What is in the picture above? You say, “our church.” That is the answer that most of us would give. But the truth is that picture is not a picture of our church. It is a picture of a building. We might call it a church building, but it is not the church. The church is more than a building.
The reason we call a building the church is because we have been indoctrinated with an institutional view of the church. We look at the church as an organization. The institutional view of the church leads to a mindset of preserving and protecting the institution. It becomes about guarding budgets, buildings, and traditions. We don’t want to lose what we have. With an institutional view of the church it becomes easy to lose our focus on the truly important and eternal matters.
You are hard pressed to find anywhere in the Scripture where Jesus aspires to build an institutional organization. In fact, much of Jesus’ message was hostile towards the religious institutions of his day. More than anything else, Jesus came to start a movement. He came to effect change and transformation. He came to heal people of their disease, to give hope to the hopeless, cast out the demons, and win salvation for lost sinners. Those entrenched in institutional religion had the hardest time following him.
The work of Jesus did not require a building or a budget. It was only hundreds of years after Jesus ascended into heaven when the idea of a church building was even conceived. The work of Jesus and his followers was one of generosity and sacrifice. Whatever gifts God presented, the church would give them away to any who had need.
I am not proposing we give away our church building, but what I am saying is that we carefully distinguish between what is part of our institutional religion and how the institutional things may be holding us back from joining a mighty movement of God. Instead of holding on to what we have, how can we give it away and use it to fulfill his great commission of making disciples? Eternity awaits and we only have a short time to make a difference.
At the end of the day, the church is not found at 3139 Country Rd 516. That location may be our world mission headquarters, but it is not the church. The church is where the people of God gather and where the people of God go. The building may be our gathering place, but right now at this moment the church is wherever you are reading this email from, because you are the church.
BTW- I thought this picture was a really cool picture of our church building (See full picture on on Facebook). It gives a whole new perspective. We are thankful that God had the confidence to entrust us with this property to use to fulfill his mission. It is our prayer that we would be good stewards with what he has given us. We pray that the carpet may wear out from the feet that walk across it. We pray that the walls become scuffed because of children running the hallways and just maybe one of the children will have the audacity to write on the wall with a crayon. We pray for coffee to be spilled and stain a pew. We pray for traffic in the parking lot to cause potholes. But through it all the lives of people are transformed for eternity because of the movement taking place here, that they encountered Jesus the Savior.
So how about you? What do you think? What is the role of the institutional church in God’s missional movement?