I hear many people say “the church is not a building, it is the people.” But, what does that mean? Michelle at Seeking Serenity brought up this interesting passage. In Exodus 20 it says that we should not build our alters out of cut rocks and we should not have stairs so that others do not see our nakedness.
The altars you make for me must be simple altars of earth. Offer on such altars your sacrifices to me–your burnt offerings and peace offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. If you build altars from stone, use only uncut stones. Do not chip or shape the stones with a tool, for that would make them unfit for holy use. And you may not approach my altar by steps. If you do, someone might look up under the skirts of your clothing and see your nakedness. [Exodus 20: 24-26]
All over, especially in America, you see many magnificent church buildings. They have huge auditoriums, specially lit stages, and huge video projection systems, how does this help us to know God? I think it may help attract some people who like to be anonymous in a crowd, because it’s more comfortable than a small home group, over time (a long, long time) they may get to the place where they live there faith on more than just Sundays. However though, in my experience, and especially with people my age, I do not see people worshipping God with their lifestyle.
I think the institution has killed discipleship and accountability. Many people will argue that we cannot force this onto people, but I think we also cannot ignore it and let them feel all good inside, just because we are too afraid that we might offend them. I also do not see enough leaders taking the initiative to train up more leaders and disciples. We have built our altars out of cut stone with many tools. We have many stairs (both physical and metaphorical) just to “enter” the altar.
Yet, Jesus taught in the synagogues, I believe because he went where the people were comfortable learning about God. This may still be true today, I met God in a church that met in a high school music room, God can be met anywhere. I think each of us needs to be aware of our culture and the emerging generation, what is important to us, to them? In Seattle I know many people my age who are comfortable going to an old cathedral with a service of monks (there not really monks but that’s what most people think) singing just to “feel” a “higher being.” This tells me that even my generation wants God, they just want to find Him on there own, not there parents, and certainly not someone else’s experience. Unfortunately, many people are not the type to just go into a church and really try to see God, they see the people and their mistakes, but they do not see God. This is why I believe we (the entire body) should work and live among the world, but be in strong fellowship (the early church virtually lived together and saw each other everyday!).
I want to be effective in my generation and culture. I cast down my idols, give me clean hands and a pure heart. Let me not lift my soul to another. Let this generation be a generation that seeks your face! I ask for forgiveness for my transgressions. I ask you to help raise up leaders and disciples who are willing to live there life 24/7 for you. Help us build true altars from our hearts for you Lord with our lives and our relationships with others. I give you thanks for everything in my life, including these hard times, you have never left me although I have doubted. Cast down your enemies and show us the way to build your Kingdom. Let it be in your name!