At last it's happening!
It seemed forever to work through insurance, plans, approvals, tenders... But now the building is taking shape.
We can look at it and have our questions - is the new Home Hill church hall as big as the old hall damaged by fire in October 2001? will we be able to do all we used to do? In fact by joining the buildings together, both buildings will have a greater usable area available. But yes, there will undoubtedly be some changes in how we do things.
When Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Mt. 16.18), he wasn't referring to a physical building but to people who would believe in him - trusting him and doing his will, Somehow we have become so absorbed in organisation and buildings that we forget people and the mission committed to us.
In a way it's rather like the difference between a house and a family. A family may own a house or a tent, or live in rented accommodation... or they may have no fixed place to call their own at all. They are a family because of their relationships and commitment to one another. For the sake of family life and activity it is helpful to have a "base" - a base that we call our "home."
Building the church in 2003... how can we go about that?
Relationships and commitment... Jesus was talking to his disciples in Caesarea Philippi - in the remote north away from the crowds. "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
There were a variety of viewpoints - "John the Baptist Elijah or one of the prophets..."
"But what about you? Who do you say I am?"
Peter replied, "You are the Christ the Son of the living God" (vv. 13-16).
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (vv. 17-18).
Sadly, in later years these verses were used in the attempt to prove the correct organisational church identity. In fact, the name "Peter" (Petros) means a stone or piece of rock, while "on this rock" (petra) refers to bedrock. Was Jesus identifying Peter as the first in a long apostolic succession reaching down to today and guaranteeing the authenticity of a present-day church denomination? Or is the "rock" a reference to faith in Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" and guaranteeing the authenticity of church denominations upholding true faith in Christ?
Both can seriously miss the point. I doubt Jesus was thinking about "church" in an organisational sense at all. And we change the focus from "Christ's" church to "our" church. A few years ago I heard a pastor say, "The Lord means me to have a big church." There was something seriously wrong with his focus.
That's where we need to begin. Jesus said, "I will build my church." Earlier he had said to them, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field" (10.37-38). In Acts we read of the risen Christ saying to his disciples, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (1.8).
So the focus is meant to be on the Lord - it is his church and his harvest, and we are supposed to be bearing witness to him. The Good News Bible makes it clear that we are to go "to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples" (Mt. 28.19).
So it is Christ who is building his church in 2003. The question is whether we are growing to know him more and to be more available to him as his willing witnesses and workers in his work of building.
The Christians in Corinth were arguing about which of them had the most important spiritual gifts. Paul told them this was wrong. We are a body. We need one another. Not one of us can do it all. Christ is the head - we need to be responding to him. They were even making comparisons between the different Christian leaders - which one should they be following?
Paul wrote, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow..." (1 Con 3.5-6).
Christ is building his church. Let's keep our focus on him. Let's seek every opportunity to grow in faith. Let's be available by our prayer, our lives and our loving, inviting, welcoming openness to reach out to others in our community.
It's 2003! Let's keep in step with Jesus!
© Peter J. Blackburn, Link, February 2003