During the summer of 2008 my wife and I visited London. If anyone visits London, they will notice that they end up visiting many churches. The interesting thing is that you do not go to these churches for worship. Instead, the churches we visited have become more and more like museums—ornaments of the past. Just a small handful of people attend worship on Sundays—but they pay their staff and their bills because they are treated as a museum. They charge strangers [they like to call them tourists] money to go into their doors. People want to go there to see where a certain person was murdered in the 11th century. These large church buildings have handfuls of people that still gather together—and they point to a time when they were packed with people. In many ways these buildings have become museums—and now they are just struggling to keep the building maintained.
Here in North America we are following suit with our European brothers & sisters. We have turned many of our churches into expensive ads for something cheap. The hollow shell of what we used to do still remains in our church buildings. Much can be said for having a nice building—but when our church budgets are overwhelmed by the cost of upkeep—I wonder if we have missed something in our care for buildings?
The simplicity of a meaningful relationship with another person has oftentimes been neglected because of our care and concern over buildings, land, and wealth. We have forgotten that God has called us to be in community with one another—not walled off from the world that God so loves. Our calling is to be a people that love the way that God loves—and our God loves so much that he sent Jesus to be one of us. This was not an expensive ad for something cheap—instead this is the ultimate sacrifice.
That doesn’t mean that churches do not do good things. There are countless examples of the good that is being done in the name of Christ. But, have we focused too much on land? and buildings? and money?
As we consider who we have become as the church in North America, may we never lose sight of the fact that simple relationships with one another is what we are called to be about. That we are called to be authentic with one another and love one another. For in this love we can know Christ and make him known.