I love the simplicity of this church building. It’s nothing fancy. It’s on the same road where my dad lives outside of Brenham, TX, in Washington County. You can see that the paint is peeling, and the parking lot is mostly grass. The building doesn’t have central air, given the window units on the side you cannot see. I’m sure it has that old-church smell to it like a lot of churches do. You may know the smell I speaking of. Most members of old churches don’t notice the smell. They have grown use to it. It’s the smell of “old.” It shows that they haven’t updated anything in many years, no new paint, no new carpet, nothing new at all.
I’m told that not many people meet in this building. I don’t remember the name of the church. It’s really an obscure congregation, on a road less travelled, and unnoticed by most who do travel it. But for those who do attend, I imagine that they wouldn’t attend anywhere else. They could, I’m sure, find a new church to attend. They could find one with newer carpet, newer chairs, better heating and air, one that smelled like a coffee bar and not a forgotten building. But they don’t head out looking for that. They remain faithful to the commitment they made to the Lord, and continue to meet there.
I wonder if the rest of us get it. Would the building we meet in really matter if we knew that we would be fed by Christ every LORD’s day through the faithful preaching of God’s word? Would it matter? Would the smell of “old” matter to us if we knew that we would meet with our Savior in the Lord’s Supper to be fed by Him, would it matter? Would the old pews matter if we knew that as we sat there, we were being caught up by the Spirit and meeting with the assembly of the saints that had gone on before us, in the presences of our LORD? Would it matter? Would it matter if we had to walk across thread-bare carpet to our pews, carpet that had been walked on by our brothers and sisters in the LORD so many years before us? Would it matter?
Would it bother us that the building where God had called us to take our vows of membership, was unnoticed by the world? Would that matter? Would it matter if the air conditioner was tepid at best, given that our forefathers had no HVAC at all?
Sadly, I think for far too many, it would matter. Yet, what the Triune God has called His church to do is be faithful in meeting with Him on the LORD’s day, hearing the proclamation of God’s word as it is preached and read, and observe the sacraments that He has given His church, as well as to pray faithfully expecting that He will build His church. Far too many get caught up on things like buildings, carpet, smoke and light shows, praise music, all the while, missing the simplicity of what God has called His people to do. We are to be faithful in the things He has given us to do, and no more. We are His Church!
God has called us out of the world to be different, and far to many churches today try to look and smell just like the world. They use the business practices of the world, they erect buildings to attract the world, they tailor their worship to entice the world. All seems well on a practical level, but it is not what God has called us to do.
He has called us out of the world in order to be holy to Him, doing as He has prescribed for us to do. It’s really quite simple. He has called us to worship Him using the elements of worship He has given to us. These elements are perfectly suitable for the church and what we need in order to be fed. The beauty is that they can be practiced and used in the simplest of places, like the building above. For it is the elements that we practice, given to us by our Savior, that make us the church. It is these elements HE has given to us that make us holy. He has told us to use these elements on the LORD’s Day in worship. He hasn’t said much about the buildings or the place we are to worship. They don’t seem to matter to Him. But these elements? They matter.