Tourist or Tour Guide
My brother-in-law doesn’t hesitate inviting people to church. After being turned down on numerous occasions, a member of his family decided to attend a Sunday morning service with him.
When the band began to play unfamiliar songs, he was able to follow along with the congregation where the lyrics were displayed on a large, audio-visual screen above the worship band.
When the service ended, he gave a rather interesting view of what he had just experienced. In so many words he told Eric it was cool to see men and women rocking and rolling in blue jeans. He mentioned that he’d never seen a church with guitarists and drums. What I found most interesting was his comment in reference to the songs displayed front and center. “It was like karaoke,” he said.
Sadly, there was no indication his heart had been stirred to hear more about the man named Jesus. His main takeaway appeared to be what was aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and ears.
I can’t help but think of the magnificent cathedrals across Europe and how different churches look today. The structures have changed and we’ve gone from hymnals to power points, 8,000-piped organs to electric drums, guitars, and keyboards.
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris began construction in 1160. When you walk along the five-aisled nave towards the high altar, there is a sense of awe and it’s hard to imagine how this architectural wonder was built. Around every corner there are statues and paintings of Jesus on the cross or depicting the resurrection of Christ.
Tourists from all over the world walk with you, taking photos, gazing upon this awe-inspiring treasure. It’s estimated over 13 million souls stroll in and out of this must-see tourist attraction every year; a building that was built to represent the church and life of Jesus Christ.
If you’ve ever walked through one of these century-old cathedrals, amidst the grandeur there is a stale, stagnant smell that has built up over the centuries. In order for the structure to stand as beautiful as it does today, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on restorations. No matter how many restorations are made, the stale, stagnant smell remains.
I wonder, are the tourists in awe of the structure as much as they stand amazed of what the paintings and building represent? My guess is that it’s just another tourist destination for the majority of those who visit.
Unlike buildings, the attitude and hearts of men hasn’t changed over the centuries. How many are like Eric’s family member and attend church but don’t gain a greater understanding as to the purpose of the church? They leave church the way they entered. Sadly, there’s no change of heart because too often visitors to church are like tourists, checking things out, but not discovering what the church and the empty cross represent for them personally.
There is an atmosphere across America where the church is as dead as the corpses that lie beneath the granite of those magnificent structures. Like so many do in Paris, how many of us walk into a stale, cold, lifeless church and leave unchanged?
What is the church? If you call yourself a Christian, you are the church. The church “is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ . . . we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:11-16
The church is to be a reflection of Jesus’s love in words and deeds. Jesus Christ is the only one who can restore “the joy of our salvation.” Psalm 51:12 and I Peter 5:10
God’s restoration is free - “a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 3:11
No matter how many restorations are done to preserve old buildings made of stone, they will crumble. The man-made structures of today will one day be outdated. The only rock that stands firm is Jesus Christ, “the chief corner stone.”
“You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22
In order for us to exhibit God’s extravagant love and grace, we must undergo a transformation of the heart. When we take time to gaze upon the beauty of God’s being and live a Christ-centered life, the church will be revived by the person, the savior Jesus Christ.
Don’t be a tourist in God’s house. Be the tour guide and take on the responsibility to guide others to the cross that doesn’t hang on a wall. Take time to explain what the church of Jesus Christ represents and what Christ, the solid rock, did for you personally. Pray that those you guide to the cross will discover for themselves the eternal treasures of God’s love and grace.
Do you find yourself describing the grandeur of God’s love and presence the way you would describe a magnificent cathedral, your church building or the programs? They are all something one has to experience to appreciate, but I pray our conversations describe the beauty and treasures of God’s love more than any man-made structure or earthly attraction. I pray that we attend church so that when we leave the building, we are changed and ready to love in words and works.
“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” Ephesians 1:9-11
Thumbnail image: Anne Scheffler, Stuttgart, Germany