Recently I was in a conversation about church buildings and it finally came down to the harsh truth that for many of us the church is a building. In fact the building is more sacred than the people. There is a belief that without a building you can’t be the church.
Jesus spent a great deal of his preaching and teaching outdoors, not confined in a building. The reason was that the local synagogue could not hold all those who wanted to hear Jesus. Today many churches are not overcrowded, but under used. All you have to do is look at the churches in Europe to see beautiful buildings that are quite empty when it comes to worship.
I love beautiful churches and I love being in a church that is beautiful inside and out. But the church building (God’s House) is to point us to God, it is not god!
Recently I have watched big box stores like Sears, Yonkers, Toys R Us and others going out of business because they cannot compete with Amazon and other online shopping opportunities. Does this say anything to the church? Do we need to start looking at how we live out our mission as followers of Christ rather than how we keep the doors open?
Jesus’s mission was successful because he went out to the people. The chief Priests and those in the Temple in Jerusalem wanted the people to come to them. Holy places and holy space are essential to our growth in faith. But that doesn’t always mean a building. Children grow in faith were faith is shared at home. Worship doesn’t always need to happen in a building. But worship is critical to our connectedness to God and to one another.
It sounds like I am trying argue myself out of a job. Don’t get me wrong, places of worship are great, sometimes they are by a lake, side of a mountain, in a mall, high school gym, and a chapel in the woods or a grand cathedral. Places of worship are places of worship because first and foremost that’s where God’s People are. “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there!”
I hope and pray that we do not forget that the focus of our worship is the God who calls and gathers us into God presence. I will always remember those holy places where with God’s people I had the privilege celebrating God’s love in worship. Amen!