Imagine people 2000 years from now studying Christianity. What would they say about us? What is important to us? They would have to conclude that buildings are very important to us, and what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is also very important to us. Take away the building and Sunday morning, and some (most?) churches have almost nothing left. Is that what Jesus wanted? Did he want our focus, our worship, our system of church to be on a building and what happens in that building for a few hours one day of the week?
No. In fact, Jesus never mentioned, in all his teaching, anything about building buildings and gathering for worship on Sunday. In Luke 21, after the disciples comment about the majestic temple in Jerusalem, Jesus says something terrifying to them. He tells them that the temple would be destroyed!
Reading between the lines a bit, Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Guys, don’t lose your focus on the mission of my Kingdom!”
The mission of God does not change: make disciples. But the system of church can change and it has numerous times over the centuries. There are certain components to church that must be included. Many have looked over the Scriptures, studied them, and believe that Jesus and his disciples taught that any system of church must have at least these four areas: worship, fellowship, discipleship and outreach. How we express our faithfulness to that mission is quite open for consideration.
What, then, should we do with our building? And what system of church should we have?
The answer starts with heart and attitude. We should not be focused on a building, or a system of church, as these will pass away! Instead we should be focused on being Jesus’ disciples who make more disciples for his kingdom. We should be focused on the mission of his Kingdom.
Here’s the amazing thing about the church. If a church’s buildings are destroyed, it does not affect the church. The church is not the building. The church is the people. We do not need a building to be a church. My Rt 340 widening story might not be true, but disaster can happen. In 2009-10 our sister congregation, Kimball Avenue Church in Chicago, had a one of those disasters. Their boiler exploding sending super-hot water vapor throughout their building, which did serious damage. Their building was condemned.
But Kimball Ave Church did something amazing. They decided not to build again. At least not a building, that is. Instead they decided to use their property to reach out to their community, by making a prayer garden.
Kimball Avenue Church is still a church. Because the people are the church! And what’s more, they kept their focus on the mission of God’s Kingdom when they considered whether or not to rebuild. (View the entire process of the deconstruction of their building here.)
Is your focus on the mission of God’s Kingdom? Are you a disciple, a follower of Jesus who is making more disciples for him?
Here are some questions to help you evaluate: Who is discipling you? Mentoring you? Leading you? Investing in your life? Helping you to be a follower of Jesus? I’m not talking about believing. I’m talking about learning to be, to do, to live, to serve like Jesus did. And what is the task that Jesus spent most of his time doing? Making disciples. Jesus tells us that his disciples will do what he did, make more disciples. So just as we are to be his disciples, we are then to make more disciples.
All of us should have a plan we are following for making disciples, and together as a church we should have a plan as well. So let’s spend our lives on that mission, let’s use our building for that mission, but let’s not focus on our building, let’s keep our focus on the mission of making disciples. Then 2000 years from now when a possible future society evaluates us, they’ll be able to see clearly that we stayed focused on the mission of God’s Kingdom.