The Anabaptists saw that the building is not the Church. God wants to dwell on this Earth, but it is not in a building. It is in his people. In this sermon, Greg shows how we are to demonstrate the beauty of the Church in our lives.
When Constantine converted to Christianity, he made the official Roman religion Christianity. But, in so doing, he took a lot of the pagan practices that came before this time and made them a part of Christianity. One of these practices was building a large building to honor their god. Before Constantine, Christians met in small, humble homes, and they understood that they were the physical church and not some building. After Constantine, large cathedrals were built to honor Jesus, and the buildings became the house of God.
The Anabaptists understood that the building is not the church. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which means the called out ones. When the Bible talks about the church, they are talking about the people of God and not a building. And even though large buildings inspire awe and beauty, it is really our lives that are to inspire these things.
In Christendom, there was always a special class of people that were the holy ones. These were the priests, monks, and nuns who devoted their lives to being holy. They believed that this type of calling was too great for the masses, and only a select few were to live like this. The masses were to be good citizens while the select few were the holy ones. These communities would create monasteries which would house these people away from the rest of the world. They were to forsake pursuing riches, live simply, and serve the poor. And while a lot of good came from these communities, the entire church is called to live this way, not just a select few.
In fact, the Anabaptists made no distinctions regarding who was to work in the church. It was the rule that only men could be preachers and leaders within the church of that time. However, the Anabaptists made no distinctions when it came to gender. They had many women preachers, including Margret Hottinger. She was a woman who attended Anabaptist bible study, and she eventually felt the call to preach. She began preaching the next day, was arrested and imprisoned for a year. When she was released, she began preaching again and eluded the authorities for three years. When she was caught, they took her out in a boat and drowned her.
Dirk Willems was another example of how we can live a life that shows the beauty of the Church. Dirk was an Anabaptist preacher who was arrested and imprisoned. He was locked in a tower, but one day he escaped. As he was running away, a guard was chasing him. They ran across a frozen body of water where Dirk got across but the guard fell through the ice. Dirk turned around and saved the guard. The guard then re-arrested Dirk and a few days later, Dirk was executed. The self-less giving of his life for another’s life was an example of God’s love for people and how we are to love one another.
At Woodland Hills, we also believe in the Church as a body of believers and not some building. It’s why we didn’t need to build some awe-inspiring building. We also believe that there is no distinction between genders, races, and socioeconomics of people. We believe everyone is called to live out their gifts for God. This is the way that the Church was formed under Jesus, and we aspire to uphold that.
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