What’s it going to take for the Church to be viewed as more than the building in which we meet? Perhaps if people saw the transforming power of the Spirit at work in and through us, they couldn’t help but look beyond the physical structure.
They would see that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
We, the people indwelt by God’s Spirit as Christ-followers, are the Church, not the building. But, unless we walk in (Gal. 5:15-26) and are filled with that Spirit (Eph. 5:15-21), we won’t tend to prioritize our time and resources in ways that demonstrate that.
When It’s About the Building, Not the Transforming Work of the Spirit
When we get our priorities mixed up, we tend to rationalize just about anything we do. Reflect on God’s people in the Old Testament who “defiled” the house that bore His name (Jer. 7:30). They did “detestable things” and even set up idols in the temple (Jer. 7:10-14, 30). They deceived themselves into thinking they could come and stand before God in the house that bore His Name and say, “We are safe” – safe to do all these detestable things” (Jer. 7:10). The building, however, couldn’t save them.
Their misaligned priorities resulted in the withdrawal of God’s presence. –“Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.” (Jer. 7:14-15)
Now, we would like to think we wouldn’t go as far as the Israelites of old. We wouldn’t set up idols in our physical houses of worship. But, don’t we sometimes idolize our methodology or the technology we use? Sometimes we’ll even let the church split over the color of the carpet. We wouldn’t make His house into a “den of robbers” but don’t we sometimes rob the cross of its power when we fail to submit to and rely on the Spirit, giving more attention to our buildings and equipment than the actual message and ministry?
Though the Holy Spirit lives within us, we can grieve (Eph. 4:30) and quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). When that happens, people don’t sense the presence of God in our midst. Instead, they see a building filled with ordinary people “doing” what they call church rather than “being” the Church. They find malformed people rather than transformed people.
When It’s About the Transforming Work of the Spirit, Not the Building
When we as the Church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, walk in that Spirit, we don’t “gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). When we as the Church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are filled with the Spirit, He so controls us that there’s no room for deceptive or unwise practices and misaligned priorities.
The Spirit in us puts the spotlight on Christ Jesus (Jn. 15:26), not our buildings, “so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Col. 1:18). When that happens, people sense His presence and lives are transformed. The building is just a place for people to meet together.