To be completely honest, I think we get caught up with building things that are not according to the pattern of God. He has a pattern, a blueprint, if you will. But we throw in all these things that either have nothing to do with the way God builds, or the thing that we have brought in is good and acceptable, but we then define it as a must. Both are not helpful.
Many, many years ago, Abraham headed to a land that he had been promised by God. He arrived in that land of promise, but it was still as if he were in a ‘foreign land’ (check out Hebrews 11:9). Something was not fully right.
Why? Because he was ultimately looking for a city whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). Though he was looking, probably looking real hard, he never fully found that place, that city. He had seen the heavenly blueprint, but he never was able to see it become an earthly reality (Hebrews 11:13). Oh, he might have seen glimpses of what God had shown him. But he still looked around and things felt foreign.
Jesus also made an interesting statement, one we probably know quite well: ‘I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). And there is no doubt that He is the faithful One to build according to pattern of the Father. He has been building according to the heavenly pattern, that being the pattern of God Himself, ever since He arrived on the scene. And I’m simply amazed that He asks us to join in, to participate in what He is building.
But again, if we are honest, we can get so caught up in trying to build something that is not according to the pattern, the blueprint, of God. It’s been happening since the Fall. God has been looking to build this one city after His own pattern. But we miss it so many times. We say the church must have this, must do this, must look like this, must be built like this. Yet, such ideas remain far from the design of God.
Thus, for many, church turns into a building, all the programmes during the week, a certain time slot on Sunday, an institution with a hierarchy, another appointment on the weekly schedule, or a social club. And if we look to build as if this city, this thing known as church, were any of these things, well, we are looking at something mirroring the Tower of Babel.
But we build in such ways because we haven’t seen what Abraham saw, what God really showed him. We build with such a wrong focus because we don’t really know how Jesus wants to build. So, we then pick up so and so’s pattern from the church down the street or that mega-church that comes on television every Sunday morning, and we build according to that pattern. Or maybe we read someone’s book about church planting and we rush out the door with a capitalistic mindset to market our idea (or the author’s idea).
I can only imagine such grieves the Spirit of God.
The most interesting thing about it is that we have a high calling, I mean a HUGE calling: to display the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (check out Ephesians 3:10). Read the passage! This is no patty-cake, patty-cake, baker’s man church. This is mind-boggling. An absolutely astounding call!
But most of us still wonder if we will actually get out of bed on Sunday morning to gather with the saints. It’s not as if missing our church’s gathering is some kind of sin. Goodness no! But why would we ever want to really join in on Sunday morning, or a Thursday evening for that matter, if we don’t recognise such a calling? Why wouldn’t we want to live life like we read in Acts 2:42-47 if we don’t understand such a calling?
I suppose we haven’t seen what Abraham saw. I suppose we don’t know what Jesus is building. Church continues to remain an appointment that can be cancelled, a social club that we can decide to skip this week, or reduced to one and a half hours on a Sunday morning. So, of course, we could never imagine anything like what we read in the latter verses of Acts 2.
So many times we just aren’t there. We don’t see the blueprint of God and what He meant when He meant church. We don’t understand why Jesus was really willing to get up on that cross and receive the wrath of the Father on our behalf.
Abraham and Jesus saw something, but I’m not sure we have ourselves.
We fall short of building as God builds, thus leaving us short of this magnificent calling that we read about in Ephesians.
Yet, if we could just get a glimpse and see what God really wants to build and, then, build according to that blueprint of God, the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places will look on in awe at the wisdom of God displayed in the church. They will take a step back and say, ‘Wow, God. You are truly wise.’
Sounds lofty, doesn’t it? But you know it starts in the small things – serving, reconciliation with others we’ve been estranged from, brokenness over sin, seeking God in prayer. I quote these words of Hudson Taylor a lot, but let’s hear them a gain: Little things are little things, but faithfulness in little things are big things.
It doesn’t start with the next vision for revival in Manhattan or Chicago or Los Angeles. I will greatly welcome those if they come. But it starts by simply seeing what God is building, what His blueprint is, not someone else’s. And we get this blueprint by starting in Scripture, not in the books and videos being released with the latest Christian trends. I want church as Jesus meant it, not the iPad version.
So, what are we building? Or, better yet, how are we building?
I hunger to have the vision Abraham had. I’m hungry to see the blueprint of what Jesus meant when He meant church, what Jesus gave His life for. And then I want to live it out with grace and passion and full life and compassion.
Help us, Jesus.
Read the next article, which builds on these thoughts here.