Nicole and I were talking this morning (Nicole is in charge of the great 11:00 blended service in our sanctuary) and she said something that I was wondering about earlier in the day. She mentioned about NewSong (the modern service I'm in charge of, at the same time...) is not in the Sanctuary.
But for me, it is. A sanctuary is defined as a sacred or holy place. For many, that is the room we've named the "sanctuary" because we have planned holy events that happen there every Sunday and at other times throughout the year. For the people who take part in them, that space is holy. But here's something true for me that a lot of people won't like.
The room that is labeled "sanctuary" on our blueprints... it's not holy to me (gasp!)
It's true. If I had to pick a holy place at the church, it's not on my list. For most people in our church, the gym is just a room where we eat and play sports. Although that's true, it's where the bulk of ministry happens for me (along with the youth room). I have Sunday morning worship there. Our youth services are in there. We have events like the 30 Hour Famine where students physically do something to show love to people they haven't met. We transform the room into a prayer room where I have sat and watched teenagers pray for over an hour and a half (some of our adults couldn't do that). I have seen God more in that room than any other in one of God's houses we call Fishers United Methodist Church.
And when it comes to the room dubbed "the sanctuary", that room is not holy for me. I don't get to see the Sunday morning services. In fact, 98% of the time I'm in there, it's not holy at all. It's to fix a sound problem, a video problem, run something because someone didn't show up. Most of the time I'm in there the issue(s) I'm told to fix aren't real but we don't want to talk about the real problems. It's a room that involves frustration and sometimes half-truths for me (because whenever something doesn't work, I never hear someone say, "Oh, that was my fault" but I hear a lot of reasons why it wasn't their fault). In reality, that room is not holy to me. It is not my sanctuary, despite what the sign on the door says.
A good example of this; the holy place of Bethel. In Genesis 28 Jacob is running for his life. Then he rests and has a dream from God. Since he had an encounter with God there, that place was deemed holy (notice, the person who drew out the map of the land didn't say it was holy, then God showed up, it was the other way around). After Jacob met with God he pronounced that place his "sanctuary".
Genesis 28:18-19 ~ Jacob was up first thing in the morning. He took the stone he had used for his pillow and stood it up as a memorial pillar and poured oil over it. He christened the place Bethel (God’s House). The name of the town had been Luz until then. (MSG)
So if you're talking to someone about church, realize their sanctuary may not be your sanctuary, and that's okay. They aren't any less holy than you because you don't see the same rooms as "where God lives". Coach Bill with Campus Life was talking to me a little while ago about his church. An arsonist broke in and burned their sanctuary down. He said it was the best thing to happen to his church family. Suddenly they had to worship God somewhere different. All the stereo-types that went with worship that aren't necessary (we don't have any of those, of course) were broken down because they could not rely on past memories for moves of God, they had to look to God directly. And believe it or not, they met in a gym, had more holy experiences and even spent time with God there.
Open your mind a little. Visit someone else's holy place. Ask them why it's holy to them. You may be surprised at what you learn... (and so you know, Nicole thinks this way too, she wasn't bashing the gym. She had come down to spend time with God while worshipping during NewSong's practice).