If these seem like odd questions, talk to Jesus. He walked out of a church a couple thousand years ago. Right after he confronted the religious leaders with the 7 woes, he said this:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
What was Jesus saying here? Gordon MacDonald explains Jesus’ actions in his book, Who Stole My Church? Jesus was saying that he wanted to help them, but “the church” (their house/temple) was desolate – they couldn’t hear the truth. God was not in the building. Their church was full of all the hypocrisy and arrogance we’re so familiar with today.
So he leaves the temple area and all its fancy architecture. Jesus left the building! Heck, Jesus walked away from Jerusalem – the epicenter of the faith! His disciples were a tad confused, and likely scared they were in danger of blasphemy, or at least hanging around with a blasphemer. Here’s what happens next:
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’
A bold statement from a former carpenter. We can imagine his followers saying, “Jesus, look as these awesome religious buildings. There such status symbols and pillars of the community and our way of life. You can’t be doing what we think you’re doing. You can’t be walking away from the religious power structures. You can’t give all this up.”
That’s exactly what he did. The church/temple was dead. He left. MacDonald notes how Jesus referred to the buildings as things. Jesus was saying that church is not about the buildings – never has been – those are just things. The kingdom that Jesus invited people to enter requires no buildings.
This is not to say buildings are not needed or helpful. Rather, if the folks who gather won’t follow the way of the leader, it’s a desolate place – tumbleweeds. What’s your church like?
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson