Church without walls

When Pastor Simon Whitley outlined his Church Without Walls vision at Rugby Elim Church many considered it prophetic.

Tragically, Simon died from cancer, aged 34, two years ago, just before Covid-19 hit and his vision started to become a reality out of necessity. Now it’s been turned into a book with contributions from 17 Christian leaders compiled by Rugby church member Roger Day.

“Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls... and I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’” declared the Lord through Zechariah (2:1-5).

The first word I saw was ‘run’. There’s the sense of urgency. God wants to bring something new. There’s momentum. God’s saying: ‘Come on, let’s go for the future.’

Walls can be constricting, with people being left out or feeling unworthy.

They’re inflexible, not allowing for movement and growth. If you’re on the wrong side of a wall they don’t look protective and distinctive any more. They look decisive and excluding.

We see a church without walls that’s growing. God’s encouraging us, not to be restricted by our walls, but to look beyond into the local area and into people’s lives.

The church God sees is a church without walls: presence-led, mission-minded and kingdom-focused. 

Restoring God’s presence
There’s more for us, a bigger kingdom purpose, because people matter to God. As Christians we need to move into God’s promises and posture ourselves towards the lost, the last and the least.

Perhaps surprisingly, Zechariah isn’t called to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. His calling is to make sure the people are focused on rebuilding the temple.

For us, rather than focusing on rebuilding the external walls of the city, we need to focus on restoring God’s presence.

Encountering God
So often we get it wrong. We say, “If we sort the external, everything will be all right.”

But God’s interested in having a place of residence among us, not just a place of protection around us.

We focus on getting the building more attractive and forget that what’s inside the building matters the most. It’s the presence of God that people seek.

No limits
In ancient cities, walls were about protection, definition and strength. A city was known by its walls and their enduring nature through each battle and decade.

A city wall was a thing of protection, warding off the enemy and holding back the advancing armies. But the reality is that walls are restrictive. They may define, protect and give pride to some people, but they can look uninviting and offensive to others.

A city can’t outgrow the walls that contain it. We’re called to look beyond the walls, not wait for those seeking Jesus to come to us.

Wall of fire
Zechariah has an incredible picture of a city without walls.

If God stopped at that point in the dream it would have looked like he was leaving Jerusalem vulnerable to attack. Jerusalem was a place without physical walls but God himself would become a wall of fire around them.

I love what he says: “I myself will be a wall of fire around it.”

God takes personal responsibility for their protection through his presence and refining fire. If it’s true for the vulnerable suburbs of Jerusalem, it’s true for us as children of God.

People without walls
I felt God speak to me, saying that if we’re going to become a church without walls we need to become people without walls.

Many people have been hurt by others and, as a result, have built walls of hurt, disappointment, fear, regret, shame, unforgiveness, anger and pain.

But these walls built as places of protection have become places of imprisonment. They’re locking people out of life. Some people have lived with these walls for months, even decades, and the enemy has loved having them locked up.

But the Father is saying: “Enough is enough. It’s time for you to bring down those walls; it’s time for you to bring my presence close.”

Copies of Simon's book Church Without Walls are available from Amazon here.

This article first appeared in the November 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered directly to your home.


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