Mother Bethel AME Church is located in Philadelphia. It traces its history back to 1794. That’s when Richard Allen with Absalom Jones walked out of the white Methodist Episcopal Church. They left when the trustees stopped them from praying. Even though Bethel AME has erected and worshiped in four different buildings since then, they know the difference between a building and the true church. Members make up the church while the building is just the place where they meet. Sadly, not all people realize this and place more value on buildings than on people. That was true during the days of Stephen. We read in Acts 7 that the religious leaders arrested him because he challenged their misguided values. Stephen insisted that since God does not dwell in man-made buildings, they should not regard the Temple to be more important than people or even God. These religious leaders defended their view of the temple, not because they honored God, but because they profited from their moneymaking schemes in the Temple. Like the idol-makers in Ephesus who later protested Paul’s preaching, these religious leaders knew Stephen’s preaching could undercut their profits. While reverent settings can enhance worship, they must not become idols, or detract us from God’s majesty and His concern for people.
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