By Kerry Denten (from Storm-Harvest Ministries)

I was getting ready yesterday to go out to my Grandmother’s 95th birthday
celebrations. While I was in that “autopilot” mode you get into while
showering and dressing, I found my mind wandering to considering some of the
larger organized churches around Australia and other parts of the world and
was surprised by what the Lord showed me.

I was considering Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas when my mind then
meandered from the huge Minster (or Cathedral) in York, England to St
Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. Then my thinking wandered to the Crystal
Cathedral, then to Paradise Community Church in Adelaide, South Australia,
to Christian City Church and Hillsong Church in Sydney .. and here is what
the Lord said …

Five hundred years ago a man named Martin Luther protested against the
injustice of the prosperity of the Roman Catholic Church at the expense of
its adherents. He sounded an alarm over wrong doctrine and ugly practice. He
heralded the need for men and women everywhere to discover that their
salvation did not depend on their commitment to an institutional church but
that they could be saved by grace and justified by faith through their own
relationship with God.

Luther understood that, at the literal end of the day, we would each stand
alone before God to answer for our relationship with Him and NOT our
membership of a church like that of the Roman Catholics as was his “target”
some 500 years ago.

Now, why would God show me all of those churches in the UK, America and here
in Australia to then go on to say something like that?  Here is what I now
understand:

For all of our dogmatic adherence to our protestant ways, the church of
today (including the supposedly free charismatics and Pentecostals) are just
as guilty, as the Roman Catholics were, of building cathedrals of perverted
prosperity at the expense of their adherents.

Sure, we don’t build cathedrals in the traditional sense anymore, but they
are cathedrals nonetheless! A traditional cathedral was always known for its
imposing size; it’s ability to house thousands at a time; it’s majestic
music and huge choirs; and its contemporary opulence.

If that be the case, please tell me how the aforementioned churches are any
different to the Catholic Cathedrals of old?

1.) They are Known for their Imposing Splendor.
Recently my wife and I saw the tail-end of an episode of “Your Best Life”
with Joel Osteen only to see him dedicating Lakewood Church’s new facility;
an ex-sports stadium capable of seating about 10,000 people at a time. I was
really saddened to consider how excited these people were about dedicating a
monolithic meeting room that would only be used for about 12 hours a week.
Closer to home, it’s astounding how Hillsong Church’s new Bella Vista campus
is the one place many Christians consider a “must-see” when they visit
Sydney.

2.) They are Known for their Ability to House Thousands at a Time
Regardless of whether it is a modern conference-type facility or a sandstone
edifice, whichever way you cut it, the minute we build a facility capable of
housing thousands of adherents at a time for the primary intent of “having
church”, we have built a cathedral.

3.) They are Known for their Majestic Music and Huge Choirs
Here in Australia, the best examples of modern cathedrals in this regard are
Hillsong Church and Christian City Church in Sydney. These two “local”
churches are known for their magnificent music and their choirs. In fact, I
find it tragically hysterical that almost every church that has tried to
adopt their model or style of worship now has a choir, a choir stand and a
choir leader … “but we’re not bound by liturgy. We’re spirit-filled and
free”.

4.) They are Known for their Contemporary Opulence.
One of these churches recently spent in excess of $300,000 on
state-of-the-art digital audio mixing desks for use in their services.
Others have installed the very best commercial quality theatre seating. In
others, the lighting rig alone rivals that of a major rock concert. Lakewood
Church even features a huge slowly rotating globe as a backdrop for the
televising of their services.

I’m not trying to be critical of these mega-churches simply to be seen to
have a post- modernist whinge. What I am trying to communicate is that many
over the centuries have fought with their very lives and reputations to see
us, the church, break free of the things that the Roman Catholic church held
so dear until the time of Martin Luther’s protests. Today we claim to be
living freely in the liberty of those protests and yet we have simply
allowed ourselves to become ensnared in the very things that trapped the men
who led the church after Constantine got his hands on it back in about 300AD
and those are the same traps that ultimately robbed us of the purity and
power of the early church.

Thomas Aquinas is reported as having had an audience with the Pope of his
time. When he was ushered into the Pope’s presence, the Pope gestured
saying, “Look Thomas. Never again will we have to say ’silver and gold I do
not have’”. To which Thomas Aquinas responded, ‘And neither will we ever
again be able to say ‘in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise and walk
’”. Ouch!

When will we ever learn that to build a tower supposedly as an example of
how great God is, when in reality it’s a legacy to how great we are, will
only result in God coming and scattering it and us once again as He did on
the plains of Shinar?

There is a consistent theme of “God-made” vs “man-made” that runs through
the Scriptures, but it’s so subtle you may not have noticed how serious God
is about it.

In the days of old, God always called for altars to be made from uncut,
God-made stone. When Uzza steadied the Ark of the Covenant on the cart, he
lost his life because David was instructed to carry it on the shoulders of
God-made men, not on a man-made cart. Jesus told Peter that He would build
His church upon His revelation about the God-made Christ .. not upon Peter
as a man-made Pope. Further, the church is made up of God- made living
stones with a God-made living Savior as its chief cornerstone. We, God-
made men and women, ARE the temple (the Holy of Holies) of the Holy Spirit.

Do you see it?
My Aussie friend Phil Marshall, who pastors a church in Edmonton, Canada
told me recently that, in the five years to 2005, the church in North
America has spent nearly 25 billion dollars on building programs! Recently
Dr Robert Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral, retired. When asked by
Larry King what he would be doing with his time during retirement, Schuller
replied by telling King that he would dedicate himself to establishing a
fund that would ensure the Crystal Cathedral would always stand and that the
property would never be sold.
When will we begin to live for the things that so many others have given
their lives for over the two millennia since Christ first showed the way
that a life must be lived, a death must be died and a God-made church must
be built?
We must stop investing millions of dollars into structures that are
ultimately of no real value to the Kingdom of God. Sure, we might gather in
them, and people may even become believers, get healed or delivered in them,
but at what cost to the Kingdom? We invest millions, even billions of
dollars into building buildings when we should be investing it into building
lives. We say that’s what the building is ultimately designed for, but when
will we stop fooling ourselves? What it so frequently comes down to is
“mine’s bigger than yours”.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against buildings for Kingdom
purposes. In some cases we need them. Heck, I live in a building that’s used
for Kingdom purposes .. it’s called my home.
I’m not against the specific churches I’ve already named nor any church for
that matter. I’m not having a rant or making an attack because I “have
issues” with organized religion. I have given much of the last 30 years to
serving the Body of Christ in one form or another .. as an ordained
minister, as an itinerant prophetic teacher, as a general gopher, a church
planter and more. I am passionate about the church.
However, I am motivated to sound a God-inspired alarm for ministries and
churches to stop continually perpetuating the production of the number one
world-wide killer of genuine Christian community and missional activity just
to be seen to have made it among their peers. That number one world-wide
killer? The building program .. especially as it relates to building
mega-church structures.
Why is God concerned about this? I believe it this simple: He wants us to
stop “going to” church and to start “being” the church.
I remember reading that Smith Wigglesworth once said .. “I am a thousand
times bigger on the inside”. I can relate to that. Now that I’m over 40, my
body is changing. Physically I’m a little more ’solid’ (some might rudely
say ‘portly’) than I used to be. As a result, I sometimes like to joke with
people that “I’m a temple of the Holy Ghost and I’m putting on  extensions!”
But all jokes aside, the only building program that God is truly interested
in is for us to corporately work to build who we are in Him, because this is
the only God-made place He Himself desires to dwell in all His fullness.
In the end, if we must build cathedrals, may God be pleased to fill the
expanse of our growing and maturing spirits and may they, and only they ..
being fit together with one another in love .. be the cathedrals of praise
we see built now and in the future.
Kerry Denten, Storm-Harvest Ministries
http://www.storm-harvest.asn.au/

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