I love church buildings. I love walking through church buildings and looking at all the things – the art on the walls, the windows, the seats in the sanctuary, the pulpit, the communion table, the baptismal font. All the things.
The ancient cathedrals of Europe with all of their lavish, ornate designs. Small rural church buildings created with functionality in mind. Sleek modern structures with natural light and clean lines. Each space is sacred, built for the glory of God as a center of mission and ministry.
Walking the halls of Manchester UMC’s building is a trip into history. In just a few minutes you can walk from the twenty-five year old main sanctuary in its awe-inspiring scale, through the fellowship hall that served as the worship space for the congregation for so many years, down through classrooms that have seen generations of people deepening their faith and growing in community, and into the historic chapel, which has been an active space of worship and ministry for 167 years!
But mostly, as I walk through church buildings, I love thinking about all the people who have been in those sacred spaces over the years. I love thinking about the baptisms, the communion celebrations, the smiles, the tears, the hugs and handshakes, the spiritual insights and “aha” moments, the prayers lifted together.
I sometimes walk through the lower level of Manchester’s building when no one else is there. Everything I see is a testimony to the children who learn in our preschool, the musicians who rehearse diligently so they can offer their very best to God, the kids and youth who are forming and reforming the church right before our eyes.
James 5 begins with a warning about wealth. “Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire.” In his typically direct and convicting way, James wants us to remember that all we have is given by God, and is therefore to be used for God’s glory. Unless it is used for God’s mission, wealth will “rust,” a very visible testimony to a lack of faithfulness.
The church building, as beautiful as it may be, is just that – a building. And I do love church buildings! But, unless it is being used for God’s glory, it really is just a building. My prayer is that our building, and every church building, remains a center for mission and ministry, as we work together to build the Reign of God on earth.