So it turns out that there is life beyond student ministry! Who knew? Its been a slow start but we are beginning to turn our thinking to what it is going to mean for people to build to last in the area of faith.
The Building Metaphor
In the Old Testament there are plenty of references to building but most of them refer to physical structures such as the temple or the walls of Jerusalem. The temple was of course symbolic of Israel’s connection to God. It was the place where God dwelt with His people and the place where they came to meet with Him and bring their sacrifices.
After the exile God speaks through the prophet Haggai to challenge Israel about the fact that while they were busy paneling their houses, God’s house lay in ruins.
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.Haggai 1:3-5
The prophecy of Haggai serves as a wake up call to a nation who needed to re-prioritise and begin to connect once more with their God. I wonder if this could also be a timely message for many of us – I know myself how easy it is to get so caught up with life that my relationship with God is neglected!
In the New Testament the temple (not Solomon’s temple but the one built in time of Haggai/Ezra and later restored by Herod the Great) is still the focus of how Israel relates to God, but we soon find Jesus talking about change. When one of His disciples comments on the magnificent buildings in Jerusalem, Jesus takes the opportunity to declare that all of this would one day be thrown down (Mark 13:1-2 and quoted by His accusers in 14:58). It was actually not long before this was prophecy was fulfilled by the Romans in around 70AD when the temple was destroyed.
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
“I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.”Mark 13:1-2 and 14:58
John records Jesus’ original claim in John 2:19-21 and then comments that the “temple he had spoken of was His body” (v21). Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection which ushered in a new way of relating to God. From then on, rather than the physical Temple being the focus of worship, Paul says “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Cor 3:16). God no longer dwells in temples but within those who love Him and choose to follow and obey Him.
9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 3:9-11
If we are temples of the Holy Spirit it is in this sense that we are “God’s field, God’s building” (v9b). If we are God’s building then it matters how we build, so each of us “should build with care” (v11).
Foundations are vital
What does it mean to build well? Over the years I have built a number of structures within our garden – sheds, paving and our cabin. All of these structures have had some kind of foundation beneath them. Experience has taught me that the better the foundation, the great the longevity and structural integrity of those structures! Jesus also speaks about foundations in His parable about the wise and foolish builders. The wise builder, says Jesus, is the one who built the foundations for his house on the rock….
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”Matthew 7:24-27
The key lesson here is about foundations: sand does not compare well against rock as as place to build strong foundations. Most summers the kids and I love to build walls of sand on the beach to try and stand up against the incoming tide: strangely enough the tide always seems to win!
In this new series of blogs I want to think about some of the things which will help us to develop strong and lasting foundations. As we embark on a new phase of ministry we are excited about what it might mean to help people to build to last.
Changing the metaphor a little, Jesus also says something to His disciples which is very profound and right on point with what I am describing here. In John 15 Jesus is speaking about fruitfulness, both in and through their lives. Jesus says that this fruit was to be fruit that will last.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…”John 15:16
In ministry this is the 64million-dollar question. How to do we work in such a way that not only do we see fruit, but fruit that will last. I am sure we all know of people who start out well but at some point down the road things come crashing down. Life, at times, is not easy and we will find ourselves caught up in a storm. That much is pretty much guaranteed but the question is how are our foundations? Have we built to last?