Church. The word evokes many different emotions…reverence, boredom, tradition, security, belonging, restoration, repentance, freedom, awe, judgment, condemnation, unworthiness, love. The list could probably fill a few books.
Most Americans probably view church as that building down the street that opens up on Sunday mornings for nicely dressed families and sweet old ladies. Some may look at church as a relic from past generations. Others see it as a den of hypocritical vipers ready to condemn them. Even regular churchgoers see church as a complex blend of worship, Bible teaching, entertainment, and social gathering.
But what was church REALLY supposed to be? Are we measuring up to that standard today?
In the Old Testament, God met with chosen people in distinct locations. He met with Moses in Mount Sinai to give him the Law. He filled the tabernacle and later the temple with His Shekinah glory. His glory was so concentrated inside the Temple’s Holy of Holies that only the High Priest was allowed inside just once a year…and only after going through a series of sacrifices and rituals to cover his sins from that year.
Fortunately, God had no intention to forever limit Himself to such isolated locations. He gave the Old Testament prophets glimpses of His future plans.
- He told Isaiah that the whole earth was His footstool (Isaiah 66:1-2).
- He told Ezekiel that one day His Spirit would reside inside His people (Ezekiel 36:27)
- Stephen, the New Testament martyr said, “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hand…” (Acts 7:47-50)
So where does God live these days, if it’s not in a church building or temple? Well, He does live in a building of sorts, but not one made by hands. He lives in buildings of His own creation!
“Do you not know that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3:16-17, emphasis added)
The Creator of the universe has chosen to put His very own Spirit inside those who choose to follow Him!! Seriously!! What a gift!!
As we rest in Him and He lives inside us, God forms us into a new kind of “building”. This new living temple is made up of Jesus-followers. God Himself is in charge of construction.
Paul tells us, “…You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9b ESV)
Peter tells us, “As you come to Him, a living Stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a royal priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:4-5 ESV)
PEOPLE are God’s temple of choice! A church building is only a church when His people, whom He fills, are gathered within its walls. Even the most beautiful religious building doesn’t constitute a church until God’s people bring the church to the building.
Why is this a big deal worth writing a blog about?? Because the true church, made up of believers, only functions when it is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
What about your church’s great doctrinal statement? What about your well-attended services, classes, clubs, small groups, etc.? Unless they are founded on Jesus alone, they are simply man-made good works. If you are depending on charisma, technical expertise, or scholarly research, there will be no power, no real church.
On the other hand, when His people truly connect to Him and allow His Holy Spirit to flow through them, the life-changing power of the Spirit is unstoppable!! Read the book of Acts in the New Testament. Thousands came to know Jesus. People were healed and delivered from oppression. The power of God was tangible!!
We need to stop simply “going to church”. That is so passive. We need to start BEING THE CHURCH so that when we walk into the building on Sundays, things happen!!
- Seek out the lost, the sad, the lonely.
- Go out of your way to make the visitors feel loved.
- Reach out to the single parent, the teen mom, the outcasts.
- Offer to help the frazzled mom with the screaming kids.
- Pray with those who are hurting.
Do what Jesus would do…because His Spirit lives inside you.
Church is not a building. Church is you and me. BE the temple that God has called you to be!! Then sit back and watch Him build His church, living stone by living stone.