In my last post, I wrote about Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple, and the First Church of Jerusalem as the three greatest structures in ancient Judaism and early Christianity. These buildings helped shape Judaism and Christianity, and they became centers of their respective faiths. However, all three buildings are gone – only the Western or Wailing Wall of Herod’s Temple remains. Everything else is rubble, as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24:1-2.
As a church administrator, one of my roles is to maintain and upgrade church buildings. I believe that all church buildings should be places where people want to come to, pleasant to be in, inviting to newcomers, and welcoming to all. This means keeping the buildings clean and in good condition – walls with good paint, updated furnishings (not outdated furniture), well-lit, clean carpets and floors, free of clutter, etc. Well-cared-for and well-maintained facilities are important to getting younger generations inside a church – they have high expectations of what they want to see, and too many churches fall short. I’ve been in too many churches that are not taking care of their brick-and-mortar investments and that is a failure of stewardship, but that isn’t my point.
Taking care of church buildings is important, but taking care of people is even more important and urgent. Building up people is the real purpose of the four walls of a church edifice. Renovating hearts and minds is essential to the work of the church. Sometimes “gutting” mindsets and hardened anti-God feelings is necessary so that God can use that hollow structure to construct anew. Helping people begin to understand the love of God is the core purpose of every church building. The church must always be looking out its windows at the horizons God has set in front of it; it must take care of what God has entrusted to it, but the main thing for all churches is people.
All church buildings die. If they didn’t, then I’m sure that at least one of these three central religious structures who be standing today. None of them are. It’s not that God doesn’t care for the buildings, he just cares for people infinitely more and will sacrifice everything, including beautiful and important buildings, for the sake of his most loved creation. We should imitate God and realize that every building can be replaced, but people can’t. We need to prioritize our focus on buildings; they are a tool to help individuals get to know God just like so many other tools God gives us. Take care of your buildings, but take care of your people even more.