When traveling, Ada and I love to visit old churches. This is especially true in Europe and Israel where the churches can be over 1,000 years old. For instance, while in Ireland last year we visited at least a dozen old churches. St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ’s Church Cathedral where two of the famous ones. But we also visited old churches in small towns all over Ireland. The architecture, the stained glass, and the art are simply incredible.
Every church tell a story within its walls… and some do literally. You see, in many of these churches the walls have become burial chambers of former clergymen, community leaders and noblemen. In some of these churches, these tombs also lined the floors. In these places we were literally surrounded by the cold grey concrete tombs of a dead past. And unfortunately, these echoes of the past are choking out the life of the present. Almost none of these archaic churches are still impacting their community.
What was meant to be a “city on a hill” has now become a hollow reminder of the past. The light has gone out and their future is as dim as their gothic grey walls. They survive as ornaments of history. Reminders of the past, with little influence on the present.
Unfortunately, many churches in America are dying the same slow death. We’re becoming mausoleums to the past. By definition, a mausoleum is an external free-standing building constructed as a monument enclosing the interment space or burial chamber of a deceased person or people.
A building full of dried up saints, practicing stale rituals in routine ceremonies is no longer a church, but a mausoleum. And a church that has lost life will no longer tolerate new life. And a church that doesn’t create new life will die a slow death.
When the honoring of our great heritage becomes more important than honoring the great commission we become a mausoleum.
When we confuse the sentimental with the sacred we become a mausoleum.
When our memory of the “good ol’ days” is 20/20, but our vision for the future is grim, we become a mausoleum.
It’s a slow painful death full of hollow attempts to blame others. “They don’t come to church because people just don’t have any respect for God anymore”, “They shouldn’t act, dress, think, or be like that” and “I’m not changing” are the final words that will echo in their hallowed halls forever.
To all my Christian friends, let’s remember that the best way to honor the past is to build on their foundation into the future. Let us deliberately walk into our future. Let us be missionaries to our godless land and let us be salt and light once again. May we raise the cross of Christ to the center of our communities, not just the steeples of our churches.
And may we never become a mausoleum to the past but a harvester of the ripe fields awaiting us. May our church houses be full of life as our hearts are full of faith!
Esse Quam Videri,
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