It is common for people to think that church buildings are temples of God that manifest the glory of God. Because of this belief, through out church history, church building construction and architecture has never stopped to be the primary focus of many churches. Many magnificent churches were built. In North America today, many churches continue to undertake large and expensive church building projects.
Have we ever stopped to ponder if the church building that we are building the same one that God has in mind?
In the entire New Testament, the only building that biblical text talked about, the one that is dearest to God’s heart is His sheep, His people, us. It was never about the physical church building facility. You and I are God’s temple upon which His Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthian 3:16). You and I are God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9). The foundation of this building is Christ Jesus Himself (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The church building project that God has in mind is about building lives on top of the foundation that Christ has already laid for them. Our work (1 Corinthians 3:13) is all about building each other up in Christ, offering the most precious materials for Him to strengthen His sheep with power through the Holy Spirit in their inner being, to the state that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:16,17). That is the only kind of church building that is of eternal value, the only one that God has in mind for us to build.
Spiritualizing church building facilities as temples of God as justification to ask for donation for building fund demonstrates a lack of understanding of the one most critical teaching of the whole Bible. We better get this, Church, in order not make Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross in vain: the Old Testament Temple was only a shadow of the New Testament reality that God dwells in us as His temple. The physical building is no longer the “temple” of God. Now in New Testament time, God’s temple is His people. You and I, are Holy Spirit’s dwelling place, upon whom manifest God’s glory. So the main business of the church is to build up people in Christ.
We are warned to build with care. The quality of our work will be shown for what it is (1 Corinthian 3:10, 11). In other words, we will have to give an account of our work regarding how well we build each other up in Christ. Will our work, will the gold and silver and costly stones we offer, will the time and energy we spend, will the money we offer, be blessed by God to root others deeper in Christ’s love?
On that day when you and I have to give an account to the Lord, I know for sure that the Lord is NOT going to ask, “How’s my church building real estates doing?”. But He will ask, “How’s my sheep whom I have entrusted to you doing?”, “Have you invested the talents, resources and time that I have given you to build them up in Me?” How would you and I answer on that day?
I am not at all against church building projects. For practical reasons, Christians do need a place to gather. In New Testament time, Christians gathered in believers home. Nowadays, some churches rent. His people do need a facility to gather. It is a legitimate need. However, any time when a church building facility that is temporal on earth takes the center stage of the church to the extent of neglecting the eternal building (the people) that is dear to God’s heart, the church building facility has become an idol. The following are some tell-tale signs.
The majority of the time and energy of the pastors and church leaders are preoccupied with the church building project.
We know that the congregation’s spiritual growth and health become less important than the church building project when leadership spends little time to pray for the congregation and for the unsaved; when little leadership meeting time is devoted to discern spiritual welfare; when leadership is not sensitive to the spiritual warfare the church is facing; when there is no time set aside for the leadership to seek to hear from the Spirit of God for ministry direction. But instead, the only thing on the leaders’ mind is the church building project.
That is exactly pleasing to Satan, who feels threatened when lives encounter Jesus and be transformed by Him. Satan feels safe when the church spends all its energy devoted to work on a building that is temporal.
The bulk of the church finance goes to the church building fund with little capacity to care for the poor and the lost.
The poor and the lost have a very special place in God’s heart. His heart always treasures people above any physical things on earth. It is never pleasing to the Lord to construct a church building by cutting back from the church’s capacity for serving the poor and the unsaved. Is our God not honored by our trust in Him that He is big enough to do both and more?
The church building has become the pride, the identify and the excitement of the congregation instead of boasting in Christ Himself and His ministry among us of healing the broken hearted and setting the captives free.
It is very human that the building provides us a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. But the joy and pride is always in the Lord. I am quite confident to say that the rejoicing of completing a church building project in heaven is incomparable to the magnitude of the rejoicing of lives being saved and transformed in heaven. Count what matters in heaven. A building is just a facility here on earth, no matter how much it costs!
Large building fund donors are given special recognition, privilege and ungodly control.
It is very common to see churches with large donors’ names printed as plagues put in visible places within the church. If we understand that any offering to Jesus is between the donor and the Lord, we would gladly agree that such giving, no matter how big, does not give the donor any entitlement to privilege or control. Sadly, I have seen members of a church who mortgaged their house to finance the church building fund, acted with an attitude of entitlement as if they were the major share holders who warrant special treatment.
The love for Jesus has gone stale from leadership to members of the congregation.
Everyone within the church is so drained by the church building project that there is little or no time spent on cultivating a deeper relationship with Christ everyday, starting with the leadership, extending into members of the congregation. The sad thing is after the grand church building is completed, the love for Christ has gone cold. What is the point then? It is very easy to discern. To members of the congregation, has anyone in the church invested time and energy to care for nurturing your love for Jesus? To leaders of the church, have you care for others in their walk with God? How is Jesus the center of it all?
May we carefully build the church building that God has in mind, the one that is so dear to His heart, and never let the church’s earthly facility that is temporal be blown out of its place in the kingdom of God.
What is your experience? Please share with us by your comment!