When I say the word "Church" what immediately pops into your mind?
Something like this:
Or maybe something like this:
Or perhaps, something like this:
According to Websters you are not too far off. Church is:
"A building for public, especially Christian, worship."
In our dictionary and in the life of our culture, the church is a place where people meet. It is a building where people worship God. It is those walls, stones, pews, and golden crosses that make this building a sacred place to the point that when I say "Church" you think about a building.
However, I don't know how many of you have read the Bible recently (which is after all, where we even got the idea for churches) but Jesus doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to the buildings that we worship in.
There was that time he threw the tables across the temple when folks were selling things inside the holy space. He also talks about the temple being destroyed at the end of time. He makes sure you know that everything of this world will be destroyed except his words which will always live on. Even when Jesus sends his disciples out during the Great Commission he still doesn't give them any instructions about building places of worship or how to use that space. The Apostle Paul maintains that our bodies are the temple of God.So where does this leave us as church-going, building-loving, supposed Jesus followers?
If the word "Christian" is literally birthed from the name "Christ" then we are obviously saying that we follow the words of Jesus Christ written down in this Bible, right? Isn't this what the church maintains is the foundation of those walls and spires, Jesus' own words?
How have we gotten so far off course?
Our churches have too long been fighting over wood, steel, stone and brick. Too long have pews, stained glass windows, gold crosses, lecterns and hymnals been sources of contention that break communities and congregations.
Since when did Jesus say one lick about what sorts of chairs we have to sit in to worship him? When did he recommend that only certain types of flowers or candles be placed in the sanctuary? Did he ever specify if he appreciated scripture being projected on screens?
He just didn't, guys. He didn't.
As soon as you put the Church in a building then you have created a country club. The early church collected offering to serve the poor and keep the widows and children out of destitution while meeting in people's homes or wherever it was safe to gather for a few hours. How many of our churches today take up offering to maintain the space we meet in? Of course these same churches give to the poor and use their space for the betterment of the community, but how often do those churches bend to the demands of their members? How often do members site the amounts of money they have given over the years, the gifts that have brought great things to the building, the powerful voice they SHOULD have because they are third generation supporters of this place? The entitlement that is given authority as soon as you construct a wall around a Church is what makes a church just another club for members only.
The Church that Jesus talked about was not a building and it will never, ever, ever be a building, the Church is a living breathing organism. It is you. It is me. It is in me and in you. It is highly protable. We are the church.
We don't even teach it right to the kiddos. The Church is all those fingers, it is the people! It is us! It is really dangerous to believe that the Church is an inanimate building. That space is empty and meaningless without the lives that inhabit it.
When we gather as the Church and choose to passionately fight for items in our building over living, breathing temples of God's own soul, then we are no longer the Christians that we claim to be. We actually are not the Church at all.
That building can get torn down, that curtain can rip, that window can break but the Church will never die as long as we know that it resides in the people. This is what Jesus said. This is what I believe. I am the Church and my Church is always with me. This is the Church that attracts people. This is the church that fuels, heals, teaches and loves. The Church we should fight for is alive right now and it looks something like this:
Or perhaps this:
Or maybe this: