Christians Make Buildings Churches. Churches Don’t Make People Christians.
I’m going to cut right to the chase. Too many Christians are worshipping God like Old Testament Jews. We have this skewed view of church which is infecting everything. I know that’s a bold statement but I don’t think it’s an overstatement.
It all starts in Genesis. Ever since Adam and Eve’s rebellion, sin has placed a massive wedge between God and man’s relationship.
No sin is without penalty or punishment. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Notice how in the garden Adam and Eve try to cover their own sin and shame with fig leaves. But we always skim over how God responded to their clothing. “God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21). This is the first time we are going to see the bloodshed of an innocent animal. God killed an innocent animal to cover the sins of man. Sin destroyed the intimacy of God and man in the garden. Therefore, introducing the temple; also referred to as the house of God.
From then on the temple was the dwelling place of God on Earth. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you.” Because of sin, whenever God slightly revealed Himself to a person, the repercussions were far more dangerous than in the garden. So throughout the Old Testament you can trace a pattern of man sinning and God taking animal sacrifices to atone for man’s sin.
The Bible is laced with examples of God’s unswerving devotion and concern for His temple. In Jeremiah, God was angry that the Jews were building themselves nice homes but neglecting the temple. God told David he couldn’t build the temple because he had too much blood on his hands. One of the claims that infuriated the Pharisees the most was that Jesus claimed He could destroy the temple and build it back in three days.
So why does all this matter? What does sin, animal sacrifice, and the temple have to do with the church?
We’ve all heard “Your body is a temple.” Yet, contrary to popular belief, the least of Paul’s concern when writing this was to stop you from getting tattoos. This verse is far bigger than that. He’s literally saying that you are now the temple. And that changes everything.
When Jesus died as a permanent sacrifice, the curtain in the temple was torn, the altar for sacrifice was closed, the temple became his followers, and the church became a movement. In the Old Testament it was “God for us.” In the New Testament it was “God with us.” And now, it is “God in us.“ Your body is now the temple. You are now the dwelling place of God.
Don’t believe me yet?
– “Christ in me the hope of glory” | Colossians 1:27
– “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” | Galatians 2:20
– “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” | Ephesians 2:11
So here’s my question. Why are we still worshipping God like Old Testament Jews? Why is the church still treated like it’s a Sunday morning temple? The church is not an event, a time, or even a place. The church is a people.
Don’t hear me disregard gathering on Sunday. Gathering as a church body, living in community, and submitting to elders is not only essential, it is necessary. But church should never start or end on Sunday. It should be every day.
Christians make buildings churches. Churches don’t make people Christians. Do we really think God went through all the trouble of giving up his throne in exchange for a cross just so we could show up to a building on Sunday morning? Or as Leonard Ravenhill put it, “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?”
Do I think God would die so I could go to church? No. Do I think God would die so I could be the church? Yes. Ephesians 3:10 says God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” So when I read verses like that and hear people say, “Church is kinda boring.” I always think, “I couldn’t agree more. You are boring! All you do is go to a building on Sunday. And now you’re just waiting to go to Heaven!” Show me a Christian that is bored in the church and I’ll show you a Christian that is not on mission.
– How does this change evangelism?
When I was saved at 16, I felt an unshakable weight for the souls of my friends. So I did what nearly every Christian does when they want to “share their faith.” I invited my friends to church. But only inviting people to church is a problematic approach to evangelism because we then put the full responsibility of conversion on our church, pastor, and worship to be savior. This explains why we get so frustrated when our friend finally comes to church, and lo and behold, there’s a guest speaker. As if God can’t move through someone else. But according to The Barna Research Group, 71% of Christians actually credit their salvation, not to going to church, but a personal relationship with a Christ follower. So they were experiencing life change, not by attending a church, but meeting the church. So the reality is this; your friends are not your pastor’s responsibility. They’re yours. You’ve been designed for personal evangelism. God’s plan is to use imperfect people worshipping a perfect God to display the grace of Christ.
One thing I’ve learned since I was 16 is that people don’t read the Bible. They read Christians. So we are the agents of change in our community. And in many cases, we are the only light in some people’s dark world. Good thing Jesus said, “You are light of the world.”
How does this change success?
Christian bubbles are paralyzing the mission of the church. According to The Barna Research Group, within only 2 years of conversion 80% of Christians have given up any real friendships with unbelievers. Essentially, we start loving God so much we forget to love people. In a sincere effort to grow in Christ while being sharpened in community, we completely drop the ball in the second greatest commandment; to love our neighbor. Ask yourself, “Do I really have any true friends that are unbelievers?”
I think Max Lucado caught the essence behind our lack of evangelism when he said, “If we’re not teaching people how to be saved, it’s perhaps because we’ve forgotten the tragedy of being lost.” Christian bubbles are not the byproduct of selfish Christians. They are the byproduct of ignorant Christians. We have forgotten and we are unaware of what it’s like to be lost. We must remember that we too were once enemies of the cross, living in a world without hope. Then church as we know it becomes a launching pad for Christians rather than a landing strip for unbelievers. Mike Stachura said, “The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.
Far too often we put everything we want and need in the church building, and ultimately turn it into a fortress. You no longer need to play sports with unbelievers. There’s a gym and field at the church. You no longer need to eat and drink with unbelievers. There’s a cafeteria and a coffee shop at the church. You no longer need to let your kids play with unbelievers. There’s a daycare and private school at the church.
But remember, Jesus tore down that type of temple. It’s interesting that the temple was destroyed in 70AD and has never been restored again, but God is still moving in incredible ways through the new temple, which is people. God purposely said “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” in Romans 10:15 rather than “How beautiful are the churches we bring people to.