By Pastor Ron Buxton
One day, Jesus took His disciples to the farthest location that He ever traveled to in His earthly ministry. It was a northern region known as Caesarea Philippi. Archaeologists tell us that, apart from a curious cave known as “the gates of Hades”, there never was much interest in populating or developing a community there. You see, it was a barren, desert land devoid of resources.
There, in that most unusual location, Christ declared: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!” (Matthew 16:18). You need to know that nothing that Jesus ever said was without supernatural significance. Christ knew of which He spoke. There was a world-wide stronghold that had kept all of humanity entrapped in its clutches. And that was about to be radically changed!
The church is not a building. The church–in its deepest meaning–is what God is “building” into His people. Frankly, the first edifice that was designated as a church didn’t appear until 300 years after Christ’s ministry. And so, what Jesus declared concerned an invisible, yet very real, entity that transcends time and space.
It is unfortunate that many people do not see the relevance of the church today. Culture has drifted away from their spiritual need, and far too many folks relegate the church to some kind of social club status. Allow me to recount a true story that Chuck Swindoll shares in one of his books.
Several years ago, a man noticed in the Atlanta Yellow Pages a restaurant called Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused his curiosity and so he dialed the number. He was greeted by a cordial voice, and then asked how that restaurant got its name. The answer was both interesting and very sad.
The restaurant manager responded by saying, “We had a little church here in town, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sundays to help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After a while, we just closed down the church altogether and kept serving chicken dinners. We just kept the original name: Church of God Grill.”
God have mercy! May our “menu” be clear of anything that would confuse a lost and dying world! Our “food” must feed eternal souls that are perishing!