When ever we set out to build a church building, it must have a great context to for it to flourish. Churches don’t exist to build empires, self promoting monoliths or ego inspired monuments. Neither are they simply “community centres”, no more important than the local gym.
But beyond needing to increase seating capacity and social impact in the ministry of a church community, what is the spiritual context & purpose for building a new church building? What is it’s driving force?
1. WE BUILD AS AN EXPRESSION OF SEEKING GOD
In 1 Chronicles 22:19 God says “Seek me, build me a temple”.
Building a space for a community to encounter God is one of the most basic acts of drawing heaven into your world. It has been this way for millennia.
The Shunamite woman built a room on her house for Elisha in 2 Kings, and it attracted the favour of God, bringing her out of her barrenness. Abram built an altar and called on the Name of the Lord, as did countless other heroes of faith. Moses put up a tent, David & Solomon built a temple, the Jews established their synagogues.
When Elijah built that altar, it was an act of sacrifice where God’s fire fell.
There is something about building that seeks God.
To designate a place in the heart of a community, to seek God together, a place to pray, mourn, celebrate, ask, dream – for millennia this has been the activity of a society that seeks God’s blessing. In turn God responds. When you build a church building, you’re not just building a community centre, you’re building an altar for God’s fire!
While our nation is being flooded with Mosques, standing tall on our sky lines, we must never become deceived into thinking buildings, land and physical territory is no longer important to New Testament Christians. We cannot surrender the skyline or the heavenliness to other religions. Large gathering centres are still needed.
So building a church building where community and God can meet, is a powerful act of seeking God and His favour in our land.
2. WE BUILD IN RESPONSE TO GOD’S PRESENCE
Man is strangely wired. Once he encounters God’s presence, he is always inclined to build something!
In Genesis 28 Jacob met God in that dream at Bethel; he “sets up a pillar” in response. Noah built an altar. David was filled with zeal to build a temple.
In Luke 9 Peter, James and John experience the powerful transfiguration. Somehow it must be hardwired in humanity, because the bible tells us “he did not know what he was saying” as his heart burst out with “Let’s build tabernacles! It’s good to be here!”
Our own church building resonates with the soft presence of God throughout the week because like Jacob experienced, God can be awesome in a geographical space. “Ground” can be made “holy” (Ex 3:5).
Our secular conference delegates ask “What is it about this place?” as they sense God’s presence. Some of our congregation members, in the darkest days of their lives, have found a quiet, dark corner of the hall mid-week. If I spot them and go over to check they’re OK, the response is always something like “Right now, this is the only place I feel safe”. The sense of God’s residing presence, because of countless acts of worship in a place, have left a mark on the masonry.
So our hearts always desire to build when God’s unusual presence touches us. “How awesome is this place!” we feel, and we always want others to gather, and experience the same blessing – God among man.
3. WE BUILD AS AN ACT OF LOVE
An old revivalist was asked, in the final years of his life, to sum up revival in a sentence.
Thousands watched as he thought for a second. Then he simply repeated the word “others, others, others”.
At first it doesn’t sound too inspiring. You might think he’d say “fire”, or “repent”, or “pray”.
But “others” sums up the purpose of the move of heaven since Pentecost, and the urgent drive of the Great Commission.
We can never afford to be comfortable, happy that our buildings are 80% full, nicely carpeted, or on a convenient bus route. We build to make space for thousands of others to come to a knowledge of Christ, and be discipled in the context of our Kingdom communities.
Building, when it does not personally help you as an individual, is act of pure, selfless love. This will be a great challenge in the coming years, to comfortable churches and Christians everywhere.
There is a tremendous favour of God for building new churches in our land right now. Perhaps God is up to something?