The Greeks, the Romans, the Mayans, the Egyptians, and a host of other civilizations built fabulous temples for their gods. The Greeks built beautiful temples to honor Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite and others. The Mayans built massive structures of gods like Quetzacoatl, the feathered serpent. The Egyptians built sprawling temples of Ra and others. They even built the Pyramids for their pharaohs…their dead pharaohs.
Take a look at the Parthenon. It was huge, and visible for miles around. Even in a state of ruin, it’s obvious that the building was beautiful. It took a lot of money, a lot of lives, and a lot of years to build.
It is a magnificent structure, even in its current state of ruin. And this was done for gods made in the image of men, beasts, and creep-crawly things, according to what men, with their darkened hearts, thought was right.
On the other hand, the Israelites, at God’s direction, built a Tabernacle or, as it literally translates, a tent for God, the creator of the universe. The tent was surrounded by a seven foot high fence made of fine linen, blocking the view of the tabernacle and ensuring people approached the tent from exactly one direction, from the East.
The outer layer of the tent was made of porpoise skin. As a point of interest, at that time, porpoise skin was primarily used as shoe leather, specifically the leather used on the bottom of the shoe. It was a dull, drab color and it felt like, well, shoe leather. From the outside, the Tabernacle looked like nothing more than a non-descript grey mound, a grey mound with an interesting set of curtains on its East end. It looked something like the following:
But inside the drab tent was something completely unexpected. The interior was constructed of gold, silver and acacia wood. The interior was filled with the sweet aroma of a specially formulated incense. A golden lamp, in the shape of a vine with six branches growing out of it, burned the purest olive oil to provide light for one section of the two-sectioned tent. The walls were made of acacia wood wrapped in gold. The foundations used to hold the supporting walls were made of pure silver. The ceiling was made of fine linen with images of angels.
And in a small square shaped room, all by itself, sat the Ark of the Covenant, made of acacia wood and gold, and the mercy seat, formed from pure gold. And there, over the mercy seat, God graciously and visibly manifested his presence. It was here, over the mercy seat, that God met with Israel. And it was here, with the sprinkling of blood, that Israel’s sins were covered.
Back at the fabulous Roman, or Egyptian, or Greek temples, animals were sacrificed. But the sacrifices did nothing to bring men closer to God. In fact, the only thing the sacrifices did was alienate the men and women from God even more.
I was in Atlanta last weekend and had an opportunity to worship with a friend of mine. The name of the local congregation there is All Saints Redeemer Church in Decatur Georgia. They are, to put it mildly, a small church. In fact, here’s a picture of the building (I got it from Google Maps). Fortunately I saw this before driving to the church. I would have missed it on the first pass.
As you can see, the building is not particularly large. It’s not at all impressive. And it doesn’t even look like a church building (however we think a church building is supposed to look). There is nothing about this building to make a person give it a second look; or even a first look for that matter.
But inside, this past Sunday, Michael Leach, the church’s teaching Elder (that’s “pastor” to you folks at Club Newbirth) preached on John 14:7-14, the exchange between Jesus and the disciples in the upper room. In the forty minutes of preaching, Leach opened up the Word, explained what Jesus was saying to the disciples, and explained why Jesus was kind of short with them when they asked to see the Father. He pointed out the implications of being told that if you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father. For forty minutes, he exposed us to the grace and glory of the word. He did as scripture describes in Ne 8:5-8: he read the word and gave us the sense of the word. Inside the rather ordinary structure, we found a man being obedient to the Word. We were warned that if there is no growth in a Christian’s life, there is reason to doubt the truth of a new birth in that man or woman. We were told about the importance of works, not for salvation, but as an indicator of whose I am. The Word was expounded, the truth of Scripture was presented unapologetically. The beauty of Christ and His work on the cross were established unambiguously and without reservation. And as with any effective sermon, I walked out of the building feeling like I had been kicked in the butt (or “buttocks” as my wife insists I call it).
Now consider this building.
Some of you may recognize it as the “worship center” for First Baptist Church of Glenarden on the Kettering. This is one impressive building. And it’s large. In fact, Redeemer’s entire building would fit in its lobby. As the picture says, it sits on 60 acres. Here’s a link to a shot from space. The blue turtle looking thing on the right is the church building. The square structure across the street is a school building.
The last time I was present at First Baptist Church of Glenarden on the Kettering, John K. Jenkins Sr, the senior pastor there at FBCGotK introduced his mentor – Thomas Dexter Jakes, whom you probably know better as T. D. Jakes. T. Dexter has only just now figured out that God is triune in nature and has only just now kind of sort of moved to embrace Trinitarianism. Kind of. He’s still Pentecostal as evidence by the speaking in tongues when Tyler Perry “laid hands” on him.
Inside this fabulous building, John K. Jenkins tells the people they are the head and not the tail. He tells them how to “hear the voice of God” without telling them to focus on the Word of God (the Bible). He tells them how to be conquerors and prosper when the world tries to keep you down, and when to sell your car before it’s completely worn out. He explains to them that godly music has everything to do with the beat, the rhythm, and the melody. He has even told them that Jesus suffered in hell for their sins because His death on the cross wasn’t sufficient. The only thing that did was make it possible for us to receive divine healing for our bodies. And one day, when I was talking to him, he explained to me that a person had to “walk down the aisle” in order to get saved.
In a couple of weeks, he will be piping into this fabulous building, a leadership seminar featuring such luminaries as Bill Hybles, leader of Willow Creek Community Church, Tyler “I Never Miss an Opportunity to Ridicule the Church” Perry, who we know has been sleeping with his fiancé, and Wilfredo De Jesus, who hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong. I’m just suspicious when the world speaks so well of a preacher.
In the past, John K. Jenkins has exposed the congregation to such people as Noel Jones, a Oneness Pentecostal, Tony “Mr. Potty Mouth” Campolo, and a host of other sketchy individuals. He has brought in women who preached a Word of Faith theology, claiming that God used faith to create the universe. He has, on his own authority “restored” a man guilty of adultery to a pastorate (though the dude did have to go someplace else to set up another church).
Have you noticed how the modern world is beginning more and more to resemble the ancient world? The more deception there is, the flashier the facility.
Now this is not to say that every large building is a sign of bad doctrine. But let’s face it: most of the pimps have getting a big church as a goal. Growing a church means adding as many people as possible rather than helping and encouraging the members to mature spiritually. Most of the pulpit pimps are able to convince their sheeple that the big, flashy building is a sign the pimp is anointed.
Don’t look for a large, beautiful chruch building. Look for a church, a local body of Christ, that is taught the truth. Look for a church that focuses on Scripture and its application in our lives. Look for a church lead by godly men willing to sacrifice for you and will call you to sacrifice, not pulpit pimps who are more than willing to sacrifice you on the altar of power and riches. Look for a church lead by men who will speak of the beauty of Christ, not men who build a beautiful memorial to themselves.