Did the Church Leave the Building?


February 19, 2022

1 Peter 2:4-6 NIV

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”


From the dawn of civilization, people have wanted to define themselves by their buildings. Something about us loves buildings and something in us wants to define ourselves by our our building projects. It’s interesting how buildings are a prominent way people want to make a name for themselves (even naming them for ourselves). It’s nothing new. Does the Tower of Babel ring a bell?

4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)

How about the Taj Mahal, Notre Dame, the World Trade Center, the White House, the Pentagon, the Eiffel Tower, and on we could go. Right down to the homes we live in, people define themselves by their buildings. Our text today makes allusion to the most significant building in the history of the World—The Temple—the symbolic and real dwelling place of the presence of the True and Living God in Jerusalem up until the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Messiah. 

The big problem with the Temple is the way people learned to go to the Temple without going to God. They were going to “get” something from God rather than to “give” themselves to God. This effectively turned the place into a “Den of Thieves.” 

This is yet another of the infinitely amazing things about Jesus. He speaks of a building but the building materials are the people themselves—living stones. The people are being built together into a spiritual house. Here’s the most interesting part. There is only one way into the building. 

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—

Step 1: Come to Jesus. Step 2: Jesus builds us into a deep abiding connection with other people who have come to him. 

you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

It seems like we have it exactly backwards. Our approach is Step 1: Come to church. Step 2: Come to Jesus. 

It’s the same problem they had with the Temple. 1. Come to the Temple. 2. Come to God. The problem is how the Temple gets substituted for God; and similarly, and by extension—how the church gets substituted for Jesus. The Temple without God is a Den of Thieves. And coming to church without coming to Jesus? Could it be the same thing? At least we can say the Church has left the building? Which might lead us to ask, where did it go? 


Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You are the head of the Body, the Church. Forgive us for getting it mixed up. Would you take all our groups gathering in all our buildings and do a re-start for us? Would you create some defining moments when we can each one “Come to you, the Living Stone,” or just stop wasting your time and our time and everyone else’s? Break the ruts of our systems and structures and come build your church atop our ruins. We need a level set. It’s another way of saying we need a great awakening. Holy Spirit, the living mortar, lead us into this new house of living stones. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen. 


Something we think about a lot is the difference between planting “a church” and “planting church.” Get the difference? And a word to pastors, theologians, and candlestick makers (aka thought leaders)—we need you to be forging and fashioning a post-Christendom christocentric ecclesiology with a rich trinitarian missiology and a robust great awakening pneumatology. (My Dad is going to kill me for that sentence!) Come on! 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. “ (Matthew 26:41) I believe it’s high time that we exchange our attractional model of church for the sacrificial one found in Romans 12:1-2. I believe that there are already in existence the type of church you are hoping for. They can be found within the organic/missional church movement.

  2. The way the word church is used in English demonstrates that it is both a religious building and a religious institution. It is also sometimes used for a weekly Christian religious gathering. However, when you read an English New Testament, the term church seems to mean something different than our contemporary usage.

    That’s because the original word “ekklesia” has a different meaning that the English word church. Ekklesia literally means “called out ones.” It was also the proper name for the participatory city council in each of the ancient Greek city-states.

    Emil Brunner was a famous 20th century theologian who recognized that difference (that you also describe in this post without using the word ekklesia. For some enlightening quotes from Emil, check this out: https://hopethoughts.com/2017/05/19/emil-brunner-quotes-about-ekklesia/

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