The church is not a building…the church is not a building…the church is not a building. If I had a penny for every time I heard this phrase, I would have a lot of pennies. Of course, it takes a boatload of pennies to actually have any money, so that is not much to brag about. Maybe I should say quarters instead. Anyway, the reality is true. Christians and church leaders are great about preaching the ekklesia, or church, is not a building, but we all need to go ahead and be real with ourselves…we do believe the church is a building. A philosophy I believe to be true is this: actions supersede words. Someone can tell me whatever they want, but their actions are going to reflect what they actually believe and value. You can tell me you care about the poor, but if you do not DO anything to care for the poor, you do not care about the poor. You can tell me you care about discipleship, but if you are not doing anything to disciple others, you do not care about discipleship. Get it?
We say the church is not a building, but at the end of the day, our actions reflect something different. I had a conversation with someone recently, and our conversation was centered around an opportunity I had to worship with a church in Nashville that meets in a bar. It was a powerful experience for Tiffani and I, but this individual could not believe I would worship God in a bar. “I mean there is alcohol and filth and sin all in that place. You think God honors that?” Either the church is a building or it is not.
I heard another story recently of a youth group that was on a mission trip in a foreign country. Each night they had a time of singing and a devotional together. Well, in the location where they were staying, there was an old Catholic building. Some of the group thought it would be a neat experience to worship in the building, but the plan was foiled because a few of the leaders did not feel comfortable singing songs to God in a Catholic building. Either the church is a building or it is not.
How many times have you uttered phrases like this, “I can not believe Jack or Jill said that in the church building.” “I can not believe Jimmy stole that Bible from the church building.” “Do not lie in the church building.” I will be honest, I would be elated if I never heard a comment like that again because it only serves to further re-enforce what is true…the church is a building. We can say what we want. We can preach what we want, but our actions are screaming something different. I have been thinking about this recently:
What if we pursued righteousness and holiness outside of the church building the same way we do inside of it?
I will tell you what would happen…we would look much more like God than we do. Think about the movies you watch and the music you listen to. Would you listen to that garbage inside of the church building on Sunday morning? Think about the way you speak and act around other people at work or school. Would you act that way inside the church building on Sunday morning? What if we practiced church building righteousness outside of the church building? If we actually carried out the theology we hold about the church, maybe people in the world would take us more seriously. As it is, they see us on Monday-Saturday acting one way and having no real desire for God, then they walk into our assemblies on Sunday and see something completely different. Why? Because the church is a building. It is more holy than any other place. Shame on us.
Now, I am not diminishing the power of grace and the fact that all followers of Jesus are in desperate need of God’s grace daily, hourly. The church must live under a cloud of grace. We have no hope otherwise. I am not talking about being something you are not or pursuing external righteousness with no internal change. I am talking about a complete disconnect between Monday-Saturday and Sunday. I am talking about saying one thing and doing another. If Paul and Peter were with us today, I believe they would be infuriated by our view of church. They would think it was hypocrisy. To them the church was never a building. It was never a place. It was never a destination. The church was and is the people of God, the ekklesia. We need to start practicing the theology we preach. Actions supersede words. Either the church is a building or it is not.