Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Church, The Building

Bible study this morning brought up a number of thoughts for me. I'm going to write more than one entry about it because they don't all exactly go together.

I've been thinking already and for some time now about what the church is really supposed to be. As near as I can tell the church is supposed to be a community of people who believe in Jesus and who love and care for each other out of the overflow of Jesus love for them and their love for Jesus. This outpouring of love should be so powerful that it calls others to Christ. We need to be walking, talking, living vessels of God's love in our interactions with each other and everyone else. I think sometimes the Church Building gets in the way. We spend lots and lots and lots of time and energy on the building, not to mention our finances.

I'm conflicted about The Building. God's temple was certainly a building of great expense, extravagance, and beauty. It was the house of God, after all, a holy place, the place where people brought their sacrifice and encountered the God of Creation.

I don't see the New Testament Christians commanded to build a temple, though. The New Testament speaks of our bodies as the temple and the collection of believers as the body of Christ. What we know of the early Christians is that they met in homes. It isn't clear if they met in other building, which became Church Buildings. We know that they were commanded to hold their possessions in common and take care of each other, so that none would be poor and needy.

So, what does it mean when a small group of believers gets together and prays and grows into a large church. And then they build a building, and they pray for the finances to make the place big enough and beautiful, and the finances appear, and we have these huge beautiful churches. Is that God's plan? I heard one of those stories this morning. People give testimonies of God providing for these things. Is it really God's provision? Is it really God's plan? Who am I to question their testimony, their faith that God provided this for them?

And, of course, I am grateful for the things that a large church can provide...space for Bible studies and children's church, clothing and food shelves, after school programs. When we pool our resources we can help more people, do more things.

So, where is the balance?

Where is the close community of believers who love each other, who know and pray for each other? So often community gets lost in the big church building.

Are we spending so much money on the building that we cannot help those who are poor, sick, in need?

And how can we invite people who don't know Jesus to church on Sunday morning? What do they receive from a Sunday morning service? There is so little actual personal interaction. Everyone is so perfectly dressed, so perfectly behaved. The service is so ordered and pretty. I know there are churches that aren't like this. I'm not talking about them. I just believe they're few and far between. I believe that the collective Church has lost the vision and sacrificed it for buildings and programs.

What can I do? Jesus, help me. I want to know you. I want others to know you. I want your love and your peace to burn like candles in every window in every house on every street in every city in every state and country around the world. I can complain about the church forever, but I'm spinning my wheels. What can I DO?

Here I am. Send me.

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