What Does It Take To Build The Body Of Christ?
What does it take to build the body of Christ? My gut feeling is that the presence of God alone is enough. But I think in North America we subconsciously believe that we need a lot more in order to build a church. Do we really need all the extra things to build The Church?
I serve as an Elder in my home church. It is a great privilege to be part of a church that is growing. At this time, we do not have a permanent home. We are a mobile church. We lease space as we are able to find facilities large enough to accommodate our growth. At this time, on any given Sunday we have almost 600 in attendance. We continue to grow even during the summer months, which is rare for Southwest Florida.
The joke is that you can attend our church if you can find us. Last week we moved to a new facility again. The new facility is a conference center. It is beautiful. The seats are comfortable. The lighting is great. The sound system is premium, and the band sounds amazing from the stage. It is an ideal facility for us. The atmosphere was electric on our first Sunday there.
Unfortunately, we can only lease this facility until the middle of October. After that time we will need to move again. As leaders, we are looking at options across the spectrum to figure out where we will meet next. We’re looking at high school gyms, theaters, performing arts centers, warehouses, and the like.
Recently we met as Elders to discuss our options. Some of the options are better than others as far as sound systems, lighting, seating, etc. We discussed several facilities at length with this in mind. But when I woke the next morning, a single question came to mind. “What does it take to build the body of Christ?” It is a haunting question and one that needs to be addressed by the Church in North America.
I believe the presence of God is enough. The problem is that the idea of the presence of God is difficult to define. It is impossible to program. The presence of God cannot be conjured up like a genie in a bottle. Generally, we experience the presence of God moving among us as evidenced by lives that are transformed. We have a sense that God is present and moving in powerful ways in individual lives. If we do anything to facilitate this, it is simply in trying to stay out of the way. It is being aware of how desperately we need him. It is in falling on my face before him crying, “Woe is me for I am undone!” And it is in serving him in the Body of Christ with this in mind. When that happens, I believe the presence of God is free to move and work.
Now come back to my question of what it takes to build the body of Christ. Is it the presence of God plus something else? Is it the presence of God plus a good building? We have publicly declared, “no.”
What about comfort? Do we need to make sure everyone is comfortable to order for the church to grow? Are we afraid that people will stop coming if they have to sit in a bleacher? Then we need to ask ourselves if we unconsciously believe we need the presence of God plus comfortable seating.
Are we afraid that people will stop coming if we do not have a great sounding band? What if the sound system isn’t that great? Then we need to ask ourselves if we unconsciously believe we need the presence of God plus a great music.
Please understand, I am not saying that having a nice building is wrong. Neither is being comfortable or having excellent music with top-notch musicians. But is there anything but the presence of God that we actually need to build his body? The typical church growth manual for a church in North America would list all kinds of things that we need. But the typical church in North America is also in decline. I would propose that God is doing a unique work here in my home church. I believe he is building a church that will demonstrate the power of God to this community. But I think we have to be very careful that we do not rely upon anything but him to do that work.
We believe the Holy Spirit is drawing people to attend our services. Do we unconsciously believe that the Holy Spirit will stop drawing people to meet together with us if we meet in an uncomfortable place? And if they do stop coming, what does that say about the kind of disciples we are making? Have we created a whole generation of disciples in North America that only gather together if they have a comfortable place to meet? The Church in China would be ashamed to call us brothers.
I personally believe the presence of God is all that we need.
The Apostle Paul even taught that great preaching wasn’t necessary. He addresses this idea in the first letter he wrote to the church in Corinth. Consider what he wrote:
“I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5, ESV, Emphasis added).
Paul understood that the success of his life and ministry was not in his abilities but in the demonstration of the power of God. It is the same for you and I today.
When I speak at a conference or church, I approach the podium much like the Apostle Paul approached his teaching. Most folks do not realize how dependant upon God I am. I have no training in public speaking. I look at my notes, and they are pitiful. I try to prepare the best I can, but I rely fully upon God. I am desperate for him to speak. I know that if he does not speak, it will be painful for everyone in the room! But I have found that when I get out of the way and simply yield myself to God as a vessel for him to speak through, amazing things happen.
I bring this up because I believe the challenges God has laid before us have a deeper purpose. What if God is trying to keep us close to him, reliant upon him, by keeping us utterly dependent upon him? What if he is trying to keep us from relying on anything but his presence to build his Church?
Are we trying to grow a church or are we watching God grow his Church? Are we serving him, or are we asking him to serve us?
As I pray for God to provide us a place to meet, I also pray that we would never lose sight of the one thing that matters most: the presence of God. May God continue to move among us with power and authority through the evidence of his presence with us. I know I am idealistic, but I personally believe that if that happens, his Church will grow wherever we may happen to meet.