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Thursday, January 5, 2017

On This Twelfth Day Of Christmas, We Pray That The Church Overcomes Its Edifice Complex

"The God who made heaven and earth and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth, and does not live in temples built by hands."
Richard Jacobson website
Paul, Acts 17:24 NIV

It's almost impossible to think of congregations these days without associating them with the buildings in which they meet. Architecturally these special structure are highly visible, easily recognizable, and say a lot about the faith and finances of the people who worship in them. And for the majority of the week, much of their heated and air conditioned spaces are vastly underused.

Where did the idea of Christ's followers needing to own, or meet in, special kinds of real estate come from? There is no hint of Jesus ever giving his disciples instructions about forming building committees, raising funds for temple construction or electing trustees to look after church property.

On the contrary, Jesus and his apostles made it clear that the current temple of their day wasn't  relevant to the Kingdom of God movement, and it was that insistence, as much as any one thing, that got both Jesus and his follower Stephen killed. "The temple will be destroyed," Jesus declared, and in in the future "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name there I will be in their midst." And he told a Samaritan women, "The day will come when God will be worshiped neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain (the one sacred to Samaritans)" (John 4). 

In his best selling book, "What Jesus Meant" Catholic author Garry Wills writes, "Jesus did not come to replace the Temple with other buildings, whether huts or cathedrals, but to instill a religion of the heart, with only himself as the place where we encounter the Father."

For the past 28 years Alma Jean and I have been members of a small house church congregation that meets weekly in member homes, as many first century believers did.

We don't claim that ours is the only right way to experience church, but we do believe that Jesus never meant for his followers to become highly dependent on burdensome real estate or a trained and professional clergy to carry on his mission on earth.

Using rented or other space and giving more of the money saved to the poor might be the kind of message even unbelievers could understand.
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