Read: Mark 13:1-2
As I began to process chapter 13, The Olivet Discourse, I simply had to stop and observe the first few verses through the eyes of the disciples, with a bent toward the current state of so many churches in this country.
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:1-2
I had the privilege of meeting with disciples downtown on Tuesday and Wednesday morning this week. As I drove past multiple church properties, I couldn’t help but notice those that were gigantic structures, along with empty parking lots. I’m not judging the pastors, ministers, staff, etc., I’m making a statement about the system that led to this phenomena we refer to as “church.” What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!
It is my belief that these will be relics of the next generation. The new church will be much more organic, much more difficult to identify, and hardly recognizable by today’s standards. The next generation of churches has yet to be defined, but I’m confident it will not include hefty senior pastor salaries and designated parking. Giant buildings with monthly utility bills that could provide for dozens of families that don’t even have the means to have electricity will be replaced, repurposed, redesigned, redesignated, re____.
The disciples, after spending hours in the temple courts with Jesus, are excited about those who heard the preaching and teaching. Their comments about the temple come from a place of joy. Jesus has just debunked leading teachers and Pharisees, upset many who were full of pride, and supported those who humbly came to the temple to offer what they could. This was an amazing day! Walking out, they make a simple observation, but Jesus, as He does so often, turns the tables.
Historically, we have the privilege of knowing that those massive structures were indeed destroyed, but that was inconceivable by those walking out of the temple courts 2,000+ years ago. Completely unheard of.
My angst against the large church model in America is not to see them fail; rather, I want more than anything to see thriving churches, filled with disciple-making disciplers that serve their communities and pour the gospel out to everyone. No, I’m not against these entities, but I know that most are unable to be the effective church because they compromise the gospel over the system they have built, the salaries they must pay, and the infrastructure that drives the stewardship campaigns.
My prayer is for churches to wake up to their original calling, to look at large gatherings (typically on Sunday) as celebrations of the week of working in the harvest field, spreading the gospel, pouring into disciples, reaching into the workplace with hundreds of ministers (every Christian is a minister of the gospel), and building each other up as we talk about success and failures during the week.
There is much work to do. We need healthy churches and healthy leaders. We need people to work together with a common understanding of the direction that Jesus set for us, to go and make disciples. Lord, help us!