Recently I have been sharing some thoughts on building correctly, that is, building according to the pattern of God. This has been something that God has been burdening my heart with over the past few weeks. Something is stirring greatly within me, a bit of a prophetic stir, if you will.
I am so desirous to see the church, the body of Christ, build according to the pattern of God. We are called to see what He is doing, what He is building, and then build accordingly.
But, if we are honest enough with ourselves, whether we are leaders or not, we build things that have nothing to do with the kingdom rule of God. And some of these things are way off! It hurts to realise such. But I’d rather realise such now and be changed then continue building against the blueprint of what Jesus really meant when He meant church.
Thus, we need a glimpse of the city that Abraham saw, the one patterned after the great architect and designer (Hebrews 11:10). We need to submit to the One who said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18). But, again, we are not usually there. We don’t even take time to look and to listen. Thus, we are found wanting, found lacking.
And, as I mentioned in the last article, before we can start building according to God’s pattern, we sometimes have to first see things plucked up, torn down, even destroyed. Jeremiah understood that from the beginning of his prophetic call (see Jeremiah 1:9-10).
There really is no use trying to build on top of a wrong foundation. It will only mean having to redo it all at some point later in the future.
How do we start getting off base in our building?
We start getting obsessed with things that don’t matter as much. Or, as we C.S. Lewis put it somewhere, we start putting second things first. But when we do that, we know the consequences – we lose both first and second things.
But what do I mean that we make second things first?
We start making good things as best things. We give all our time and attention to things that are not wrong in and of themselves, but are still not of first importance. And seeing good things as if they are best things might even be worse than building in a completely wrong way.
Ok, some might think I’m still speaking in code. So let me spell it out.
Abortion. I don’t know too many Christians who would not be against it (though there are some). I do not believe abortion is at the heart of God. I believe life starts at conception. So abortion is not good.
But I do believe there are also those who get caught up in making abortion more important than the gospel of the kingdom.
Again, please hear me, please know my intention. I believe that abortion is not good. I believe those committed to the King and His kingdom understand that life is important, even the life of the unborn. But this still falls short of Christ and the gospel of the kingdom. This still becomes second to that which is called first.
I like Mark’s recording of Jesus’s words here:
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:35)
Our lives are not to be given for abortion, they are to be given for Christ and the gospel, even if we never give our life in death. This is of first importance. We proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, not the gospel of pro-life.
Let’s move on.
Worship. God is absolutely worthy of all our worship, which contains every aspect of our lives from the corporate gathering to the brushing of our teeth. Our lives are to proclaim His excellencies at all times (1 Peter 2:9). But we have turned worship into ‘the worship experience’, which then usually becomes relegated to the 30-minute or so slot on Sunday mornings, and possibly Wednesday evenings as well.
Such has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Such has nothing to do with building after the pattern of God.
I’m going to go ahead and say it: At times, I have experienced ‘church’ more over a meal with some close friends than at some Sunday morning gatherings. I think we can all be honest and agree to that. And that’s ok.
Maybe we were building more after the pattern of God with four people at the table rather than with 100 people acting as an audience. Oh that we would be saved from having our eyes glued to musicians or PowerPoints.
Church Growth. There is nothing wrong with seeing people added to our churches. Hey, shouldn’t we see people drawn in. But, in many cases, there is an obsession with such. Capitalistic marketing has spread like gangrene into our churches.
And this leaves us forgetting that church growth first starts with the maturity of the saints. I’m thinking mature saints will lead to greater outreach than having events and seeker-sensitive services. Sure, these ploys might bring in greater numbers. But if we want fruit that lasts, mature fruit, we need to build according to God’s desire.
I absolutely love these words of Paul:
28Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)
His desire was to present everyone mature. And he said he toiled for this. What authentic and correct building!
Paul presents elsewhere that maturity and unity are the goal, almost as if Christ will not return to marry us until we have moved soundly towards this. If you don’t believe me, check out Ephesians 4:11-16.
So I don’t mind considering modern ways in which to draw people in to our gatherings. Paul seems to think that opportunities should be arising in our gatherings in which people recognise God’s presence in our midst (see 1 Corinthians 14:24). And this was before electric instruments and video presentations and PowerPoint. Imagine that!
You see, we simply get off course. We simply build according to the pattern of our culture and our day. This means we have not seen what Abraham saw so long ago. He knew that he was living in a foreign land (Hebrews 11:9). We think we are in the promised land with our second things, or even our third, fourth and fifth things.
I simply listed three things above. The list could go on for quite a while.
As the writer to the Hebrews reminds us, I’m thankful we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). But a shaking will come one day (Hebrews 12:26-27), even comes in our lives on a regular basis, and we find these things are shaken from our lives. They couldn’t stand with the unshakable. Yet, if we still hold onto them today, they’ll be shaken in that final day.
I’d rather let go now.
I am so passionate to build after the heart of God. I want to participate in what Jesus is building. I don’t want to try and hold up what He abandoned long ago.
I know we have our tendencies to get off course. We are weak and frail. So I simply find myself calling on, crying out to the One whose grace is sufficient. I want to see what He is building and put my hands to that. Help us, Father.