How can a church building suddenly turn up missing? Well . . . it did. Stolen!
Last seen in July 2008, the 200-year-old Russian church disappeared just a few months later. Orthodox officials in a village northeast of Moscow intended to reopen the abandoned, two-story Church of the Resurrection—and begin services again. Imagine their surprise when they came to the place where the church had stood . . . and saw nothing! It’s a common occurrence in rural areas of Russia for vacant churches to have their gilded icons and other valuables stolen. But now the entire church building itself had been stolen! How did it happen?
Brick by Brick
Nearby villagers dismantled the structure in October 2008 and sold each brick to a local businessman for one ruble each (which amounts to about four cents per brick). “Of course, this is blasphemy,” a local priest blathered. “These people have to realize they committed a grave sin.” To which I think, Oh, really? What about the leadership that neglected the church for so long?
When I saw the date of the church’s deconstruction, it struck a personal nerve. October 2008 represented the tenth anniversary of the church where I serve as senior pastor. It is a pivotal milestone in our church’s history, as we determined to stop the spiritual erosion our local body was experiencing. Spiritually speaking, we resolved to put a halt to the dismantling of our internal walls and to begin rebuilding the spiritual foundation of the biblical essentials for a church: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (see Acts 2:42).
I am so grateful that God intervened. He graciously granted us the opportunity to get back on track! His grace rescued us. Even though we were only ten years old, signs of erosion were beginning to occur.
Building a Church that Can Never Be Dismantled
Jesus promised to build His church, adding the declaration, “and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). That’s a good-news, bad-news statement.
- The good news is that the Adversary will not spoil the growth of Christ’s church. It will prevail.
- The bad news? Satan will do all he can to dismantle the church. If he can’t bring it about suddenly, then he will chip away at it brick by brick.
Every church will face challenges. In fact, the New Testament tells us that struggles are a normal part of the Christian experience.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
What’s true of us as individuals is also true of our churches. No need to be surprised when challenges come. We will struggle! No need to scramble around, wring our hands, and wonder what to do in the midst of the Enemy’s insidious attacks. Rather than take our cues from the world, the Scriptures offer us a clear path to follow in the midst of any trial. But that certainly doesn’t mean it will be easy.
You can be sure of this: overwhelming challenges and fierce struggles lie ahead in your path—and in the path of your church. Believe it. Expect it. But for sure, prepare for it. Only through devotion to the inerrant Word of God will we retain our values when the Adversary starts chiseling away at our walls. Do not be intimidated. He “will not prevail.”
Some things are worth fighting for.