As a pastor, I find that my congregation and I are continually fighting “the battle of the building.” On the one hand, we are deeply grateful to have a beautiful church facility in which we can worship, make disciples, share fellowship, and do ministry. But on the other hand, it takes a lot of time, energy and money to keep that facility in good order — especially as it ages. And as a result, I can’t help but wonder if we end up focusing a lot of attention on “the care of property” that might better be devoted to “the care of people” — both those within our church family and those beyond it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a gift to have a church building. And if we’ve been given that gift, then we should certainly be good stewards of it, so that it bears witness to God’s beauty and majesty rather than making a statement about our lack of care and attentiveness.
But at the same time, it seems appropriate to remember that church facilities — as beneficial as they are — are not the point. As the Bible reminds us: “”The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24) And in today’s Old Testament lesson — when King David announces plans to build the LORD a house — God reminds him:
Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
Now then, tell my servant David, “This is what the LORD Almighty says…The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you (emphasis added). When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.”
2 Samuel 7:5-7; 11-12
Aren’t we so often tempted to take “good” things — church buildings, relationships, jobs, or something else — and make them “ultimate” things?
But rather than pretending that what we build can ever become an adequate source of security and pride, perhaps God calls us to pack up our tents and to “travel lightly” with Him, as we follow Jesus — not to a “house” — but to a “kingdom” — a “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)
May God build that kingdom in us and through us as we journey with Him this week.