Thursday, February 14, 2008

Should God Live In His Car?

On more than one occasion in the past year I've heard the sentiment (mostly from pastors) that we should have church on the grass and give all of what would otherwise be the "building fund" money to the poor. People who say things like this generally tell glowing stories about members of their congregation who do "radical" things like sell most of their worldly possessions and move to the mission field. In one such story, a young man sold most of his stuff and was now living in his car.

Now, just so we're clear up front, I think that's pretty awesome. I really admire that kid (the one living in his car because he took Jesus' command to care for the poor seriously), and there are times when I pray for that kind of courage. But when I hear things like, "Let's give away the building money and have church on the grass", one of my first thoughts is, "So, should God live in his car?"

That may sound a tad bit cynical, but think about it. All things considered, which is easier, selling your church building or selling your own house? It seems to me that it's actually very easy to say, "Oh, we should give all the building money to the poor" because that won't affect you at all. You were already giving that money to the building fund, and when your church is gone, you'll still have all of your worldly possessions, only now you'll feel really good about having taken part in giving millions of dollars (if you're a big church) to the poor.

My bigger problem with this sentiment, however, is its attitude toward God. Whenever it comes to things like dressing nice for church, we're very quick to throw out platitudes about how God is only concerned with our hearts and not our outward appearance. "God doesn't care what I wear to church" they will say. To which I respond, "No, but you should."

It's almost as if we're saying, "God doesn't need us to build a special place for us to meet Him and fellowship with Him. He doesn't care where we have church." Perhaps not, but we should.

In 2 Samuel 7:1-2, we read:

Now when the king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent."

Even though God would turn David down (and give the project to his son, Solomon), David's heart is in the right place. He sees that his own palace is greater than the place where God's very presence on Earth was supposed to dwell, and he's upset by this.

The church is meant to be the meeting place of God and His people. What the church looks like, what kind of art decorates it, its size and shape; all these things communicate something to the people in the church. The building itself is a theological statement. What statement are we making if we have none at all?

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