1 Corinthians 3:9
When I was in English class in grade school, I learned repeatedly in my compositions to never mix metaphors. Apparently, the apostle Paul never took my class! Throughout his writings, he is always mixing metaphors. A great example of this is found in I Corinthians 3:9. From verses 6-9a, Paul uses agricultural metaphors to describe his (and others’ ministry) among the Corinthians. The Gospel is seed that the apostle planted among the Corinthians and that seed was laid in the ground and constantly watered by other ministries the Lord sent. But then in the second half of verse 9, Paul changes the metaphor from the world of agricultural to the world of construction. The Corinthians are not only “God’s field”, they are also “God’s building”. And for the verses that follow (vs. 10-15), Paul never returns to the agricultural metaphor but focuses solely on the fact that the Corinthians are “God’s building”.
It appears (we will have more details at our Partners’ Meeting, August 3rd) as if we have come to terms for the sale of our building. In light of that fact, I find this statement by Paul (‘you are God’s building’) to be so affirming. Don’t forget that Paul is writing at a time before there were buildings called ‘churches’. For Paul, God’s building is not a manmade structure erected for church meetings, but God’s final dwelling place, the Church. Each of us are “living stones” (I Peter 2:4), personally indwelt by Jesus and then built together with other stones to make up God’s dwelling (see Ephesians 2:21-22). This is what God has been building since eternity past and through the new covenant, God is now indwelling a people.
I am very thankful we have had the use of this church building. And let me say that all of the elders are so very, very thankful for the sacrificial giving of the many people who have made it possible for us to be in our building. I know therefore that even though it is necessary to leave this building, it is difficult to do so. It has been a great facility where countless hours of ministry in the presence of God has occurred. We all undoubtedly have precious memories of having been encouraged by the presence of God, received encouragement through preaching, or seen someone healed or receive forgiveness of their sins. I also have many memories that I shall take with me of having been ministered to in this building. They are forever etched in my mind.
But my encouragement in this blog is that we are coming into a season where we can really live out the meaning of this statement, “You are God’s building.” Not having a building of our own (at least for the immediate future) gives us an opportunity to experience the true building of God. Let me explain.
This time in the life of our church gives each of us the opportunity to ask an important question which reflects on whether or not we have a biblical understanding of the Church. For example, “Is church primarily a meeting I attend or is it a people I am joined to?” Don’t get me wrong; we are called by God to gather together regularly as the church (I Cor. 11:18, Hebrews 10:25). But for many us, we still view church as a meeting rather than a community to which I belong. According to this view, as long as I attend a church meeting every week, I have had a valid experience of the church. While corporate Lord’s Day gatherings are vital and we shall continue to meet together on Sundays in our various sites, a person can be faithful to the meetings and remain a relative stranger to others.
Being a member of “God’s building” means that I must regularly be built into others’ lives. We do this primarily through our house churches (though there are certainly other ways as well) at TCC. That is why I am part of a house church. I need to have fellowship with other parts of the building. My life must be vitally built into other living stones that make up the building and being part of a house church is the most practical way to do that. There, people get to know me and I get to know them. I, along with every other saint, need the accountability and transparency that comes through intimate fellowship. I am not first a pastor but a believer in vital need of the church.
Use this occasion to ask yourself important questions such as “Am I really allowing myself to be built into the body of Christ. Do I have people that are regularly speaking into my life and from whom I can receive encouragement? Is my life being ‘built together’ with other stones in the house of God?” These are important questions each of us need to ask at this time. While many of us may mourn selling our facility, it is a great time to do a heart check on our present relationship with God’s people. God doesn’t live in brick and mortar—he lives in a living temple made of spiritual stones (see I Peter 2:4-5). God’s house is a spiritual temple made up of living stones. But the stones can’t be part of that house unless they are willing to be “built together” into other stones. Let this be a time when you not only grow in your relationship with the Head, but with the members of the body as well.