they can learn the differences between the Temple and the New Testament church (and that church is not just a place, but a people). Our “Levels of Biblical Learning” delineate further age level concepts. (This document can be found on our Web site at

    I’m glad we share a commitment to teaching preschoolers the true and eternal concepts in the Bible. I’ll pray for your ministry and I hope you will pray for us as we continually evaluate our resources and strive to make them biblically sound and appropriate for each age group to fully understand.

    1. Scott,

      Thanks for taking a moment to read my post and share some insight from Lifeway’s perspective. As you mention on the website, the Parents are the primary teachers. Hopefully our adults in church can explain to their children the difference between the Temple and the Church.


  5. Jon,

    I, too, agree with Ed J and Dave Black.

    For years, I have wondered why some churches use ‘Quarterlies’ and some don’t. I’ve often thought that those Quarterlies were someone else’s view of Scripture instead of God’s view. The Bible should be the ONLY book we use to teach our children God’s Holy Word.

  6. Jon,
    Thank you for your well stated comments regarding the definition of the “church” versus “temple” and their relationship to our time and place in God’s plan. I also share that it is important not to add or take away from God’s Holy Word. That is not to say we are forbidden from attempting to explain, express or share understanding of His Word by paraphasing, sharing analogies, stories, etc; in other words, teaching.
    On the other hand, as one who supports Lifeway, I do strongly suggest to Scott and the Lifeway staff that the present decision to interchange the words “church” and “temple” be reconsidered, and changed. This is not the same process as God’s unfolding, revealing revelation of knowledge.It simply is error. Children learn and absorb at all ages. It is easier to teach rightly than unteach the wrong.
    Unfortunately many adult students (and leaders) in our churches do not understand or comprehend this or many other important precepts because the Bible is not the first source of information; and in too many instances not even a reference source. If the adults fail to get it right, what can we expect from our children taught wrongly?

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