I visited Rome many years ago. I have never been so overwhelmed by the sheer number of church buildings. It seemed that there wasn’t a block that didn’t have one. There is a Roman Catholic church building dedicated to every country in the world, and that’s not even half of the Roman Catholic church buildings in Rome. There are also plenty of non-Roman Catholic churches and house churches.
If one based faith on the number of buildings, then Rome would be bursting with faith. It isn’t. This certainly isn’t just a Roman Catholic issue.
There are plenty of communities in the US that have a high number of church buildings, but the number of Christians is just not significant (population-count-wise). Just as in Rome, all the church buildings could indicate a place bursting with faith. Instead, the buildings are just withering on the vine.
Moses found a burning bush. God was there. The ground was holy.
Think about it, though. Moses wasn’t the first herdsman of Israel. In fact, the lineage of Israel consisted of herdsmen. Did all the herdsmen not worship God while they were in the fields?
Many people do, in fact, their greatest God connection when amid God’s unspoiled Creation. For some, it might be mountains, or lakes, or seashores, or deserts. Others will find it in cathedrals build by man. It doesn’t matter. God is there.
The new temple in the midst of its rebuild, and even after it was completed, was not the impressive piece of architecture as the original. In comparison, it was a block of wood in comparison to a shining jewel. Ultimately, though, it was a place set aside to worship God, and to provide a focal point of faith practices.
Despite the second temple being nothing in comparison to its predecessor, the people of Jesus’ day still viewed it as sacred. Jesus pointed out that it was only a building. It too would fall. While people took great offense at his statement, it was only truth. The world is perishing; so too would the temple.
According to some recent numbers, 30% of churches pre-COVID will not return to their building post-COVID. For them, the building is done. For some congregations, this means that the congregation is done, and the people will join other congregations or none at all. For others, this means a new expression of the gathering: Cafe Church, Circle Church, Church in a Bar (yes, this is a non-Nazarene thing), and who knows what else people will discover as they seek to be the gathered community.
How buildings of worship will change, remain, and how they will be part of our faith life is still to be seen. Without question, place is very important. It can be under a tree (as many African Church of the Nazarene congregations do). It can be in a sheet metal building. It can be in a building of concrete. It can be in a house. It can be in a yard.
1) Can you see yourself worshiping (well) in a “place” different than the “church” building? What “calls” to you?
2) Do you think a “place” to gather in community is important? Why or why not?
God, you have called us to gather in community. Help us, as the world drastically changes, continue to seek ways to gather to build up one another and bring praise and worship to you. Amen.