I was watching a faithful biblically accurate movie version of the book of Acts. I love the way the producers and filmmakers have turned out something that I can follow in the scripture and see presented. It’s one thing to have an audio version of scripture, but to watch it and follow along gives different perspectives on understanding something so significant.
Previously I had read Acts 7 in context and been fascinated first of all by the charge made against Stephen in the first place. He is charged with the great offense of suggesting the downfall of the temple and change of Moses’ customs by Jesus (Acts 6:13, 14). Maybe one day I’ll be able to memorise the entirety of Stephen’s speech. In the meantime reading it, imagining it and then seeing a version of it dramatised captured my imagination as to what Stephen was really saying. Crucial to note in the off that the accusation made against him was by false witnesses. That is to say, the charge itself was never made by Stephen. The speech by the angelic looking Stephen though, is rich in history and a perspective on the history of Israel and its place in the global narrative of God. One of the key portions of the argument is towards the end,
Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, "'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?' (Acts 7:48-50)
This is not an exegesis. This is not a sermon on the verse, what it is however is a springboard for one of the greatest bugbears that’s plagued me ever since I took church attendance almost seriously. For a considerable time I’ve knocked about in church circles where the impression is that the building is it. To keep up with the Joneses, to be ready for ‘church growth’, we need the multi-thousand seat stadia, large facility with offices, crèche, multi-media studios, community resources and the like. Those who do not own a building of their own pour their resources into renting a facility and doing it up just right. It’s all about the venue and in their quest to make things feasible for visitors the location is key.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am in no way suggesting that there is something inherently wrong with a facility and a gathering place to meet as a group. I am not suggesting that at all. Yeah that costs money. Yeah it’s good to have those kind of things in mind for the gathering of the saints. The problem is when the building becomes the focus and in all the fuss of things we become more bothered about the building and a single meeting a week (maybe two, hey maybe three) rather than the real brass knucks of the real building project God is interested in – people. God is interested in people. He is interested in working through people to help other people, serve other people and essentially get it into His creation that He has moved on from the shadow of things to come to actually dwell in His people and then His people will live in Him.
It’s all about relationship and God is all about His glory being revealed through people. Now I’m no expert, but I’ve got a good feeling that if we took this seriously, then investments would be more in people than it would in buildings. If that was the case I’m fairly sure church as we know it and live it would be radically different.
For His Name's Sake