Psalm 127:1-2 (NIV): Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.
There is too much of man in modern Christianity; too much of the handprint of people on its buildings, its structures, its very character. The way of man is to set a goal, and then strive to accomplish it, designing systems, building mechanisms, planning and conducting events. And if those man-made goals are accomplished, if the systems seem to operate, if the events are well attended, the people feel that, not only were they successful, but that God Himself has blessed their efforts.
But that is all a far cry from the way God does things. To God, the church is not property and buildings. It is not programs and activities. It is not a system for elevating the mind and heart of mankind. The Church to God is the people of God, the body of Christ, the kingdom of God that HE has built and empowered to reach and transform the people of the world into the people of God; a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9-10).
In the beginning the Church had 120 people living as one, praying as one, waiting as one. Then, on the day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit-filled people began to praise Him aloud, with all that was within them, and people came from all over the city to listen. An inspired message delivered through Peter resulted in 3000 new members of the kingdom of God. No program, no “event,” no advertizing campaign. It was all the result of a group of people so tuned in to God through their praying together and their expectation that God would fulfill through them all that He had promised, that He was able to work through them unhindered by any plans or structures that they had erected. A few weeks later, God did it again. The opportunity, from a human standpoint, was random: a man who was crippled, a beggar near the temple gate. But God had planned all of this. Peter and John stopped near the man at God’s command, and spoke His words of restoration right on cue. The man’s body was made whole, God’s message of salvation was preached, and thousands more were made part of His people.
Nothing that humans have ever planned can come close to the results that God has achieved. No program has ever changed the lives of thousands on the spot. No telemarketing plan has ever brought thousands of diverse people together and, in the twinkling of an eye, molded them together into a unified body.
Oh, how God longs to do the same thing today! How He desires with all of His heart to reach out through His people and transform the lives of hundreds, of thousands of people at a single stroke. But far too many of God’s people are far too focused on building the house ourselves. Far too many of us are far too busy planning outreaches, or building structures, or buying programs, to spend the time in focused prayer, so that God can transform us, fill us with His spirit, and give us His all-powerful words to speak. Far too many of us are far too busy trying to build their church through our own efforts to be used by God to build the Kingdom. And the results are sadly predictable: small growth, if there is growth at all; shallow commitments that do not actually transform lives; frustration; conflict; and a growing irrelevance of a self-focused, self-built church to the community around it; a community that is not looking for programs, but for Truth; not looking for activities, but for Life; not looking for a building, but for the Way into God’s kingdom. “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV) Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
Father, You are absolutely right. Too much of the Church today is the house that man built. Forgive us for shouldering You aside in our push to implement our own “great plans.” Forgive our ignoring our need to pray in our haste to work out our programs. Forgive us taking our eyes off of Your guiding hand while we plan our outreaches and our building programs. Help us, Lord, to really see the error of our ways, to fully repent and turn back to You with all of our hearts, and to let You build Your house through us. Amen.