For years I believed the church was simply a beautiful building. So many churches with their stain-glass windows, gorgeous pews, perfect décor throughout, and that safe feeling the church often provides. I had the privilege of growing up in one of those amazing and beautiful buildings. We had a huge gymnasium, which at the time was also our sanctuary. And even though Saturday nights we played basketball and volleyball till the late hours, Sunday offered a very personal and intimate space to connect with Jesus.
We had an incredible youth room. It was big and inviting, allowing all madness to commence every time we met. There were endless rooms for Sunday school, meeting places and other activities. I loved that church and treasured that building. I was married in that church and dedicated my first son there. We began our ministry at that church, and later returned to finish off our ministry in California before moving to Texas. It was my church and every time I was there it was like coming home.
For a while I thought I had moved away from the misleading ideology that the church was the building, but I realize – after this past couple weeks – I never really did. This global interruption of life has completely paralyzed the operations of the church building and if the church is really just a building, then it might as well not exist.
Because of the crisis, the church building, like every other establishment, cannot be a place to gather, for now anyway. This is a new arena for churches that has left many pastors and leaders scrambling round the clock to find new creative ways to keep the body connected and minimize the feelings of isolation. Through this, the reality of the church, the real, necessary and purposeful design of the church became crystal clear and it has zero to do with the building.
In the book of Exodus, God is giving instructions for the tabernacle to be built – the church temple for the Israelites. Like everything God creates, the tabernacle and every item it contained was designed with great detail and purpose. One of those items was the lampstand. The design and detail of the lampstand was unique with great intention, symbolism and meaning. Of all the metals or substances God could have used, He chose to make the lampstand out of gold. Gold was the most valuable of all metals and still is, and gold can’t be burned by fire.
The interesting thing about the tabernacle lampstand is that on its own, it had no ability to provide light. The only way for the lampstand to serve its purpose was to have lamps put on it. But on its own, as beautiful as it was, it was just a stand and couldn’t do much.
The picture of the golden lampstands in Revelation 1, is the picture of the church. We are those lampstands. But like the lampstands of the Old Testament, without oil, without other lamps, without continual refueling, it was just a stand and its purpose couldn’t be fulfilled.
Jesus has called His church to be the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. The church is not the building, it is the body of Christ, the believers, those who follow Jesus. In this verse, Jesus is complimenting His followers and at the same time, He is leaving them with a great charge and responsibility; to bring His light to all.
By the blood of Jesus Christ, we are filled with that light; we have freely received. But it cannot end there, we are called to be light givers. We are called to burn so bright that we are immediately recognizable to all who look our way, even from afar. Our lives individually, and collectively as the church body, the believers, should radiate Jesus Christ in every possible way.
I believe the world is watching us. They are watching how we respond to this crisis. They are watching how well we handle this complex and serious situation. They are watching how we relate to our families and others. They are watching to see if our peace is different from theirs. They are wondering if the faith that we proclaimed is real, and if we will truly walk it out well during this chaotic time. What are they seeing?
Everything God does is with purpose. I believe the church, the body of Christ in this day was made for such a time as this. And this needs to be our finest moment, and will be if we don’t lose heart, if we are continually being refueled by drowning ourselves in the Word, and in prayer, and in community, the best we are able.
Church, this call is on us. We are the platform for Jesus to shine His true, powerful, and everlasting light to a lost and broken world in desperate need, for such a time as this it is time to radiate.
If we are not being continually refueled, we won’t have what we need to radiate as we are called to do. Continually press into Jesus. Lean on this amazing community and let’s walk through this together well.