Do you remember that silly song we learned as kids with all of the hand motions about the Church? “Here is the Church, here is the steeple, open the doors and there’s all the people.” I used to really enjoy that song. I think I must have bothered my brothers with that a ton. I figured if I had something like that stuck in my head, I might as well stick it in someone else’s head. The more I think about that song, I have a lot of reservations about it. I think perhaps there are good intentions for it but feel as though we are missing something. Here are a few thoughts.
“Here is the Church”
In this part of the song, we take our fingers and lace them together and cup our hands so our fingers are inside of our hands. What have we really just done though? We have just said, in words and actions, that the church is a building that houses our fingers (the body of Christ). This is not at all what the Bible teaches. The Church is not a building that houses the body of Christ but is actually the body of Christ. We are called to be the literal hands, feet, mouth, and body of Christ.
I remember growing up in that building people called the church. I was running around as most young children do when they have a lot of energy. When you have to sit through some boring message and sing from a hymnal and stuff, all of that energy is pent up in oneself and needs to get out. So I would run around with the other boys. That usually didn’t last too long because someone would stop us and say, “There will be no running in God’s house.” That seemed to work with me when I was little but now question the very statement. I have a few questions for that man or woman that stopped me from running in “God’s house.” If the building I go to is really God’s house, what about all the other buildings? If the “church” is the only place God lives, then why should I care about how I act at my home with my family or at school or the store. If God’s residence is in a building and not in my life, why should I care what anyone thinks or says outside of the building we call the church? Aren’t we told that the Spirit of God lives in each one of us? Doesn’t Paul tell us that our bodies are temples for God to dwell? Since I am a pretty logical thinker (or at least attempt to be), that would mean that the building that I go to is not God’s house but is a place where the temples of God come together to form the body of Christ and worship God. If someone would have told me that growing up, I could probably see why he or she told me to stop running. Coming together as the body of Christ is a beautiful expression of how we will one day live with Christ. I think we need to tell kids the truth. God shows up when two or more are gathered in His name. So, when we come together as the body of Christ, God shows up. In awe and reference of who God is, we should then take the time to worship Him for who He is and what He has done for us. This is the real reason we really shouldn’t run around in “church.”
“Here is the steeple”
I have been to a lot of buildings where people gather to worship God throughout my life and have to tell you that many of them do not possess a steeple. In my understanding, the purposes of steeples were to cause one’s eyes to raise and look at the sky (to heaven). Many of these steeples had a cross at the top to remind people of the death and resurrection of Christ. Finally some of them glowed, indicating and symbolizing that the light of Christ is here – we are lighthouses to the world as it were. One never had to look for a church for too long. Just look for a steeple and most likely it was a church.
The problem with that logic today is that many churches do not have steeples. The Well for instance does not possess a steeple. We meet in a warehouse next to an ambulance workshop in an industrial park. Several other churches have the same kind of layout. Some meet in movie theaters as well as homes. Some meet in storefronts while others meet in barns or hotels. In short, the logical steeple story is not all that it is cracked up to be. A church is not determined by the size of its steeple. It is determined by the actions and relationship individuals have with the Creator in both a communal setting as well as a personal devotional setting.
“Open the doors and there are all the people”
Here is the hardest part of this song. Statistics tell us that the Church is not really growing, as we would like to suggest to our young minds. In fact, it seems as though it is doing the exact opposite of what we would really like it to be doing. I am not going to depress anyone with stats regarding the petering off of the church. So many books are being written as to whose fault it is while others are solely slamming the institution of the church for its demise. If you would like to read any of them, I guess you could waste your time to do so. I would rather focus on how we can fix the problem. In doing so, perhaps we could open the doors of the building and see a lot of people who are sold out for Christ. Putting it bluntly: Stop your complaining and get your ass in gear. Instead of blaming a church, Let’s as a couple of questions:
Am I being the body of Christ? Am I actively engaging with the world around me as well as other believers? Do I have a meaningful, personal relationship with God? Do I often find myself complaining about how things in the church are going rather than trying to find ways in being pro-active in making necessary changes? Do I allow myself to be available to the needs of people and the needs of the Church (the building and the people)? How is my prayer life with regards to all of this? Is God being glorified through my life? What does being apart of the Church really mean to me? These are a few hard questions I am asking myself and encourage you to ask as well. I am telling you – you might not like what you have to hear or what you see in response. What I hope will happen for me and for those who care to ask those questions is life change. What I mean to say is – God is all about life change. It is why we read the Bible and why we do what we do as the body of Christ.
I don’t have all the answers in getting all the people back in the church. In fact, the freedom of it all is that the Holy Spirit is the one responsible for that part. I have to do mine though: Be available and love those who walk through the doors. I need to welcome them as I would any member of my family. That means if someone new walks through our doors, I shouldn’t just sit and talk to the same people. I should greet them and welcome them. I think loving people is a missing component to our churches today. It is something we oftentimes pretend we have it together.
In closing I will just say this. Even though the song I learned so long ago has personal significance and meaning, I need we need to take another look at where we are as a Church and where we ought to be. Though everyone loves to do the hand motions, perhaps we need to learn a new song that encourages us to be the body of Christ – the Church. Any thoughts?