A building-less Church could become a better Church when we finally get back to our buildings.
John 15 v1-8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Most nations have national symbols for example, a dragon, lion or a unicorn! Israel has the Menorah and 2 olive branches but the national symbols are also the fig tree and the vine. There was a golden statue of a vine on the altar of their 2nd Temple. Even their coins were inscribed with a vine. The vine was all around them. Jesus says the vine needs to be in them. It wasn’t strange that Jesus on walking from their Passover meal through the Kidron valley to the garden that he would talk about the vine. At their meal there had been a traditional blessing on their 3rd cup of wine:
Blessed are You O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
What was strange was that the vine was never spoken of referring to an individual, but only as a nation. Plus when it was used it was always in terms of God’s judgment on His people.
Isaiah pictures Israel as a vine that has run wild, they are not what God intended. Jeremiah pictures Israel as a vine that is in a degenerate, unhealthy state. Hosea pictures Israel as a vine which is empty, it bears fruit only for themselves, not for God.
The vine, Israel and their God was the same as people who when talking of Church would think of people, a building and their God.
What Jesus says is this: I am the true vine. Not you. Me. Remain in me. Then you will bear fruit. The world will see you as my disciples and the Father will be glorified. Relationship with me not empty rituals is the key.
We have always maintained the Church is not the building but sometimes our practices and programmes haven’t suggested it to be so. Now that we cannot get to our buildings we have been reminded as we look at our computer screens that the Church is definitely not the building. Can you imagine for a crazy moment if we were in some kind of lockdown from our buildings for a year? For 5 years? Awful thought. But just say a length of time enough for a new norm to have emerged for the Church, which didn’t involve a building. (This is not a hate your building campaign. I love buildings!) Now imagine if God used this time to prune the Church back?
Can you imagine for a crazy moment if what became the priority was our relationship with a) Jesus; b) each other; and c) the world around us?
Can you imagine Christians depending more on their own worship life to grow? Worship songs sung at home in throughout the day devotional times?
Last night I led a Bible study on ZOOM (the latest word that everyone knows which doesn’t now mean’ fast’ depending on wifi signals!) and in the breakout room the members of my group were saying how even more connected they felt at this time. They were carrying one another’s burdens like never before. Can you imagine a Church being recognised by its love?
Again yesterday I saw one of my ministers on social media out and about his neighbourhood with a loud speaker playing ‘Amazing Grace’ inviting people to join him in the hymn at the doors or windows. Can you imagine the fruit coming from this pruning being a new desire to connect to the world around us?
It will be great when we gather together again in buildings. But can you imagine what kind of Church will gather there after this season we are going through?!