I once commented to a friend that I would dearly love to see the Pyramids in Egypt. He shrugged rather non-committally and said, "Meh, they're just big piles of rock".
While I must concede the reality of his statement, I still maintain that he missed the point. What intrigues and inspires me about the Pyramids is not the structures themselves, but the faith that built them.
Contrary to popular belief, the Pyramids were not built by slaves, nor were these slaves entombed with their Pharaohs. The Egyptians cherished life above all. The Pyramids were actually built by fervently willing volunteers. The Pharaohs were considered to be gods on earth, and therefore the workers were literally building the last resting place of their god. This was considered to be a great privilege, and workers flocked to this task willingly, and were well-treated.
So while I still marvel at the feats of ancient architecture and building techniques that the Pyramids obviously represent, what I find more inspiring is the faith and love that lay behind every exquisitely-cut stone block, every brush-stroke illustrating the tomb walls.
I often think that this must have also been the case when our ancestors built our own churches that we worship in today.
Our buildings are all beautiful in their own ways, but what impresses me more is the faith that built them. Behind every stone, every shingle, every rough-hewn timber lies a faith and a love for God that is inspiring.
Perhaps these church-builders felt that they were building a place for God to live. They were certainly building a place that would become the focal point of the communities that were built around it.
I feel quite strongly that these buildings need to be preserved somehow or another, although it may not be possible for some buildings to continue exclusively as churches. But if our ancestors built these churches, there is a question that plagues me:
What are we building?
I don't suppose we will ever know for sure, but I wonder if our ancestors constructed these buildings thinking that the buildings themselves should become the mission and focal point of the communities of faith that gathered in them? Or did they hope that the buildings would be places of worship and "bases of operation", if you will, from which the love of God would flow outwards into the surrounding community?
This is just a speculative question, of course, but regardless of what we think our ancestors wanted or foresaw, we are still left with that question:
What are WE building?
Are we property managers or Kingdom builders? Are we hermits or missionaries? Are we concierges or are we visionaries?
As our church resources are depleted, we have a real opportunity to rebuild from the ground up, as Christ Himself did. Let's build together.