Reprinted from the December 2013 issue of “Gospel Advocate” Magazine.
As I walk through a poor neighborhood in Huambo, Angola, I pause to visit with the residents and invite them to study the Bible with us. I hear a variety of excuses, but one in particular pains my heart: “You don’t have a church building.” I am prepared with the correct theological answers to this complaint: “The church is the body of Christ, the community of believers who follow His teachings. The church is not made of mud and thatch, concrete, or even stained glass windows.” But my words fall on deaf ears. As one of my Angolan brothers says, “You have to have a church building before people will come and listen to you teach that the church is not a building.”
Angolan culture bears the burden of centuries of incorrect ideas about the church. The Portuguese brought Catholicism to Angola in 1491. Protestant missionaries arrived in the late 1800s and built large mission stations with cathedrals, schools and hospitals. Today, I often hear the question “Missionary, where is your mission?” I answer, “My mission is in the Scriptures, specifically Matthew 28:18-20.” But my response isn’t the answer they seek. They want to know where to find a building.