By Femi Aribisala
The church building is the house of the pastor: it is no longer the house of God.
A prominent Lagos pastor made it compulsory for all members of his church to contribute a minimum of N10,000 each to his church’s multi-billion naira building project. Surely it must have occurred to him that some of his members do not have that kind of money. But he would not be deterred. He was determined that his mustard-seed church must become a tree.
A former member of the church told me that, one Sunday morning, the pastor could not contain any longer his frustration that his mustard tree church-building was not growing at the pace he desired. Therefore, he decided it was necessary to apply some yeast. He shocked his church-members by declaring that they had to bring money for the church-building willy-nilly; even if it meant they would have to go and steal it.
I was a bit perplexed about this, so I sought some clarification: “Was he joking when he said that? Or what exactly did he mean?” “He was not joking,” the lady replied. “He said it in a fit of anger and frustration. I think he was just annoyed that the building project was not moving as fast as he wanted.”
The continued insistence of pastors on the building of “cathedrals,” and their harassment of members of their congregation for this purpose; come from the refusal to understand and accept the true faith proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Pastors today are preoccupied with style over substance. As Jesus says of the Pharisees who sat in Moses seat, even so pastors today sit in the seat of the Pharisees. Like the Pharisees of old, everything Pharisaic pastors do today is done for show. (Matthew 23:5). This explains their continued preoccupation with putting up magnificent church buildings.
Even in the Old Testament when temple building seemed to be divinely ordained, Jeremiah warned against calling physical buildings the temple of God. He stood at the doors of the temple and warned all those who came to worship: “Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.’” (Jeremiah 7:4). The psalmist also warned about the futility of temple building. He declares that: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1).
The perennial futility of temple building in the scriptures should give pause to any sensible pastor. At the time of Eli, the so-called house of God was at Shiloh, but God destroyed it. Solomon then built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem 1005 years before Christ, but this was destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.
Ezra had the temple rebuilt, only for it to be destroyed again by the Seleucids and the Maccabees. After the Babylonian captivity, Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, but with vastly inferior and diminished splendor. Much later, Herod also extensively refurbished it.
hat temple was still standing at the time of Jesus. His disciples were so impressed by its splendor; they drew Jesus’ attention to it. However, Jesus’ response was to insist that the refurbished temple would be destroyed yet again: “Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and his disciples came up to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’” (Matthew 24:1-2).
Jesus’ prediction came to pass in AD 70. The temple was destroyed by the Roman army. It was completely burnt to the ground. The gold in the ceiling melted and came down on the walls. In order to recover the gold, practically every brick had to be removed and scraped.
However, Jesus spoke of another temple which could not be destroyed: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:19-21).
Thus, what we find again and again in the scriptures, is that God allowed the physical temple to be destroyed. He then reveals to us in Christ, the impregnable spiritual temple. There can be no question that the latter is preferred. It is written in Haggai: “‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. “And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.’” (Haggai 2:9).
Nevertheless, carnal pastors can only see physical glory. Indeed, they have no appreciation for spiritual glory. Therefore, they continue in the futility of building cathedrals which, sooner or later, will once again be destroyed.
With new understanding, we now know that the temple of God is not a physical, but a spiritual, building. It is made up of “living stones,” and not dead inanimate bricks. The Most High no longer dwells in temples made with hands. (Acts 7:48).
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that worship will no longer be determined by a physical location: “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’” (John 4:21-24).
Given these antecedents, pastors should not continue to insist on building temples. Neither should they harass their church-members for money to put up towers of Babel. It should be clear to all that temple or cathedral building has nothing to do with the righteousness of God.
In the New Testament, churches are not situated in cathedrals but in houses. (Colossians 4:15). Indeed, the building of churches is not a New Testament tradition. Nowhere in the New Testament is money ever raised for building a church or temple. Money is only raised for the poor. Pastors continue to build cathedrals today for their own glory and not for the glory of God.
Some of these mega-pastors are more preoccupied with putting up majestic church buildings than in building up men. Like Saul, they set up monuments to themselves. (1 Samuel 15:12). Time and again, the bible reveals that God hates the cathedrals and monuments men build while only paying lip-service to his name. Thus, Hosea says: “Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built temples.” (Hosea 8:14).
If you succumb to the harassment that you contribute money to the church building fund, don’t assume that by so doing you are laying up treasure in heaven. You are not. You are laying up treasure upon the earth. The church building is the house of the pastor: it is no longer the house of God.
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool: What temple can you build for me as good as that?” (Isaiah 66:1).