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The Living Church - I Had a Dream
19So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
(The following dream is adapted from a story I acquired through my years of pastoring. The name of the original author is unknown to me.)
I had a dream…
there was a terrible commotion on the corner of Central Avenue and Cherry Street. It seemed to come from the big red brick church… on a Sunday morning. As the sound of the voices rose louder and louder each seemed to be trying to drown out all the others and win the argument by generating the most noise.
Some claimed that the bricks of the church were the most valuable and important part of the whole building because they had been carefully set in place by some of our founding fathers. It was the bricks, they claimed, that gave the building it character.
Stained glass windows
No, no, it was insisted upon again and again that the big stained glass windows were the real attraction of the building, for what would a church building be if it were all solid wall and no light could come in? The stained glass windows are large and beautiful, made with colored glass. One even portrays the image of Christ himself. People always like to look at the stained glass windows when they come to the church.
The Steeple and Bell Tower
Then there was the argument that the bell tower was the most distinguished feature of the church. Its lofty pinnacle was crowned with a cross that could be seen from afar, and the bells, when they rang could be heard for miles.
Then there was the argument put forth that the pews were the most captivating attraction of the church. The pews had all been skillfully and intricately crafted. In fact, it was insisted, that without the pews the church would be empty. It was claimed that if it were not for comfortable seats, no one would care to come to the building to worship at all, since people did not want to stand to worship. Besides, the service was usually longer than an hour because the pastor would often preach on and on, far beyond the proper time to close. Nobody would stand for that! It was out of the question… the pews were the most important feature of the church.
No, it was insisted, the walls were the most important aspect of the church. Without them the roof could not be held in place. It was the walls that kept the weather out and held the stained glass windows in place. Without them the building would not be suitable for worship.
But the deepest voices that could be heard in the wrangle, and the highest pitched voices, were contending for the foundation and roof of the building.
“Just think,” ran one argument, “what this building would be without a strong, deep foundation. Why, it would all crumble and collapse and be nothing b ut rubble in no time at all!”
“All right,” was the high pitched answer, “what good would your solid foundation do if the building didn’t have a roof? Just think of it. It is the roof that keeps out the elements and protects the people from torrential rains and scorching sun.”
Then there was the contention that the organ was the most important part of the church. People could not worship without music, and it took a big, strong organ with many pipes and great volume to lead the singing of the hymns and accompany the choir with their anthems. It was more than suggested, time after time, that people really enjoy the music more than the sermons, and therefore it was the organ that made the church what it was.
But suddenly, all of this commotion quieted down and became so still that you could have heard a church mouse run across the floor. You see, the pastor walked into the church and realized that the building was having a little misunderstanding within its own many parts. The building was arguing with itself! Yes, the walls thought they were most important, in fact so did the windows, the doors, the pews and all the other parts of the building.
It was then that the pastor turned to the building and said, “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves… each one of you talking about his own importance! Of course walls are important, but so are the bricks, the roof, the windows, the pews, the bell tower, the organ and each and every other part of the church no matter how large or small. Don’t you realize it takes all of these parts standing together to make a church building?
Before the proud bricks were built into the walls, they were just sand and clay. And you, plaster, you were just sand and lime. And you pews were just boards of wood piled in a lumberyard. You see, building the church has brought all of you together and made each one of you useful because you are all part of something bigger than yourself.
Now, I don’t want to hear anymore wrangling and loud talk. Every one of you settle down and do your part and we will have a truly beautiful and useful church building here on this corner of our city. And remember too, even as important as a church building is, it is the people that make the church, and not just the stone, mortar and paint.
The word “church” is referred to 112 times in the New Testament. It comes from the Greek word ecclesia = which means “called out” or the “called out ones”… those who have been called out of the world. We are to be a separate people a holy people. The word ecclesia does not refer to a church building, a temple, a synagogue, a sanctuary or any other type of building. It refers to a group of people who have been called out.
Which, is kind of strange, because when I was growing up the phrase “called out” usually meant that you had to meet up with somebody after school for a fight. But, the idea is the same, as Christians we are called out… we have been separated from the world, we are called aside to be a peculiar people whose lives are dedicated to the Lord…. And sadly, this difference usually puts us at enmity with the world.
But, the point is… the church is not a building. In fact, Christians didn’t even meet in church buildings for almost 200 years after the advent of Christ.
Christ himself ministered to most people outdoors or in the privacy of small homes. In the first century believers met in small homes… When they were being persecuted the Christians moved their worship to unique locations like grottos, caves and catacombs.
Over the course of time, when persecutions ended, congregations got bigger and bigger, and larger meeting places were needed. So, gradually Christians moved worship from homes to assembly buildings.
Sadly, beginning with Constantine and the proclamation of Christianity as the “State Religion”… the church became institutionalized. The intimacy of believers meeting together in their homes and outdoors… began to fade into obscurity.
Somewhere along the way… the building took on the name “church”. Somehow the building became the focus of worship… and people became secondary. People were no longer being called out of the world… but into the church… building.
1 Peter 2:4-5 (New International Version)
4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (New International Version)
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Article submitted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 & read 420 times.
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