I’ve seen it before in all kinds of churches. It seems to be everywhere. “It” is the attitude that many Christians have about our most basic purpose, about why we are here, and why we do what we do. We agree that it all belongs to God and we are building God’s church, but that isn’t what I’m getting at. What I’m asking is why do we bother investing our time and effort? Many Christians believe one of two lies and although no one would admit it, our actions betray us.
The first lie is that we are building our parents’ or grandparents’ church. Again, we would deny it if you asked, but you will notice that we invest our effort in building an edifice that looks and feels just like the church we grew up in. Nothing changes and everything looks like it always did because this makes us feel all warm and cozy and comfortable inside.
The second lie is that we are building a church for ourselves. This church may not look like the one we grew up in, but this is the church we always daydreamed about when we were kids. We didn’t like the music that our parents sang; we didn’t like the rituals that they used, or whatever. In our daydreams we imagined what it would be like to go to a church had our music and our rituals. And so now, as responsible adults, we set out to build the church that we imagined.
These ideas are wrong.
Remember Moses? Moses went to Egypt, brought freedom to his people, and led them for forty years in the wilderness. Moses spoke with God and brought the law and the commandments.
But the goal was to enter the Promised Land.
Moses never made it. Moses watched as the people he taught, and the leaders that he trained, left to take possession of the land. Moses’ entire life was dedicated to building something that he never saw with his own eyes.
What about King David? David brought the Tabernacle home and desired to build a Temple for God. David’s was known as a “man after God’s own heart,” and wanted to build a Temple where God could take up residence.
But God refused.
And so, instead of building a temple for the Lord, David planned for the future. He purchased and stored building supplies, sought out the world’s best artisans, hired the best architects and builders that could be found, acquired rare and valuable building materials, and stockpiled precious metals. All for a project that he would never see.
David’s efforts were intended for future generations.
These examples mean something. When we work in the church, we must remember that the goal is not our own comfort. Our mission is not just to be disciples, but to make disciples. We are not called to build a place where we will feel comfortable. We spend ourselves for those who have not yet heard the Good News. We are building a place of healing and hope for outcasts, strangers, and foreigners. Our church must be a place where the least and the lost can feel welcome and at home.
No, we are not building our grandparents’ church.
We are building a church for our grandchildren.