I’ve heard many preachers talk about building the church. It sounds like such a noble thing to say, but it depends on the context. I’ve seen far more churches concerned with building the structure that houses the Church, rather than building up the people who actually comprise the church. Most of the time, I hear the need for a larger building justified by saying that it is required to reach more people for Christ. Really? Jesus told us to go out into all the nations to tell others about Him (Matthew 28:19-20). He never said to build a large facility so that the people of the world would come to us.
Using the “Field of Dreams” strategy (“Build it and they will come”) is so passive, and the one thing you could never accuse Jesus of being is passive. Following Jesus requires an active faith. Passive faith is reserved for those who will be surprised and cast out of the Lord’s presence when they are judged (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus said “Go!” into all the world and make disciples of all men (Matthew 28:19-20). He told us to go and search the countryside in order to find those who were in deepest need and compel them to come into the Kingdom of God (Luke 14:23). He wasn’t referring to bringing them into the local synagogue, but rather to have them sit at His table for eternity.
Søren Kierkegaard, the great theologian and philosopher once said, “I went into a church in Copenhagen and sat on a cushioned pew. The velvet-robed minister opened a gilded Bible, marked the place for his reading with a satin marker, and, as the sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows behind him, he read, ‘If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up the cross and follow me.” Kierkegaard went on to say, “I looked around the church and nobody was laughing!” I can’t tell you the number of sermons I’ve heard on self-sacrifice and giving everything to follow Jesus while I was seated on a comfortable chair in an air conditioned room that featured a state of the art sound and lighting system. Something is very wrong here.
What if we spent the resources God entrusted to us to serve those in greatest need instead of spending them to enhance the enjoyment and comfort of those already “in the club”? What if we used the offerings given to the church to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick instead of upgrading our carpet or adding extra Sunday school space? In the book of Acts we read that in the early church, the money that was collected was distributed to those in need (Acts 4:32-35). They didn’t concern themselves with a bigger building, but rather with building up the people around them.
Many of us are faithful stewards of the money God has given us to manage. It is important that we not carelessly give it to organizations that are not as diligent in their own stewardship. I encourage you to request a copy of the budget for your own church. Examine how the money is spent. Consider if it is the way you think Jesus would spend the money. More wisdom from Kierkegaard: “All this money to build buildings to honor somebody who said, ‘I dwell not in temples made with hands.’” We’ve got to be honest with ourselves here. If the church won’t spend their money on the things commanded by Christ, then the people of the Church must give their money to organizations that will. We are to be building the Church not the church building.