My husband and I have been involved in full-time ministry for 25 years. We have spent the majority of our married life (30 years in September) wrapped up in ‘the church’ on a staff of some kind – small churches and large.
Some church structures were very modest and simple – others were big and elaborate.
Last night we were reflecting on this subject in our small group. Some of us grew up thinking that ‘the church’ was a building – a sanctuary that looked a certain way – where you came on Sunday and met with other people to worship. We believed that God dwelled there and this was where people went to meet with Him. Some of us remember growing up in this ‘building’ called church. Remember the emphasis put upon that building and even the years in striving to have a bigger better one in order to reach more people.
There’s nothing wrong with a beautiful building. I love them! But it’s when we lose sight of what’s really important and put all our energies into creating, maintaining and supporting a structure we may miss the real heart of what Christ intended for ‘the church’ to be all about. It’s about people. It’s about relationship. We can forget to meet the needs of those that the church was created for – we can get it backwards if we’re not careful – where the church building becomes the emphasis instead of people.
We now belong to a small church that meets in a junior high building. It is rolled in and set up before service and then torn down and rolled out – every week. It is so surreal. Years of building and striving – and then finding ourselves in a completely different set of circumstances – back to basics – keeping the main thing – the main thing. And we have found that we did not really give anything up. It’s not about the building – it is about the simplicity of people meeting together – building relationships and continuing to build them throughout the week – doing life and sharing our journey with others. It is about making a difference, influencing others and living in such a way that they will be drawn to what we have – and who we are – without the frills and comforts of a ‘building’. It is there in that simplicity that we have found that He has really spoken to us – and we have found ‘church’ again in the people who have poured their lives into something they believe in.
And if the truth be told – the ‘church’ is people – it’s not a building. And it is a revelation for some of us to find that God still prefers to reveal Himself in ordinary, unassuming people – who are open as vessels that He can pour Himself through in order to bless others. In fact – it’s mind blowing.
The ‘church’ is not a building – it is in fact…us.
What did you grow up thinking or believing? Did you feel that God inhabited a building structure and that it was sacred ground? Would you find it a shift in thinking to understand that God is not impressed with that – but that He wants your heart instead? Do you believe that He inhabits the praises of His people and dwells there? If a building was stripped away from you – would you lose your identity? Your reason for doing ‘church’? Or is ‘the church’ really inside of who you are? Does it dwell in you and others around you? Would your relationship still be solid without those things and familiar surroundings you hold dear? Would those around you know about your faith – even if you didn’t belong to a physical building structure?
You and I are instructed to be the church to those around us that are lost and dying. We may be all they have to hang onto – their only glimpse into who the Father is and what He is saying. They may never enter a church ‘building’ – but if they have a relationship with you – they will have been to church. And they will see Christ – building – or no building.