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Unless the Lord builds the house…

July 18th, 2013

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1

This past Sunday our church in Stuttgart voted by 98.8% to build a new church building, that will give us much more room to reach people for Christ, to have more effective programs in our church, and to make a difference for Christ around the world. Our children’s work especially needs the extra space, since we have grown so much in that area, but in all areas of our church we can use more space. This vote was an expression of commitment to the work of God and of confidence in the future of International Baptist Church of Stuttgart.

This process that lies before us will require energy and commitment and sacrifice on our parts. No one should doubt that. It will require us to work together in order to accomplish this. We will be challenged and tested, but I believe also this will be one of the finest things that any of us will have been privileged to be a part of for the kingdom of God. We will be able to bless future generations through what we do now, and, God willing, we will be able one day to look back on these times and express our gratitude that God entrusted to us this role at this time.

Yet the passage above is the best place to begin to consider a church building program. The idea of the scripture is one of a man building a house for his family. The desire of every person is to own a house, a home where his family can find shelter and safety, one where love is shared and children are raised in an atmosphere of affection, affirmation, and expectation. But in the very process of building a house, there are many dangers on every side, and many questions a man might have. Will he survive the building of it? Will there be other dangers – earthquakes, floods, fires – that may destroy his work. And what of his family? Will they be peaceful and happy there? The psalmist inspired of God simply pointed out our human weaknesses in all things. We need God, and though He calls on us to use our hands and our mouths and our finances and all that we are to do His will, the work of God ultimately depends upon Him.

How can God build a church building? I think the place to start to answer this question is to consider what ways we are tempted to do this work in the flesh, what are the reactions of our hearts to the challenge that spring from our fallen natures, what are we tempted to forget, and what must we always keep in the forefront of our thoughts. We are prone to pride, tempted to take glory in ourselves, and we are also tempted by our lusts, tempted to use manipulation to get others to give, but unwilling to give ourselves. Fear is also of the fallen flesh of humanity, as is impatience, anxiety. All of this is the opposite of the attitude of prayer.

Prayer is dependence on God and faith in Him that He is worthy of our trust. Not to pray is a denial of His role, and it shows a mental attitude that He is not necessary for this project. So prayer is the first application of this verse, that we pray to Him, not just in addition to what we are doing, not in the sense that this is just something we tack on to our own efforts for good luck, but in the sense that all of this work of reaching people, of growing a church, of discipling people, it all depends on Him, from the beginning to the end.

How else will God build this building? He will build it by building up people in their faith and by building and strengthening the community of the church. God calls us to know Him, to follow Christ, but He also calls us to know one another, to link our hands and hearts together to follow Christ. Having a larger building will be a great blessing to this church, but it will only be as good as the people who come together. Having a bigger house to live in does not automatically make families happier, or does not automatically turn it into a home. So we need to continue to work on loving one another, listening to one another, helping one another, getting to know each other. There is no limit to what God can do in and through a people who are committed to Him 100%, and who are also committed to one another under His Lordship.

Our hearts must also be turned toward the world around us. It would be the greatest folly to sacrifice to have a new beautiful church building constructed, only to have it inhabited by a divided, cold, indifferent people. That is not who we are, and not who Christ would have us to be, so let us be sure that we do not become that. Rather, let us work together to worship Christ, to love one another, to seek to know His Word, to seek to follow His Spirit, to seek to love the lost around us in His name. And these are the things that we can only become and only can do by God’s work within us. That is how God will build this church body, and this church building.

I thank God for this verse, for it helps church leaders to keep things in perspective. God will use us in the work, but the work is done in His name, not our own, and by His power, not ours. A new building will be a wonderful tool that God can use, but it is a tool that must be placed in His hands to use. Let’s keep this thought central in our minds as we take the next steps toward this common goal.

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