I’ve been part of two different churches with building projects. The one church simply designed a functional building. The other church was so careful to make sure that every aspect of its design represented something about the Lord and His desire to reach the world. Which church do you think had the greatest impact on the community? Which church do you think saw growth?
The answer to both of those questions is the church with the functional design. Yet, it could have been the other church for our testimony is not dependent on the building in which we meet but rather the lives within that facility pulling on God’s divine power to work in and through them both inside that building and outside of it in the world.
Our Testimony is Dependent on God’s Power, Not the Building in Which We Meet
We can look at the building of the Old Testament temple for an example. King Solomon said,
The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods. But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him? (2 Chron. 2:5-6)
Notice three important truths in these verses:
1) There is nothing wrong with great buildings in and of themselves that are built for the right reasons. Solomon built with the purpose of showcasing God.
2) The reality is, however, that even the grandest of all buildings is insufficient to truly showcase God. Solomon acknowledged that the temple could not contain God. He is far greater than anything we could ever build.
3) The building is merely a tool. Solomon had to admit that this grand temple was only a place to burn sacrifices before God.
Since God cannot be contained in a building, ministry can take place both within the church building and outside of it as we draw on His power. When we make the church more about the building in which it meets, we can actually diminish ministry and dampen our testimony in the world.
Our Testimony is Dampened When We Forget It is About God’s Power at Work, Not the Building in Which We Meet
We can start out well, with good intentions, designing a great church facility to showcase the Lord. If, however, we forget that it is really His power at work that brought the increase, we can become like the Israelites, grumbling and complaining, getting our eyes off of Him and onto our circumstances and surroundings. Psalm 78:42 says, “Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power -the day He …” and then it goes on who rehearse His displays of power on their behalf.
Further, we can let our church facilities become like idols to us if we aren’t careful, making them the main focus instead of the Lord. The shift can be subtle but we start crediting the facilities, technology, lighting, and all the other trappings for what is happening rather than God’s power. These things, like idols, are man-made and cannot compare to what God is able to do — “No one is like you, LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power” (Jer. 10:6). When we have a God who “made the earth by His power” (Jer. 10:6), why would we rely anything else? Why would we showcase anything else?