As a Pastor, I desire to see our church buildings look the best they can. There is nothing wrong with having a nice place of prayer and worship. However, it is terrible when Christians place so much into their buildings that we forget that we are the church. We have crossed a line whenever we elevate our church buildings to a position higher than the people around us. Also, anytime we promote our facilities to a place of worship, that is idolatry. Israel had this problem.
God questioned, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?" (Isaiah 66:1 NASB). The answer to God's questions is that we can't build a building good enough for Him. God showed Israel multiple times that it was not about the building but the Presence in the building. In 587 b.c., Nebuchadnezzar marched through Jerusalem and utterly destroyed the temple (Jeremiah 52, 2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36). Roughly seventy years later, Zerababel supervised the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, Ezra taught the people the Law of God, and Nehemiah went and rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem (Ezra and Nehemiah). About 500 years later, Herod rebuilt that temple with a more extravagant version known as Herod's Temple. Jesus entered this temple when He visited Jerusalem (John 2:13-17). Like Solomon's temple, this temple was too important to the people. Jesus tried to get them to correct their wrong ways. However, He had to prophesy that this temple would be destroyed too (Matthew 23:37-38; 24:1-2). In A.D. 70, Titus led his Roman legions into Jerusalem, destroying the city and the temple. Titus would remove all the prized possessions from the temple and take them back to Rome (The arch of Titus shows many of those possessions). God allowed the temple's destruction, showing that He did not need a manufactured temple.
Today's Christian church should benefit from the lessons God taught Israel about the temple. First, God does not need a building because He already built His own. He reveals that in Isaiah 66:2, "'For my hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,' declares the Lord. 'But to this one, I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word'" (NASB). We see God's plan of dwelling in His people, not the buildings they build. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?" (1 Corinthians 6:19a NASB).
Why did God decide to dwell in His people? God lives in His people to empower them to be His church. We spend so much time, energy, and resources trying to get people to visit our buildings. God does not empower us to fill a facility but to go out into the world and be his body, loving, serving, and declaring the Gospel. As I said earlier, I want our church building to look great. I also desire to fill it up with people. However, if we only focus on our buildings, we are not being His church. Pastor, don't just have church; lead the church to be the church. Member, don't just attend the church; be the church everywhere you go. Christians, don't just visit God once a week in a building; be His house, and He will empower you to do His work.
Pastor Josh May