by Calven Celliers
As a Team, our church staff are currently working through Andy Stanley’s book ‘Irresistible’ in our weekly devotions together. Today I want to share a portion of the chapter that we read this past Wednesday and some pertaining thoughts that it sparked in my mind at this time, with you.
‘After taking over from the disaster that was King Saul, King David spent years expanding, settling, and fortifying the nation of Israel. Eventually there was a break in the action. During the lull, it dawned on David that while everyone else had moved indoors, God was still living in a tent… So, David made an appointment with the prophet in residence, Nathan… Nathan smiled and suggested David do something about it. [But] God was fine living in a tent. He seemed to prefer it. Besides He wasn’t home most of the time anyway … God tells David he has too much blood on his hands to build a temple. David doesn’t argue, but he doesn’t give up on his idea. He forges ahead to ensure that when his son Solomon becomes king, everything will be in place for construction of a permanent structure … David raised the money. He had plans drawn. He hired stonecutters. And according to plan, when Solomon took the throne, the grand construction project began. Twenty years later it was completed. At the end of those twenty years, Solomon invited God to leave His tent and move indoors.’ (Irresistible – Andy Stanley)
Andy highlights that Solomon’s temple embodied design features similar to all other pagan temples including a sacred space designed specifically for the image of the god for whom the temple was dedicated. A god-vault; the most sacred of sacred chambers. Solomon’s temple also had a chamber of this nature, referred to in Scripture as the holy of holies. The distinguishing, differentiating characteristic of the Jewish temple, however, was something it lacked that other pagan temples had. An image.
Israel served a living God. Unlike the pagan gods in Solomon’s day or those worshipped centuries later by citizens of Rome, Israel’s God did not need to be carted into His temple and hoisted onto a pedestal. Israel’s God never needed to be locked up at night so no one would steal Him. Israel’s God never needed to be wheeled out by priests on festival days. Israel’s God was Spirit. A Holy Spirit. Israel’s God wasn’t put in His temple. Israel’s God inhabited His temple.
So, what does all this mean for us today? It got me thinking that at this peculiar time in world history, when many believers aren’t able to gather together in church, we must remember that you don’t need to go to church to meet with God, because God isn’t in a church building, He inhabits us! As born-again believers we ourselves are temples inhabited by the living God. We serve a living God who abides in us in the form of the Holy Spirit. While it’s nice to gather together in the church, and we miss the fellowship terribly when we can’t meet as regularly or easily, may we never lose sight that we are the Church.
The way we talk about the church reveals what we think about the church. In turn, what we think about the church shapes and directs how we live as the church. If you see the church as a Sunday event, for example, it won’t be long before you begin to think of the whole Christian life as a ‘Sunday thing’. When God designed the church, He intended for His followers — the people — to be the church. Not just a group of people who gather together and serve Him one day a week, but believers who serve God and their communities every single day.
What this weeks’ chapter in Andy’s book highlighted for me is that we as believers have to change how we think about the church altogether, especially now when we can’t gather as easily as we once could. When Jesus established His church, He didn’t have an institution in mind. His bride was not to be a building, she was to be a shining light in the darkness. The word church should in fact be a verb; we’re called to be alive and active, to have an impact wherever we are.
Sure, it’s great to attend church to fellowship and be built up with other believers, but we don’t leave the Spirit of God behind in the church building; the Holy Spirit, presence of God, lives in you! And so, I want to encourage you to give this issue some more thought and to prayerfully consider if you are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to be the church even when you can’t go to church; give some thought to what that might mean for you as a believer at a time such as this?