Look at this picture of a church. It is a work of art by Laurens Kolks en Dennis Lohuis.
A wonderful building on the outside, but it is hollow from the inside. We see the shape of a church, but without any content. No windows, and a fake door. An empty package, a ghost. A fake chapel, as a statement, a metaphor of our present time, in which empty churches are the new normal.
A few weeks ago a musical friend commented that people are too busy for church these days. He referred to his own family as an example. Adults are in sports, kids are in sports activities, there are school activities, activities in society, electronic games, TV shows, recreational activities, travel, volunteer work, mission work – there is simply no time left for church on Sunday, at least not regularly. He compared the immigrant generation, where the church played an important social role, in a hard-working community.
This social role of the church is obsolete in today’s society, replaced by other activities. Therefore attendance in many denominational churches is decreasing, except maybe a few dedicated seniors.
But, the church is not a social club! Social life is not it’s primary concern. The church is the bride of Christ. When we go to church, we “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, […] and to God, the judge of all…”. (Hebr 12:22)
That’s not a social place where we need to feel warm, cozy and agreeable. We don’t serve coffee to become ‘the third place’ like Starbucks (home, work and Starbucks). God calls us – and we don’t need to welcome ourselves (if that appeals, there is a misunderstanding of what happens in the service). He speaks to us, young and old, through his servant. We don’t need special theme-services, or special events before, in, or after the service. We are there to hear “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23).
Through grace alone, God (and God alone) will gather, defend, and preserve his church. A church full of grace and peace. Recognizable as His church. A light in the darkness. A symbol of God’s love for this world. Let’s keep our windows clear and our doors open, that we may be filled.
PS The pictured church can be found on the eastern outskirts of the neighbourhood Leidschenveen in The Hague (NL).