Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.
Photo by Jean Pike
My wife and I were recently privileged to spend an afternoon at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. It’s a wonderful facility with many interesting exhibits one of which is Ohio Village – a collection of buildings and artifacts representing a typical Ohio small town of the 1860’s. There’s a hotel, school, bank, several different homes, and other buildings you’d expect to find arranged around a village green and all furnished with authentic artifacts from the Society’s collection.
At some point, it must have dawned on administrators that their town didn’t have a church – surely an important fixture in a nineteenth century Ohio small town. So they built one. A very nice one. It’s on the outskirts of the town – not near the center where it surely would have been in real life. But it is a very nice building – brick with an imposing bell tower and lots of stained glass windows. Inside the vestibule was a display of clothing collected by the Ladies Benevolent Society for the poor. The sanctuary has a soaring vaulted ceiling, a balcony section for overflow seating, sturdy oak pews, an imposing oak pulpit, prayer rail, choir loft, piano, and organ – most of what you’d expect to see in a small town church then or now.
But… something wasn’t right. It took me a minute to figure out what was wrong. The stained glass windows got my attention first. The tall gothic windows lined both sides of the sanctuary and there was one behind the choir loft. Most of the glass was simply tinted but the top panel in each window included a figure. The ear of corn caught my eye first. I expected to see a cross or the ten commandments or a saint or something else Biblical featured in the windows but instead there was corn, an apple, a sheaf of wheat, a harp, and other innocuous items featured there. Taken somewhat aback, I took a closer look around. I looked at the walls, the pews, the pulpit, and everywhere I could think to look. There was no communion table, Bible, or hymnals. There was not a single cross or other Biblical symbol anywhere in the building. Back outside, I looked closer at the façade and bell tower – nope, no crosses or Biblical symbols of any kind there either.
I somewhat understand the uneasiness of a state funded organization to spend tax money on religious symbols but how can you build a church – a building defined as a facility for Christian worship – and not put a single cross anywhere on it? At the very least, it’s surely not historically accurate.
It left me rather depressed. How could anyone replicate a building built to glorify and worship God and deliberately omit any mention of God from it? I thought of people who know nothing of God and church who would visit this place and leave knowing nothing more after their visit. It might be the only exposure some would ever get to Christianity. Visitors would leave learning nothing about the importance of churches to 19th century rural communities. Heading back outside, I glanced up at the stained glass window above the front door. It was a large rendition of the Great Seal of the State of Ohio. The most glorified entity in the whole building was the state of Ohio. It must be a secular humanist’s dream. Sadly, it seemed appropriate. The building had no trappings of Christianity whatsoever but it did have a collection box.
As sad as this building is, it’s even sadder to encounter professed Christians who have no evidence of God in them. I believe if you are a Christian with the Holy Spirit living inside you evidence of his presence cannot help but be visible. As the Lord pointed out in Matthew 5:15, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all who are in the house.KJV” We are then admonished to let our light shine so that others will give glory to God. As we grow as Christians, we should produce more fruit of the spirit which should be increasingly obvious to those around us. There might be such a thing as a God-less church building but I don’t believe there can ever be a God-less Christian.
Contributed by Bob McCoy