But a part of the plan must be include a consideration of the type of materials. For instance, what if you are building a boat. Now ideally, you would choose fiberglass. What might happen if you use bricks for your boat? Or if you were building a phone tower, what if you used Styrofoam like the old cup games with a string? So not only is the plan important, but so is the knowledge of the planner.
Consider a ship. In the previous paragraph, I mentioned that building a boat out of a fiberglass would be appropriate. But large ships, like navy vessels, use steel, or at least, an aluminum alloy today. And what about a plane. To make something fly, the Styrofoam I mentioned above might seem appropriate. But put me, a not-so-skinny guy, in a piece of steel crafted in just the right manner with just the right know-how, and you can carry me across an ocean with a couple of hundred people, with all of our luggage on board too.
So, the right plan, and the right materials, and the right person can make all the difference not only in what might be built, but also how good, strong, or effective the product might be. Which brings us to our focal verse for this series – Matthew 16.18, and specifically the words, "I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH."
I WILL BUILD
Two weeks ago, we explored the word "I" and determined that Jesus not only has the authority to use the word as God, but that we should trust Him when He does.
Last week, we examined the word "Will" and concluded that we often choose to follow our own will, but doing so often gets us in trouble. Therefore we should submit to the will of the One who is in control anyway.
Well, this week, we find out what the "I" "will" do. The "I" Jesus, plans to, or "will" BUILD. And because He has the authority, and because He has the power, what He plans has been, is being, and will be done. And that means that this century’s old building campaign will continue until He is finished with it. If this is true, let’s take a look at Jesus building campaign, but we will do so in reverse order of our earlier discussion.
The Right Person
Again, this was our focus two weeks ago, so I am not going to go into all of that here. But let me say that if we truly believe He is the right person, then we need to get out of His way to let Him lead, and fall directly in-line with Him so that we can do what He asks.
The Right Materials
Jesus chooses people to be the material for his building project. In two weeks, we will further clarify that the church is not a building, but the people. But for now, just realize that you are the material of choice for the greatest building campaign the world has ever known. People marvel at the pyramids, are amazed at the Great Wall of China, speak of the beauty of the architecture of a building like the opera house in Sydney. But none of those compare with you.
His design is luxurious. And the materials He uses are luxurious. And those materials are you.
But the truth is that God only uses one kind of person. It isn't the smart or dumb. It isn't the pretty or ugly. It isn’t the tall or short. It is the available. To be available is to one who is humble, one who forgives, one who loves, and most importantly one who trusts God enough to become what God wants you to become by living according to the instructions He has given.
I realize someone reading this is probably saying that I can’t mean you. Perhaps all that is left of you is the scraps. For just a moment, consider a few pieces of wood that have been discarded as scraps. I have no carpentry skills, so I couldn't do much with those scraps.But someone who knows what they are doing might use these for some great purpose. Last week, I said that our purpose was significant purpose because God has called us to it. Well, maybe you feel like you are part of a scrap heap and so you are not significant. The first question you must ask is: Who told you that? Yourself? Someone else? Well, I can assure you one thing - IT WAS NOT JESUS! How do I know? First He was a carpenter, so He could probably fix just about anything with whatever was lying around. But more importantly, He purchased you. In fact, Jesus purchased all the material He would ever need to build His church? It wasn’t cheap either. He gave His blood for you. He gave His blood for me. So, don’t tell me you are worthless. God thinks you were worth the price of His Son. The question is what are you going to do about it?
He can repair you and restore you. Yes, you may have scars. Scars are real. But they don’t have to define you. Let Jesus define you. Let Jesus use you as His material. Find your worth in Him.
The Right Plan
- Jesus said He would build. (Matthew 16.18) This is the theme of this entire series.
- Jesus bought the materials. 1 Corinthians 6.19-20, says, "19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
- Jesus sent a guide. In John 14.25-26, Jesus tells His disciples that though He must leave, He will sent the Holy Spirit. "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
- Jesus holds the church together. Paul later writes to the Colossians, "And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." (Colossians 1.17-18)
A Call to Unity
This last sub-point is parallel to what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. In the first ten verses of 1 Corinthians, Paul uses the word Christ, ten times. His point is that the church is about Christ, not us. He holds us together, not us. It is He that is head of the church, not ourselves. And it is He that unites us, not our own thoughts and ideas. And that is why in verse 10, Paul can write that the Corinthian church must be united – because it is about Christ. Some claim to follow Paul, some claim to follow Apollos, or Peter, or Christ Himself. It is not about following friends, a pastor, or even a church (though in discipleship we may follow a person as they point us to Christ). We are to follow Christ. We are to be united in Christ because Jesus is the one who died for you AND me. More importantly, He LIVES for YOU and ME..
Two weeks ago, I talked about our need to do great things for God. Great accomplishments often take great plans and great execution, all of which takes harmony – or unity. We might attempt great things, but without unity, it will not last. And without God it is not possible. Consider an Old Testament instance of a group of people united in purpose, but being against God. In Genesis 11, we have people committed to building a tower which will reach to heaven. And it is important to note that God does not say they cannot do it. In fact, God says because they are one people, of one language, they are just beginning to do great things and that nothing would be impossible for them, at least in their own minds (Genesis 11.6). But God! People may design their own schemes, but if God is not a part of the plan, then it will always, ultimately fail.
That is why our vision (two weeks ago), and our mission (last week), and now our strategy must be accomplished not only in unity with one another, but in partnership with God. Yet, it is one thing to have a strategy, and another to know if it is working. Winston Churchill once said, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."
I would say that our strategy has served as a relative guide so far, but we don’t have much to show for it - yet. In one sense we must all take some responsibility for this, but ultimately, I have not led as strongly as I have needed to lead. Truthfully, we needed to get healthy as a church, and we have taken the time to do that, but now we must change our approach. We must go and we must grow.
A Call to Respond
I recently read two quotes related to what most people want from a pastor. I don’t believe this to be entirely true of our church, but if there is any truth in these for anyone, let us all realize, neither of these are me, nor have they been. But whatever part of me they have been they will be less true going forward.
"Many churches are not looking for a pastor so much as a spiritual yes-man employed to affirm their religiosity."
– Jared Wilson
I don’t want you to be religious, I want you to be holy. And I want you to become all that He wants you to be so that we, as a church, can be all that He calls us to be. (See Ephesians 4.1 and 5.1)
Whatever truth exists in that statement, realize the time for that thinking is over. That has not been me, and it will not be me. But in today’s world, we must get real about our faith, or we will abandon it. It is like the fake wood we install in our homes. It looks nice as a material, and it costs less, and thus it is appealing for a while. But it is not real and it will not last. Jesus paid a steep price for you and I – let’s not be fake about our faith.
The second quote is this:
"Wherever a pastor starts getting prophetic, you'll also see churchfolk eager to put him in his place as an employee."
– Jared Wilson
Yes, I am an employee of the church. But I was not hired as your pastor, I was called. And ultimately, I was called as a pastor of God to serve this church at this time. And there are times to slow, and there are times to go. Now is a time to go! Ronnie Floyd says it this way, "If you don’t learn how to surf the seasons of ministry you will never be successful."
Again, we have been in a season of getting healthy, but that season is past. It is now time to push ourselves beyond our own comfort and follow where God is leading. That is the reason we are moving from the idea of the Vision Team to the MAP Team. Again, MAP stands for Ministry Action Plan. It is a plan for ministry, but not just a conceptual plan, but one for action. The goal will be to emphasize people, not programs – though programs may be a part of the process.
A Call to Engage
As I first mentioned four years ago, when we first introduced the idea of being on a JOURNEY, it is important to understand the destination. The church is not the destination. It is a tool. God’s Kingdom is the destination and the church is the tool He has chosen to use to bring people into His kingdom. But too many people all over the world think of the church as the destination. And more than that, they maintain a false view of what the church should be taking a consumer mentality, instead of a producer mentality of making disciples.
Sam Rainer says it like this, "The church is not a DESTINATION for you to have your needs met. The church is a VEHICLE to send people into the world."
And that is why we have to be united. We have to work together to make sure that vehicle is headed in the right direction. In the words, of Captain Picard, we must "Engage."
But as we engage, we must remember our JOURNEY letter for today is: U - Unite
Unity may be difficult, but it is God's will. Consider the words of Paul to the Romans and to the Ephesians. Both verses show the necessity of unity. Both verses show the will of God, and both verse show what Jesus made possible.
Romans 12.3: "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." This verse is specifically in regards to Jews and Gentiles hating one another because they felt superior to one another.
Ephesians 2.14-16: "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." Again, Jew and Gentile, reconciled by the blood of Christ. If Jesus could bring unity to these two groups, it applies to everyone. Just as nails often hold various construction materials together during a building project, remember it was nails that held Jesus on the cross so we might be united.
So, what about our next steps?
Well, our next steps must build on our previous steps in this series. We need to be ready to see what opportunities God brings our way. And we need to be ready to respond. How do we do that?
- Remove the obstacles. (What obstacles in our lives keep us from giving ourselves to God?)
- Create a MAP Team. (Develop opportunities and see them through to completion/evaluation!)
- Pray for faithfulness to God’s leadership. (We ask Him to lead, and we respond by obeying.)
- Commit to one another.
People may disregard the cross, but true faith in Christ cannot be lost. The cross leaves an imprint on our lives. And we should leave an imprint on each other. When people come and go from our lives, if we have been united with them, we should feel the pain. This is true for most people regarding family members. And it is true for many people regarding friends who die. But it should be true of any Christian who has a fellow brother or sister leave the church. People may move, or people may just grow weary, but we should try to understand why they left or are leaving and determine what is causing the unity to be severed. Otherwise, we must evaluate if it ever existed at all.
But in the midst of unity, we can do great things - for God. After all, it was His purpose to plan the building, purchase the materials, and build His church. And He has not concluded building it yet. He still has others He will use for materials. Each church has room if they are willing to let Him build, because God still has room. His Kingdom still stands, and is still growing around the world. But we must allow ourselves to be the kind of material which is available for Him to use as He wishes.
- Will we choose to be materials He can use to build His luxurious design?
- Will we choose to be materials that He can use to fill His significant purpose?
- Will we choose to be materials that will help our magnificent savior to continue to do great things in and through us for the glory of our Father in heaven?
If we choose to commit to Jesus, making ourselves available, and uniting with other Christians around us, I think we will be amazed at what Jesus might build in, and through, us for the Kingdom of God and the glory of the Father. And whatever that means will be greater than the greatest Lego set in the world could ever build.