We saw in Part 2 that, according to the NT model and mindset, the term church never referred to a physical location or building. We saw that permanent physical worship facilities were non existent in the early church for multiple reasons. That brings us to the following point: we must allow the Holy Spirit to re-establish the biblical meaning of church in our heart and mind.
In the NT, we are introduced to a plethora of terms used by the Holy Spirit to communicate the meaning of what church is. These terms reflect various images and thoughts which force us out of our natural perception and into the understanding and intention of God’s heart. Here is a list of some of the words the authors of the New Testament used to convey the Holy Spirit’s meaning of church. Let us reflect and pray over them as we ask the Lord to open our hearts to see His heart. This can be dangerous…but it will also be liberating!
- Body (1Cor. 12:12-27)
- Field/Garden (1Cor. 3:6-9)
- Branches (John 15:5)
- Sheep (John 10:11)
- Priesthood (1Pet. 2:5)
- Seed (Mark 4:30-32)
- Temple (1Cor. 3:16)
- House (Heb. 3:6; 1Pet. 2:5)
- Stones (1Pet. 2:5)
Every time we take a look at the passages describing the church, it always has an organic meaning. Even when the church is described in non-organic terms such as buildings or stones, the writer was careful to mention that believers are living stones and make up a spiritual house. (1Pet.2:5) Just in case his audience would miss it, Peter makes sure they see that the new building is not a natural one…it is a spiritual one!
There is no way to avoid it…we (people) are God’s building. Therefore, we have to pray and search through the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to detox our thinking from the modern view of Church. This reformation of understanding will conclude with this simple fact: Church is us! We do not go to church at a location, we take the church to a location. A refresher course through the book of Hebrews would do wanders to help westernized believers see the biblical meaning God’s temple, priesthood and family. We are the “Church of the Firstborn.” (Heb. 12:23)
Buildings, facilities, steeples, family life centers and cathedrals are instilled in our mind since our youth as defining what church is. Our conversation frequently involves several statements: I’m going to church. See you next week at church. Are you going to church? What time does church start? Where is your church? Until we see how our western thinking does not reflect the biblical model and how it can be devastating to God’s mission, we will continue to be frustrated with the question, “How do we reach people with the Gospel?” This is not a diatribe against our conversation style by parsing words and creating shackled or legalistic usages of terms. Rather, it is a call for us to actually, in our heart, understand God’s purpose for being the church.
Our post christian culture is increasingly becoming turned off with the parade of buildings and elaborate facilities while families and people are falling through the cracks. Thanks to the false prophets who live and promote the prosperity gospel, many in our culture have the idea that all church wants is your money to build an empire for a man or group. It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.
Our facilities are not, in and of themselves, the problem. Our substitution of them as the church is. However, when we embrace the fleshly and ostentatious decorum we see today into our facilities, it becomes a major problem. We’ve robbed God’s mission of the capability to sacrifice for the apostolic work of church planting by wasting resources and becoming enslaved to bank notes and facility overhead. We’ve missed the mark and the heart of God. How many churches could we plant, how many teams could we support and how many people could we reach if we repented of the fleshly excesses within our facilities?
I personally know of a local church, in Mississippi, which built a 14 million dollar facility for a congregation of 500. That is $28,000 per person! You think this is a waste? Could it be more than waste? Could this actually be sin? Is it idolatry? Yes, yes, yes and yes! How many church planters could have been supported with this waste of finances? How many hurting people could have been helped and reached with the gospel? Instead, we have men with large egos building unnecessary facilities to feed their insecurity and need to feel and appear important.
We must rethink what we call Church and get a biblical view, or we will lose another generation by continuing to misrepresent the heart of Jesus!
What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Why?