I have an affinity for architecture. When I was younger becoming an architect was one career I dreamed of becoming. That never happened, but to this day I still have a great appreciation of new and old buildings and seeing the craftsmanship that goes into designing and building them.
A few years back my wife, Michelle, and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a trip to Chicago. It was exciting to visit iconic buildings such as Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), the John Hancock Center, and Wrigley Field. I also like to visit historic churches as well. One church that I was looking forward to seeing was the 4th Presbyterian Church located in the Magnificent Mile neighborhood of downtown Chicago. This church was designed by Ralph Adams Cram who also designed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, both buildings done in a Gothic Revival.
It was going to be easy to see this church since we were staying in the Magnificent Mile neighborhood. Unfortunately when we were there it was either under maintenance or renovation because scaffolding was setup all around it, making it difficult to appreciate the architecture.
The church is more than the building, I am sure that you have heard that before. We have even sung the hymn, “I am the Church, You are the Church” before which has the verses, “the church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is a people.” I want us to think of the church building as scaffolding for our mission. The scaffolding going up around 4th Presbyterian Church was there on purpose because work was being done. Scaffolding is a temporary structure that enables that work to be done, if work isn’t being done or is no longer needed the scaffolding comes down. Our church building is also a temporary tool in the sense that it enables us to do the work we have been called to do in the great commission. If the work is no longer needed (which we know it still is) or if the work is not being done the church building begins to lose its purpose. During our trip we saw many wonderful buildings, some new and some old, but what became very apparent to me about most of the buildings was that their purpose for being built and what they were used for now often changed. For example, the Tribune Tower which was formerly the home of the Chicago Tribune Newspaper and other media is now being converted into residential condominiums. I have seen this happen to old church buildings being converted into either residential homes or places of business.
The tool (our church building) we have been given is still needed and the mission work is being done. We are reaching our neighbors and we are fulfilling our mission. As long as our building, programs, and traditions are helping us stay obedient to the call of Christ they should stay in place. But, like construction scaffolding, we need to be willing to remove, replace or repair them when they stop being effective. Join us this Sunday for Sunday School at 9:30 AM and worship at 10:30 AM as we continue our series, Renovate, and seek how through “Living Incarnationally” we can become living representations of Christ in our communities.