Friday, November 30, 2012

Churches: Are They Obsolete?


Kelly and I saw a lot of churches on our trip through the Italian Riviera. Even the oldest and most ornate American churches are vastly different than those in Europe. Church leaders spared no expense or talent to create edifices of unequaled grandeur and symbolism. Most, took around 100 years to build, like La Sagrada de Familia (The Sacred Family) in Barcelona, Spain. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, construction of this church began in 1882 and they estimate it will be finished in 1226-28.

It seems like half our trip was spent gaping at one church or another. It was impossible to absorb all the splendor: marble sculptures, rich gold overlay, mosaics, paintings, multi-colored marble and stained glass, and ornate columns. They were magnificent and beautiful beyond description. The immensity of their design and embellishment is truly a treasure of antiquity. However, as for being places where people come to worship, they are somewhat obsolete. They are more tourist attractions now than anything else.




It reminded me of my sister’s refrigerator. A couple years ago it stopped refrigerating. Her husband made valiant efforts to fix it, but to no avail. They finally called a repairman who said it would have to be replaced.

“But it’s not even ten years old yet,” they countered.

The repairman gave a rueful smile. “Yeah, you used to be able to count on them lasting at least fifteen years, but now refrigerators and other appliances only have a life expectancy of six or seven years.” Manufacturers seem bent on planned obsolescence.

Is that where the Church is headed? Like many cathedrals in Europe, has the Church put so much emphasis on how we look to others that we’re becoming obsolete in this generation? We may not have fancy buildings, but often those outside the church think of us as stained glass saints. Nice to look at, but out of touch with real life.




The longer I walk with the Lord, the more aware I am of how desperately I need God. That's the message we need to hold out to the world. We are not beautiful and perfect, but so grateful to Jesus for offering us forgiveness and new life that we can't help but praise Him. The more we keep our focus on God’s wonderful grace and relate to others with genuine humility and love, the more relevant we will be in our world. God did not plan for His Church or His people to become obsolete. And His message will never fade or grow outdated. If anything, the Good News is more relevant than ever.

As the Message translation exuberantly proclaims:

“All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:
He paid the ransom for his people,
He ordered his Covenant kept forever.
He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
The good life begins in the fear of God
Do that and you’ll know the blessing of God.
His Hallelujah lasts forever!”
Psalm 111:7-10, emphasis added

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