Several years ago, there was a fascinating news story that made headlines around the world. In November of 2008, BBC news reported the story of a Russian Orthodox church being stolen by thieves. Last seen in July of that year, it was reported:
“…a 200 year old church building has disappeared from a village in central Russia. Orthodox officials had intended to re-open the abandoned building and begin services again.”
But imagine their surprise when they came to the place where the church had stood and saw nothing. Now, it is certainly not uncommon in remote areas of Russia for vacant churches to have their gilded icons and other valuables stolen by thieves. But now an entire church building had been stolen. How? Well, sometime in early October thieves made off with it brick by brick. What I found interesting was this line—“The disappearance of the Church of the Resurrection was not immediately noticed.”
When I read that, I could not help but be reminded that this is what happens whenever the church forfeits her birthright, when she forsakes her first love, and when she abandons her true mission. Our whole reason for existence can become lost in a maze of misplaced priorities. Before we know it, what began as a movement to make disciples can get sidetracked with building projects, programming, organizational details, and the list goes on. All of those things are important, but they are not what is most important. We can become so focused on maintenance that we overlook what is most important—the mission.
Jesus has sent us out into the world with the message of the gospel. The church is a kingdom outpost, and believers are ambassadors for Christ. We have been entrusted with the task of sharing the hope of salvation with lost sinners. If our local church suddenly disappeared from our community, would it be immediately noticed? Let’s not be a ‘vanishing’ church, one that has become so comfortable that we neglect the mission and purpose for which we exist.
For more, read Matthew 16:18; Matthew 28:18-20