On April 15th, 2019 a fire broke out and destroyed parts of the Notre Dame cathedral. News reports showed people crying in the streets over the fire and the potential loss of priceless art and relics.
Similarly, I recall the destruction of Christchurch cathedral in New Zealand that fell in an earthquake in February 2011. Again there was a great outpouring of grief over the damage to this structure and it took six years before a decision was made whether to rebuild, or do something else.
As I looked at both of these situations, I noted that the responses were highly charged with emotion. The destruction of these buildings became a focal point for people and they cried and wept over the loss of these iconic places.
But what about the people displaced by the destruction of these buildings? What about those who regularly worshipped in these places? Was the outcry on behalf of these people or solely on the basis of the destruction of the building? Did church services cease and if so why?
And here is a better question: How would Jesus react?
Destruction of the temple
We have the answer to that question in the scripture where Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Temple was the centrepiece for the worship of God in Judaism. It was a magnificent building with beautiful stonework, gold implements, the finest scented woods and so much more. It would certainly have rivalled either of the two cathedrals mentioned above and it was the true Holy Place where man stood in the presence of God.
But look at the words of Jesus in relation to the impending destruction of the Temple.
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down." (Mark chapter 13, verses 1-2)
His reply to the disciples was quite matter of fact concerning the destruction of the Temple. There was no emotion, just a statement of what was to come.
Why was Jesus so apparently unconcerned about this terrible event to come? This was the house of God after all, and He had previously shown His concern that it not be misused when in anger He drove out the sellers of animals and money changers from the Temple.
And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers." (Matthew chapter 21, verses 12-13)
The reason Christ was unconcerned was that He understood that church is not a place.
Church is not a place
People have always built churches in which to congregate, but for the most part they are unnecessary.
In some cases the churches built feed the egos of men rather than serve the purposes of God. They are more like places of business or entertainment stadiums rather than houses of prayer and worship.
Jesus epitomises what church really is when He said;
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew chapter 18, verse 20)
Church is not about where you go, it’s about who goes where. Church is about people coming together in the name of Jesus Christ, for the express purpose of worshipping, praising, seeking and learning about Christ. And when they do get together, whether two or three or ten thousand, then Christ is with them.
The lounge room house church or kitchen table bible study group or weekly prayer group in the park is no less a “church” than congregations meeting in those massive buildings that have the word “Church” emblazoned across their facade.
Jesus showed us the way and how we are to worship in His name.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John chapter 4, verses 23-24)
Do you seek to worship God? Then don’t worry about the magnificence of the building. Learn how to worship as He told us to; in spirit and truth.
Since retiring from work, John Lemmon now spends his time teaching, preaching and writing about the word of God, online and offline, answering God's call on him to “Speak to my people.” You can connect with John on Twitter (@JohnBLemmon) or on his website: freegiftfromgod.com/ or listen to his podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-free-gift-from-god-podcast/id1440682375