New Warhorn Media post by Alex McNeilly:
In the Pentecostal tradition in which I grew up, we were so fond of building projects, and big ones at that, that someone was heard to quip, “If Catholics worship idols, then Pentecostals worship in idols”. A little unfair, I know, but in terms of our physical plant, we do need to remember the law of diminishing returns. This article (thank you) has reminded us why.
Not having a building makes you really appreciate having one of your own. Having room is always nice. It doesn’t necessarily have to look that nice.
I walked into a massive old Lutheran church on the peak of a hill overlooking a fjord on the west coast of Norway. Red brick structure overlayed on the exterior with stucco (in the Germanic style). Typical church design - inside and out. As I walked in I noticed the simplicity. Other than a massive crucifix behind the altar, the place was entirely undecorated. Simple brick vaults supporting the massive ceiling. Old timber adorning the simple brick. Massive, but humble. It really was the best of both worlds.
The warden saw me enter and gave me a tour. He also played the organ, and hearing the pipes rattle that old church was for me, a moment of pure bliss. Of course the organ is a terrible instrument for congregational singing. But it was beautiful. And simple. Perhaps even…at one time…a testimony to the faith of the people who worshipped there.
The few days later I was worshipping in London in the congregation I serve. No beautiful brick arches and timber in a glorious building. No organ. But a humble congregation of faithful believers. It was good to be home.
Oh, I don’t disagree at all.
Did not intend to disagree with you at all. Would appreciate, if you have time, for you to lay out more what you meant about buildings being idols for those in your Pentecostal tradition. I think it’d be helpful, if you don’t mind.
Amen. Whether ornate Roman Catholic cathedral or plain Protestant church building, or anything in between, the principle still holds: the Lord does not dwell in earthly temples made with hands, but among His people.
Ok, a specific example, from a church I was part of forty years ago. It had got quite large (a rollcall of two thousand or so), so the plan was to build something seating four to five thousand people, and that in the central city, which added hugely to the costs. The trouble was that completing the building became the main reason for the church’s existence - that we could claim we had the largest church building in a city, of then about a million people. Having the big building became an end in itself. In other words, an idol.
At that time church building projects were all the rage. Some of that reflected the history of the tradition, which had, up to that stage, always been on the “outer”. So we were keen to “prove ourselves” to other Christians, as much as anything. Yes, we needed better buildings, but somewhere along the way diminishing returns set in.