Jesus established a church, not another temple religion.
Consider the context in which Christianity began. Christians' monotheistic, Jewish roots immediately precluded the possibility of idols, since they served the invisible God. The Mediterranean world saw this monotheism as odd, yet tolerated it. Christianity’s founder, Jesus of Nazareth, was poor and uneducated. His movement ended with his public execution on a Roman cross. Far from being an accomplishment or inspiration, the Jews and Greco-Romans regarded him as an utter failure, as crucifixions were designed to do. The Christians also had no holy sites, not even at the tomb of their founder! (Hint: because it was empty)
Yet their strangest characteristic was the lack of a temple. The temple was sacred space. It was where the gods resided. It was were the gods and worshippers came together. The Jews had one. The Greeks, Romans, and Eastern religions had temples. Christianity had no temple.
“Where is your temple?” A Roman would have asked his Christian neighbor. “We have no temple,” the Christian would reply. “We have the church.”
Unfortunately, we often think of Christianity as a temple religion, where the “church” is a building and event. In this line of thought, “church” as building serves as an organizational headquarters and venue for “church” as event, where worshippers gather for weekly meetings with God. When Christianity is lived as a temple religion discipleship is minimized and the true function of the church is lost.
What is the church? Paul tells us in Eph. 2:18-22, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
We have no temple because we are the temple. The church is not made of brick and mortar; rather, the church is made of men and women, husbands and wives, and carpenters and lawyers. The church is the global, eternal community of Jesus’ disciples, expressed in local worshipping communities (Heb. 12:18-24).
To be clear: a mere group of Christians meeting at a coffee shop to half gossip, half talk about the latest, coolest Christian book does not constitute “church.” It is popular today, particularly among my generation, to discard the organized church as a stale and suffocating structure which hinders true spirituality. While those who advocate this kind of Christianity may use similar rhetoric to mine, I do not stand in agreement with them, and I am suspect that their views are more informed by Western individualism than by the New Testament. My argument is that the church, at least as it is understood in the New Testament, is not a building. Jesus did not establish another temple religion.
Now, I said all of that so that we may think clearly when I say this: Redeemer City Church is moving to a new facility. For a year and a half we have been meeting downtown in Cite Des Arts’s theatre. We are grateful for our time there and appreciate the staff’s hospitality to us. However, we are excited to announce that we will be moving to 1515 W University Ave. on January 31st. It will not be our church. The members of Redeemer are still the church. It will not be our home. As the author of Hebrews said, our home is “the city of the living God.” (Heb. 12:22) We are the same church, with the same message and mission, in a new location.
I praise God for the friendship and partnership of Brandon Nealy and the rest of the pastors at Christ Church for leasing this building to us. My prayer is that God would bless them as they seek to faithfully make disciples in Lafayette, and that our friendship would last for many years.
One evening a few weeks ago, I had a short conversation with Pastor Mike Walker from the Bayou Church. I shared with him the news that we would be moving to a new location. He smiled, leaned down—because, well, I’m short—and told me, “A building is a wonderful tool, but remember that it is just a tool.” I could not agree more.
I cannot wait to see what God has in store for Redeemer City Church. I cannot wait to use this new tool to continue to preach the gospel, cultivate community, and make disciples in Acadiana. I hope to see you for our first service at 10:30 a.m. on January 31st at 1515 W University Ave.