I’ve been thinking alot lately about the difference between relating to GOD as if He lives in a temple and relating to GOD as Creator and Redeemer of all His Creation. A Christian faith that is centered on the concept of ‘temple’ as the nexus of faith, I believe, betrays the very nature of what GOD has done in and through Jesus. Honestly though it’s not so much the building itself that can be problematic but our idolatrous attitudes about it. When Jesus died on the cross and breathed His last the curtain to the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple was ripped in two:

“…And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38)

Why then do we live as if our church buildings are ‘the house of GOD’ when all of His creation cannot contain Him? The veil has been torn- will we accept it? Or will we continue to force both GOD and His people to remain in a ‘christianized’ temple system? I believe a time is coming when we will again remember that we who follow the risen Jesus are ‘the household of faith‘ (1 Timothy 3:15) and that the real ‘building program’ must be centered around the development of Christian communities of shared life and mutual care.

I know it’s hard to fathom a Christianity without our temples and cathedrals but could it be that GOD is in the whirlwind- removing the boxes we’ve put Him in? The signs are beginning to be written on the wall as congregations all over America, including the most high profile, are coming to grips with this shifting of faith away from ‘the Temple’:

…In the past year, an estimated 100 churches filed for bankruptcy, including the oldest black church in DeKalb County, Ga., and Robert Schuller’s 10,000-member Crystal Cathedral megachurch in California. And churches aren’t the only ones — a Boynton Beach synagogue filed bankruptcy last June…

“Churches are going through a very difficult time, but to actually file for bankruptcy is extremely unusual,” said Simeon May, chief executive for the Texas-based National Association of Church Business Administration.

Some churches got caught up in the heady days of the 1990s and early 2000s when megachurches proliferated. The money spent on church construction and expansion more than tripled in 10 years, going from $2.8 billion in 1993 to $8.6 billion in 2003, according to the U.S. Census.

Church congregations were part of the same society that wanted supersized houses and the easy loans that made it possible, said John Farina, associate professor of religious studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. In the competitive marketplace of religion, bigger was better and the way to get bigger was to offer members more for their weekly contributions.

“The easy money and the temptation to spend more money than you make affected the churches just like the culture,” Farina said…” (via the Orlando Sentinel)

Is it really the end of a temple-based Christian spirituality in America? Would your community of faith continue on and thrive if the church building was eliminated?

A final word from Sally Morganthaler via The Work of the People:

J. Fowler

J. Fowler is the website editor and co-founder, along with his wife Pamela, of the Sustainable Traditions project. The Fowlers live with their seven children on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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