There are many churches struggling today “to keep their doors open”. Perhaps they are struggling for the wrong reason. Perhaps in this post-modern, emergent church environment that we are in today the best thing that could happen to those churches is to close the doors of their church building so that the Church of Jesus Christ can survive.
Recently, in Wichita, the Fairview Christian Church (Dsciples of Christ) sold its building. They are now meeting in a “house church” environment and no longer have the expense of an old building that needed extensive repairs that took their time and money to maintain. The building is gone, but the Church—-the body of Christ—survives! They made a painful but Christ-like decision to solve their problem. Sell the building, keep the Church. They chose what was important—their relationship to God and to each other over property.
As we read about the “early church” in Acts there is no mention of a “church building“. Paul doesn’t mention a “church building” either, and we know that at least one of the churches Paul founded (the church at Philippi) met in the house of Lydia. Paul, the earliest writer in the New Testament, described the churches he founded as” the body of Christ”, with Christ as its head and all the rest of the members being the eyes, toes, legs, arms, feet, etc.—not a building, but a living organism!!
The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus and asked “what can I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied that he should follow all the commandments. The young man said he had done that from his youth. “then Jesus looked at him and said “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all you have and give the money to the poor….and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-25) Luke tells us that the man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions. He was unable to do what Jesus asked.
In Wichita I live around the corner from a huge, beautiful church building. This megachurch offers everything from a coffee shop to a book store, to a full sized gymnasium. The building features the most expensive and best sound and projection equipment in order to entertain those who attend. It hires professional musicians to provide the music on that sound and projection system. Expensive electronic signs advertise what is being offered—-all kinds of workshops, support groups, youth clubs, etc. I wonder what Jesus would think if he saw his name connected to this megachurch? Let me give my answer to that question by re-telling the story of the rich young man in modern terms.
The story might go like this: The Senior Pastor and the staff of eight from First Megachurch came to Jesus one day and asked him how best they might be His Church. Jesus looked at them and said to them: “One thing you lack. Go, sell your beautiful church building and all its furnishings and give all the money to the poor and come and follow me and help me care for the “least of these, your brothers and sisters –-the homeless, the outcasts, the poor, the sick, the mentally challenged. Use some of the money to work for fair wages for the poor, and for economic and political and social justice for all.” And the Senior Pastor and staff went away sorrowfully because they couldn’t give up their beautiful building and its furnishings. And Jesus shook his head and shed a tear as he watched them leave him!
Sell the building—-Keep the Church! Is this the way of discipleship? what do YOU think??