church in Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany may not appeal to you. Constructed
entirely out of snow and ice at a cost of $200,000, this structure opened just a
few days after Christmas. More than a novelty, this building commemorates an
actual event 100 years ago. Denied permission to build a church in 1911,
villagers constructed a place to worship using nothing but frozen precipitation.
The life of this house of worship is naturally limited. Its opening was delayed
by an unusually mild December, and it will melt away with the onset of spring.
Until then, however, some will worship here, but even more will be moved by
curiosity to see this chilly church building. (To see photos of this
phenomenon, go to http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/28/life-idUSRTR2VOPZ)
This curious ice cathedral, dubbed "God's Igloo", would undoubtedly be a
interesting site to see in person. Let's use it just now, however, to lead us
into some thoughts about what Jesus had in mind with His original concept of
First, a church is not a building. The word Jesus used in Matthew 16:18 in
announcing His plans to "build My church" is ecclesia. That Greek word had
already been used for non-religious purposes. When the people of a town were
called together to hear the decree of a king, for example, the gathering was
called an ecclesia - the "called out". The people had been called out of their
homes for some important purpose.
Peter had that idea in mind when he spoke of the identity of Christians: "But
you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special
people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Those who choose to follow Christ
(Christians) are the church because they have responded to the Lord's call and
have come out of darkness. Nowhere in the Bible is "church" used of a building.
Second, Christ's church is not threatened by heat, as "God's Igloo" will be when
spring arrives. Jesus made this affirmation in Matthew 16:18: "... on this rock
I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
Jesus' ministry on earth would be brought to an abrupt end by His arrest and
execution. But His death would not prevent the establishment of God's kingdom
(the church). Death stops the plans of all mankind, but Jesus was more than a
Death was a serious threat to Christ's early followers, too. Persecution by the
Roman Empire took the lives of thousands of Christians. The apostle John urged
Christians to remain steadfast: "Do not fear any of those things which you are
about to suffer. ... Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of
life" (Revelation 2:10). Such promises emboldened many early saints.
In 197 AD the persecution was still raging, but Tertullian was able to make this
claim to the officials of the Empire: "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of
the church". Though the government applied its fiercest "heat", the church did
God's plans lead to victory! Those who are wise will align themselves with Him
and His Son.