When Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras around twenty years ago, there was severe flooding which changed the course of the several hundred feet wide Choluteca River. The Choluteca Bridge, which had taken over two years to build and was one of the largest in Latin America, had only just been opened. As the picture shows, it became the bridge with no river, spanning dry land, while the river ran in its new course alongside of it.
When the Welsh Revival had come and gone, there remained a small village chapel, which had carved the times of its services in the stonework above its entrance.
“We meet every Sunday at 11.00am and 6.30pm”
If you went through the entrance however, you would not find a vibrant gathering of God’s people; instead, you would be confronted by heaps of coal. The chapel had been converted into a coal store. The river of God had moved, but the building remained.
Most of us will probably be familiar with buildings which were once used as churches but which have now become warehouses, strip clubs or upmarket homes. A number of the original buildings were founded hundreds of years ago, but some only housed churches a generation or two past. There is nothing much that we can do about such things. A building usually has a purpose, and when that purpose is finished, the building can and should be sold on or demolished.
There are however two situations that are more difficult to come to terms with. One is when the purpose is finished, and the building is maintained as if it has not. The other is when there has been a move of God which resulted in organisational structures, methods and particular ways of doing things, which are maintained when God has stopped working.
In nature, when something dies the body takes a while to decompose. In churches, when they die (and churches do die) either buildings or organisations rarely disappear overnight just because there is no life left in them.
The sight of a bridge with no river and a Welsh chapel with no revival should both be salutary reminders to us. The fact that God moved in our midst yesterday is no guarantee that He still fills the buildings or structures that we retain today.