Last night as I put the girls to bed, I climbed up into their bunks with them and began my nightly tradition of tickling them and then talking to them when the ground has been cultivated with relaxing laughter.
Aly was showing me how she makes shadow animals on the wall with her hands from the light of the closet. She made a dinosaur, a duck, and a vulture. She asked me if I knew any so I put my hands in the form of a traditional church and cast a shadow of a building with a tall steeple. It triggered a little memory from my childhood Sunday School days where the teacher taught us how to interlock our digits, make a steeple with our index fingers, and chant out a this little poem:
“This is the church, this is the steeple,
open the doors, and there’s all the people.”
As I showed the girls how to do it, I balked. Like an allergic reaction to cat hair I felt my heart send off alarms of warning: “Don’t teach your kids that the church is a building! You know you don’t believe that…why perpetuate perverted theology in the form of a cute little incantation? Teach them about the church!”
The ball was already rolling and they were beginning to practice the poem accompanied with these clever hand motions. While they were in the middle of parroting back to me what I had just taught them I yelled out, “NOOO! no, No, NO, NOOOOOO! That is not what the church is!” They looked at me like I was “cookoo for cocoa puffs” half wondering if I was serious. In a weird way, I was. Dead serious.
I told them that though this witty little rhyme was catchy and seemingly innocuous, it was not true. I told them that the church is not the building sporting a sweet steeple, but that it is, in fact, the people inside who are the church. They looked at me puzzled and probably wondered why I was making such a big deal about something so benign. I couldn’t help it. I hate the belief system of “meeting at the church” that has crowded out the biblical model of “meeting as the church”. It seems subtle, but it is central.
I then smashed my hands together and rewrote the Mother Goose-like rhyme:
“This is the building, this is the steeple,
opens the doors, and there’s all the church.”
It doesn’t rhyme anymore, which sort of stinks, but at least it’s true. Kami was the first to point out that it didn’t rhyme anymore. I told her I didn’t care because the other way of saying it was heresy. She asked me what heresy was and I said, “Something that sounds true but isn’t.” She could tell I was dead serious about it. I could feel that I was dead serious about it.
They wanted me to make it rhyme so it sounded as cool as the first one, but it was late and everything I tried sounded dumb.
“This is the building, here is the mezzanine,
open the doors and meet all the drama queens.”
“This is a steeple on a makeshift pole barn,
Where inside the people could not give a darn.”
Ok, maybe I need to work harder on the rhyme, but I’ll get it nailed down post haste. It’s a work in progress.
I know, you may not think this to be that big a deal. You have the right to your opinion. But if I were going to die on a mountain, it would be to murder the deadly doctrine I call “The Objectification of the Church”, not for Calvanism or the Pre-trib rapture of the church. You see, the church is not a place, and for the record, it is not a person. It is a people--a motley crew of recovering hypocrites who need a Savior really, really bad.
There are few things, in my estimation, that have struck such a mortal deathblow to the kingdom—like a sucker punch to the temple (pun intended)—than the belief that the church is a building.
These are the phrases that indicate you believe that the church is a place:
“I’m going to church.” “What church do you attend?” “We have great worship at our church!” “I left church and went home.” “If we keep growing we’ll have to build a bigger church!”
These are the phrases that indicate you believe that the church is a people:
“I love being with my church.” “The church sang with all her heart today.” “I love my church’s passion.” “I’m meeting my church down at the food-mobile today.” “I love seeing my church in the community!” “I love being a part of the church!”
“Christianity isn’t about going to church, it’s about being the church.”
I’m going to teach the girls this little jingle tonight. I hope it sets the record straight.
“This is a building with a fancy white perch,
inside or out, the people are the church.”