The plan: worship together on the slopes of a majestic mountain under the bright blue sky. The reality: a memorable two hour service of prayer and praise in a cramped Ford van. The lesson: the church is not made of bricks and mortar, and it is not a place on a map, but it is men and women who have been purchased by the blood of Christ.
The occasion was a camping trip I put together a number of years ago. I had taken about 25 youth and parents to a camping area a few miles south of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We arrived on Friday, with plans to return home on Monday. The highlight, for me, would be worship on Sunday—gathered around a roaring camp fire, with the beauty of nature as the backdrop, sitting on naturally-hewn pews singing, praying, hearing God’s Word, and sharing in the thanksgiving of communion.
Yet, Sunday “dawned” with a thunderstorm the likes of which this boy from the plains of Texas had never seen. There was torrential rain, hailstones, lightning, thunder, wind, but no campfire, no pews of rock and timber, no picturesque setting in which to “have church.”
So, we huddled together, all 25 of us, in a 15-passenger Ford van. We sang, we prayed, we read God’s Word, and we partook of the Lord’s Supper. For two hours, we joined in worship to the God who created all that was about us and all that was in us. At least one important lesson was made clear: the church is not made of bricks and mortar, and it is not a “place” on a map, but it is men and women who have been purchased by the blood of Christ.
How much of our energy and resources is given to bricks and mortar, and to places “on the map”? Much of the attention has become a necessity: the wise steward in us dictates that buildings that “have been built” should be kept in working order. Yet, how easy it is to forget that the church is “people” is that our calling is not to build buildings, but “relationships.”
We must remember, we are in the business of building relationships with God and among men. When buildings and properties and physical concerns occupy the bulk of our energies and resources, then I believe we have compromised our identity as the church of Christ.