Thursday, October 24, 2013

Church in Ruins

Although these Gothic ruins have a certain beauty to them, it's a sad state of affairs that a church, begun to the glory of God, fell into ruin before it was fully completed.  These stone walls in St. George, Bermuda, form the shell of a church begun in 1874 and intended to replace the older St. Peter's Church (built in 1713 and still in use).

So, what happened to the plans and all the money spent on what would surely have been a beautiful church?  A sign on the outside gives numerous reasons:  there was a congregational split which left the membership depleted; then, in 1884, another church burned down and money was used to rebuild that church.  In spite of the difficulties, by 1899, the roof was in place and the church was nearly finished.  Then, for some reason, work was abandoned and the people decided to repair the older St. Peter's Church down the hill.

Years passed and the beautiful, nearly completed church stood empty on its hill above the sparkling waters of the bay.  In 1926, a severe storm damaged one end of the church, the sign reads:  "the walls and floor suffered from neglect, storm damage and erosion."  Today, the ruins are preserved as a historic monument.

I see these ruins being preserved as a spiritual monument -- with a message to what can happen to a church that is neglected -- a church that is empty.

As we read the reasons the church was abandoned, let's look at scripture that speaks to each issue.
    First, the congregation split.  Psalm 133:1 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity" and Ephesians 4:3 - "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." 

    Second, there was no money for the work.  Proverbs 3:9 - "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops" and "Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

    Third, they left the work when it was near completion.  Hebrews 10:36 - "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised" and "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

    Fourth, storm damage caused erosion (defined as wearing away the surface by water, winds, waves, etc) - an erosion in the Christian faith and in Christian churches is addressed in The Cambridge Declaration, which reads, "Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ.  As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith." 
    A verse in Acts 20:28 tells how to fight erosion and although Paul directed this to the church elders, I believe it is true of every member of a church:  "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood."

And, although I do not know any more about that congregation of over a century ago than is written on the sign outside the church, I believe their actions speak loud enough to be heard 139 years later.  It seems to me that the verse in Proverbs 29:18 is an applicable ephitaph for them -  "Where there is no vision, the people perish" and, I might add, so does their church.

Happily, God has said that not even the gates of hell shall prevail against His church, so even though that particular church has gone to ruin, your church can remain vibrant for the Lord, growing in His Spirit and power, to glorify His name upon the earth.  I have been praying that our church -- Biltmore Baptist -- will grow to His glory and to the edification and unification of the saints who worship there.  I would suggest you pray for your church with a similar prayer.  With the Psalmist, I praise God and say:

"How lovely is Your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! 
 My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. 
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" Psalm 84:1-2.

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