Sunday, August 18, 2013
“Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.”-- Bridget Willard
We have twenty-four churches right now and in a month or so will have well over a hundred. The majority of those have no buildings. The picture at the right is the church at Muranda taken last year. They now have a building but with no roof. Most of our churches are like the one in the picture--we call it "praying under a tree." If your church is defined by the walls that contain it, I would say it is not really a church. In the Bible, the Greek word for church is "ecclesia" which does not mean building--it means the people called forth. The church always has been and always will be the people who are the church. The people who are "doers of the word and not hearers only." I am not opposed to church buildings. Here the sun is relentless and the rainy season makes churches like the one in the picture impossible to work as a church. The difference I see here is that the members build their own churches with their own hands. They make the bricks, bring the stones for the foundation, and build the walls themselves. A thatch roof works just fine and can be helped with the use of a tarp or two. What makes a church is not the building, it is the people who gather in the name of God to comfort each other, to praise God, to encourage each other, to pray together, and to acknowledge that they are all sinners and children of God who is the one who brings hope. One of the most common sayings here, that you hear every day, is that "Mungu asaida" or God will help. The other most obvious difference is that here it is the needs of the people that are paramount and not the needs of the building. The church is active in the village every day and not just on Sunday when they are gathered "under a tree." Going to church no more makes you a Christian than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger. Being the church is what identifies you as a Christian. Christ said "Go" not "Gather" and yet we think gathering once a week makes Him happy. We need to gather because we need to recharge our batteries so that our light can shine into the darkness in which other people live, but we should never worship the building, we worship by living lives that become the Gospel. You need to gather but it should be like a huddle in football where you plan your action. No one would watch a football game consisting only of huddles. You've got to play the part God has assigned you--in the world, where the people are. St. Francis of Assisi said to preach every day, and if necessary, use words. Amen.