I opened a holiday magazine last Saturday and was greeted by images of new, updated, and party-friendly “gingerbread” houses. What they lacked in gingerbread they made up in either savory crackers and pretzels or melt-in-your-mouth chocolate of all shapes and sizes. Cozy, sturdy, delicious – these are houses that would not receive insurance around my kitchen!
I look at the Church, and I wonder if there are newfangled versions springing up that are as effective as the traditional approach with more appeal. I have heard of congregations who meet on a weeknight evening, or in a pub, or with a variety of languages. There are extra-big churches, and little house churches. Are they all churches?
It made me think.
What are the qualifications to be a “gingerbread” house? Sturdy walls and a roof with yummy accessories and maybe a person? A structure of any sort made around the Christmas holidays for display? Or consumption? The presence of gingerbread? Few people I know actually enjoy the store-bought, shipping-proof gingerbread kits that remain intact and pretty for the entire season. So maybe we can let the gingerbread go.
What about the Church? What is it supposed to look like in all its local offshoots? How much should we study history and the legacy of hundreds of believers who have lived before us? How far should a local body pioneer new ways to reach our modern culture? What makes a church a legitimate church? The building? People? Presence of certain doctrines?
What are the essential building-blocks of a church and how must they be put together to achieve structural stability (rather than my last attempt at graham crackers and icing…a deconstructed house)?
Peter wrote to believers about one piece of this kit:
“4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’….
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2: 4-6, 9-10).
Peter contrasts those who reject God with the believers who are witnesses of His work. And it all hinges on God’s grace to them. We become pieces of the whole Church. In the New Testament there are many more instructions about how a local body of Christ should work together, and relate to other believers, but one of the most important insights about the Church comes straight from Jesus. He calls the Church His bride – knowing our shortcomings, squabbles, questions, and wandering methods, He loves us enough to die for us. And as long as we are awed at that, and share that love and passion with the world, our methods of constructing can be creative. In fact, I think they should be creative, and flavored by the people in the congregation and needs of the community.
What shape is your local part of the Church in? Are you part of a shack? A cottage? A fixer-upper? A high-rise? A mansion? No matter where you are at in the building process, the Master Architect wants to meet with you to look at the blueprints and say, “how can we make this better?”
God, thanks for gingerbread houses and creative new structures. Thank You for the many different designs of local churches around the world – and that we are all part of history and space encompassing Church. Please help us to pursue You, not compete with each other or on a world-based structure. Let the building with living stones be to Your glory! Amen.