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My Big Fat Church Makeover (On Accepting the “Unfinished”)

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I surrender all

I surrender all

All the Thee my blessed Savior

I surrender all

The email said we had ten days to be out of the old, white country church we’ve worshiped in for three years. The one with the stained glass windows and bell tower. We have one more Sunday to ring that bell, walk down that creaky aisle and bask in the colored sunlight and rich, dark woodwork of the oldest church building in the county.

But that’s not the hardest part. My mind drifted to the big church around the corner, the one we bought last spring. How on earth are we going to finish a 4,800 square foot building in ten days? So much for a “grand” opening.

As I sang I let go of each little dream for the grand opening of our new church building. I felt them fall to the ground and die like the golden leaves scattered around me.

I cried a little, like a child whose toys had been wrecked. How are people supposed to pee with no bathroom stalls?

Then I quieted down and reflected on my attitude toward Christians who have no need for the local church except when there’s a “special” speaker in town. And it hit me: we are all the same. Had I not worshiped the building like they worship the person in the pulpit? Had I not been just as hypocritical in my approach to the Body of Christ (the church)?

We are all idolatrous. We all worship our version of the “right way to do church,” whether it’s Living Room Church or a polished sanctuary. I am no different.

For months I have entertained dreams and visions of a magazine-cover church building. I’ve spent hours picking out colors and shopping for coffee shop decor, ordering chairs and browsing endless online pages of lecterns and podiums. I’ve dreamed of ribbon cutting and pompous celebration in a perfectly complete sanctuary.

I have done the very thing I have criticized for years. Like a child setting up a doll house and playing church, I have worshiped the building.

“Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands….”

I stood outside our new church building beneath the oak tree, free of old, selfish dreams and thought about the Church, the one with a capitol “C.” The one with aching wrists that have scraped floors, and sore backs that have carried sheet rock and ladders. The Church that stays up late at night sanding walls and scrubbing floorboards, and baking quick breads for the village. The Church who sorts through free clothing and sits in the nursery on a Sunday morning. The Church who prays for me, for grace and more grace.

That is the Church I love and that is the Church I need. And that is the only Church God will see on that first Sunday morning in a building covered in sheet rock dust. We will worship together on a heavily marred floor that won’t be painted after all, and we will guard the bathroom door for each other until the stalls arrive.

Because that is what the Church does. We guard and protect and love each other in our bare-walled, unfinished state.

There is only one thing that was ever finished anyway. When Jesus said “It is finished” He spoke of all the striving and stressing over unfinished projects and unfinished people. He spoke of total rest.

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