Ever get one of those ‘I’m done with church’ moments? I guess we all have them. They come from many sources. After all, church is an imperfect place, full of imperfect people, and every now and again we get to the point where we struggle to be in the same building as those who offend us. You know – the sort of people who park on the pavement (sidewalk) when we wouldn’t dream of doing so. But mostly we have our moment and then we shrug it off and go back to our imperfect churches and mix with other imperfect people. Why?
And what ever prompted our ancestors to invest so much into the construction of church buildings, at a time when they were probably living in huts made of mud and straw? I don’t recall reading about a church building programme in Acts. When Peter preached immediately after his Pentecost experience the message wasn’t to go and construct a cathedral to worship God. Peter quoted from the prophet Joel and from David and spoke about the Holy Spirit and Jesus. The end result was 3,000 new followers of Jesus.
In a recent service one of our elders spoke about trips he had made to the US and to China. In the US he seemed to find a church building on every corner, while in China he saw none. My understanding is that the church in China is growing larger and stronger daily but without the hindrance of physical structures. Just like the church did 2,000 years ago. Three thousand new believers in one day should have been a problem for the apostles. Where would they worship? But those 3,000 believers didn’t need a church building because they were the church, just as we are meant to be today.
I remain puzzled, if not a little troubled, about our attachment to church buildings. I recognise the benefits of meeting together to worship God, and the fact that theoretically there is strength in numbers. If only more members meant more volunteers! So is there a problem and what is it? Does God prefer a permanent home on the High Street, or would He rather have many itinerant homes in the hearts of all who love Him? Have we missed something in our church management structures, in our programmes, and in our relationship with the One who the church belongs to? Because isn’t the church supposed to be the bride of Christ?
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for church, for my friends there and the fellowship I enjoy, for the blessing of serving and being served, for the difference church has made in and to the lives of my children, etc., but I don’t need more of church. I need more of God.
We were built by the hands of love
Redeemed in spite of what we’ve done
We are the spirit’s dwelling place
And now, children of the light
Fight back darkness with delight
Lift your eyes up to His face
Let joy take temptation’s place
Joy takes temptation’s place
OPEN UP OUR SOULS TO FEEL YOUR GLORY
LORD, WE ARE A DESPERATE PEOPLE
GOD, FILL THIS SPACE
LET JOY TAKE TEMPTATION’S PLACE
WE WILL TASTE AND SEE YOU AS YOU ARE
Father, let Your kingdom come
Keep us from our lesser loves
Nothing else can satisfy
Like the joy found in Your eyes
There’s joy found inside Your eyes
May we see You as You are
And our hungry souls reach out to whatever fills us up
But we’ll keep on falling down unless we fall in love
Our hungry souls reach out to whatever fills us up
But we keep on falling down until we fall in love
Lord, Lord, Lord
Lyrics to Cathedrals by Tenth Avenue North