If there is any burden the average pastor has today it is the burden of putting up and maintaining a structure called church. A pastor is asked to pastor a congregation. What first comes to his mind is the building. He thinks of how he would put up a convenient edifice for his flock. He believes if the building is not right the church will not be right. He believes what makes the church is a good building, a good sound system and a good choir. If those ingredients are absent he is troubled.
He perhaps goes to borrow money to carry out these obligations. If it is a denominational church, all he aspires to do is to please his head pastor. And the way to please him is to ensure that his church building takes a beautiful shape. He collects special offerings and introduces all kinds of gimmicks to raise funds so he could build.
By the time the building is comfortable for service, he thinks of tiling the floors of the church. When he is through with that he thinks of air-conditioners. By the time he gets one he begins to raise money for a befitting pulpit. When and if he gets a good pulpit perhaps the one made with glass he begins to think of changing the doors of the church and providing some other modern fittings.
Unfortunately the church is never done with building. The amount of money spent on building and rebuilding a place of worship is sadly far more than what is used for evangelism. The average church in Nigeria raises funds regularly for church building. But only few churches (congregation of believers) raise money for evangelism.
But we must begin to ask ourselves do we go to church? Or we are the church? If the building we call church is destroyed does that mean there is no more church? Can the church be burnt down in the true sense of the word?
What relevance are the buildings we spend so much on while the people in the buildings seem not to understand the message of the cross. Why spend so much on structures and not build people?
Jesus had a clear direction of where the church should be. He told the woman by the well that it would come to a time that people will not have to come to this mountain to worship but that those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.
There was nothing like church building in the first 300 years of the church or thereabout. It was after Constantinople the Roman Emperor made Christianity a state religion that the church began to have structures designated as church. Before then the church met in available venues and the houses of Christians.
Are we saying church buildings are bad? Not in the least. The buildings are important and they are just for our convenience. But when we now glorify the building than souls it becomes a problem. When a church has no budget for reaching out to lost souls but continuously raises money to build and rebuild; that church is in trouble.
Is it not sad that we spend so much on changing doors of the church, tiling the church, getting air-conditioners and all sorts in the name of building the House of God and pay little attention to perishing souls outside and within our church walls? We wait for people to walk into our fine buildings.
No doubt people will walk into churches that look beautiful. But many of those who walk into such churches are people who were attracted to the place because they need a social cushioning. They want a church where the pastor can come and do naming ceremony for them or conduct marriage or burial service.
Many in some of these churches are not saved. The practice in the Acts of the Apostles was that people were saved and were added to the church. But today people come into the church unsaved and learn the church language and we think we are making progress with evangelism.
The Greek word for Church is ecclesia; meaning the called out ones. The question is where does the building come in? The building is not the church and can never be the church. The church can be in the market place. It can be in prison yard. It can be in the mechanic shop. It can be in the community hall. It can be anywhere that is convenient for gathering.
The first thing is reaching out to lost souls and how to make them disciples. It is important the pastor gets a place of worship where he can teach the people that have been won but he must never confuse the building with the church.
What is going on now is that we spend so much on church buildings. Unfortunately such church building may become a monument in years to come. Example abound all over the world how former cathedrals have become monuments. It is not that God is no longer in those countries it is just that the paradigm in those countries have changed.
Now we hold five services and 10 services. We build mega church auditoria. But such things may not be sustainable in a digital age. Many years ago, Deeper Life Bible Church used to hold five services in a day at the Gbagada headquarters of the church. But today the church has grown so much. It is no longer realistic to bring people together in a single auditorium. The church now uses satellite to reach its members everywhere they are. One single message from W.F. Kumuyi reaches the world through satellite.
One good thing that the Redeemed Christian Church of God has done in recent time is to introduce viewing centres for its Holy Ghost Night Service. Now, people can watch those services and get blessed if they can’t go to the Redemption Camp. The church perhaps is now appreciating the fact that we can’t continue to bring people together under one single roof.
We are in an age where the church has to re-invent itself. The church is no longer in the four walls. The church is in the cyberspace. People now stay in their homes; and get hooked to their churches online. The bottom line is where two or three are gathered God is there in their midst.
If it is just to come gather and hear God’s word and share fellowship we will have little problem in our gatherings. But many have turned the supposed church buildings as business centres. Some see the massive gatherings as an opportunity for their own personal agenda.
Many of our churches are growing no doubt. What kind of growth? Most of the growth we celebrate are nomadic growth. People who worship in Church A move to Church B. And the pastor is happy that his church is growing.
But the naked truth is that the church walls are crumbling. And the church needs to wake up. We need to wake up to the reality that the church has to move to the internet and populate it with the gospel. We need to move to all the available media and populate it with the word of God. We need to meet the people where they are. They don’t have to come to our church to be saved. The world is waiting for the church. The church must not wait for the world. This is the time to go into the world and meet the world where they are.
By Gbenga osinaike (08033336243)
Scriptures to ponder on
Ephesians 2:19-22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto a holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.