Summary: God has not called us to Do church-He has called us to BE the church through complete submission to His Holy Spirit.
The Church has left the building
I remember when I was still pretty young, Elvis was all the rage. In fact I remember my mother loading up with some other women and going to the airport because Elvis was on a plane leaving. Everyone gathered. I also remember begin in the vicinity of that airplane when it turned the corner to take off. Its jet engine turned towards us and anything that wasn’t nailed down, including us, was blown away. Dirt, paper, rocks, and I think even a little of the concrete was blown into our faces as we quickly ducked and ran for cover. A phrase that became very familiar to Elvis fans at the height of his cultic popularity was, "Elvis has left the building!" It is a phrase that was often used by public address announcers following Elvis Presley concerts to disperse audiences who lingered in hopes of an Elvis encore. Al Dvorin, a concert announcer who traveled with Elvis throughout the performer’s career, made the phrase famous when his voice was captured on many recordings of Elvis’ performances.
It was originally used by promoter Horace Lee Logan on December 15, 1956, to plead with concert goers not to leave a concert hall to try to see Elvis as he left, and instead remain to see the other acts on the bill. The full quotation was "Please, young people... Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away.... Please take your seats." Former Houston Oilers coach, Jerry Glanville , popularized it in the early 80s (to refer to his team’s imminent victory over its opponents).
I would like to interrupt this sermon to make a special announcement: Play sound
The Church has left the building
Many of the churches-- and by churches I mean Christians-- have forgotten that the church is meant to thrive outside the walls of the church by serving others and by being a means of God’s Grace. When we read about the life of Jesus in the Bible, we see an extraordinary thing. Everywhere Jesus went lives were transformed: Peter, Andrew, James, Phillip and John were ordinary fishermen; Matthew was a tax collector; Paul was a Jesus hater; John the Baptist was a nomad; one man was a leper; a little girl was demon possessed; another was lame; yet another man was blind; and Thomas was a doubter. After their encounter with Jesus, they were transformed. Paul went from Jesus hater to Jesus lover. John went from being a nomad to being on a mission. Peter went from hothead fisherman to passionate disciple. The lame walked, the blind saw, the unclean leper was healed and cleaned, and Thomas believed.
None of these encounters with Christ happened in a church building. As these people’s lives were transformed, they became witnesses to Christ. After Christ left He left them His Spirit. When His spirit indwelt them, they became the Body of Christ. As the Body of Christ, together they formed the church. They only visited the Temple once per year and the synagogue is where they worshiped. They worshiped by reciting prayers. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book. Observant Jews are expected to recite three prayers daily and more on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. While solitary prayer is valid, attending synagogue to pray with a minyan (quorum of 10 adult males) is considered ideal. (I want to point out that the ideal situation was for groups of people to be praying.) Once they completed their worship they left the building. This is where they encountered Jesus.
Upon foretelling His death, Jesus comforts His disciples by telling them that “another counselor” is coming (John 14:16 NIV). He even tells them that it is to their advantage that he leaves so the counselor can come (John 16:7). Think about that. Jesus said it was to our advantage that He leaves in order that we could have the Holy Spirit. More of an advantage than having Him in the flesh? That seemed a little strange when I first thought about it. But the more I thought about it, it’s true. I would much rather have Jesus’ Spirit in me, than to have Him in the flesh. When He is in me, I know His thoughts, I know His will, I know him more intimately than I could ever know Him in the flesh. Watch what happens to the disciples when Jesus leaves and the His Spirit comes.
In Acts 1:4-5 He tells His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. The disciples obeyed, but had no idea what they were waiting for. They had never experienced the Holy Spirit before. When the spirit finally arrives in Acts 2 He transforms the entire room. After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter goes out and converts 3000 men. (I get excited when I have 1 man walk in the church. If I saw one get saved in here you might have to call the paramedics, much less 3000). But none of this happened in the synagogue or temple. These were people who lived in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:14)