Friday, May 25, 2012

The Builder's Building

The church has become very difficult to see because we’re confused about the building.

I know very well what it's like to be part of church-in-the-building leadership, and the pressure to get people to come and to "engage" in some manner is high.  Whether and how people engage becomes the way by which leadership sees its effectiveness.  Poor attendance and poor engagement reflects badly, leading to assessments, strategies and pressure for improvement.  Good attendance and good engagement reflects well and becomes a template: "This is how we do ministry around here."  Either way, attendance and engagement become the measurements for leaders, and attendees are caught in the measurements. (In fact, they also often adopt them.)  

I would say that neither leaders nor attendees do well when this form of assessment is foundational.  When it is, no one will be seen for who he or she really is in Christ, magnificent and noble, since that invisible and eternal reality will have been camouflaged by another one, visible and temporary.  Our efforts and appeals will go toward the latter because that’s what we see and that’s what we can manage.  (So we think.)  Many of us attempt to live right there, in the passing away realm, contorting our true selves in the vain effort to make life happen where there is none.  And so much fails from there.

But if we see what’s true, if we believe God about what He does for and to the born again—It’s astounding!—if that’s our foundation, then we can go forward well from there.  It will look different, to be sure—especially in a building.  It must, since God is the builder and you are the building.


  1. Lisa George Miller4:13 PM

    Excellent piece of work brother Ralph! Very complex, but it is the cruxt of the matter. Oh that the eyes of the saints would see only Christ in them; that we could focus on whats already been done and just move in that direction. That the pastorialship could release there grasp on the accomplishments and works of God in the lives of His people. We love you and thanks for the tag!

  2. Ana Rich4:14 PM

    Sooooo good! JOY!

  3. Win Jackson Houwen4:14 PM

    That is why the structure where we meet is the facility and the people ARE Life House. It has been that way from the beginning and continues to be that way!

  4. Evan Harris4:15 PM

    Right on bro. I just was talking about this with our new neighbor who is a pastor from Chicago starting a church here.

  5. Bruno Trimarchi4:15 PM

    Ralph you are truly brilliant brother
    thanks for sharing your ideas with us all. you are a real blessing to the body of Christ.

  6. Robert Fields4:16 PM

    I remember when I was striving in the "visible and temporary" trying so hard, thinking that was what He expected. Today I had a thought about how truely attractive Christ, who is the "invisible and eternal", really is to people!

  7. Excellent, Robert. That's a really clear way of saying it all--Christ is attractive!

  8. Leopoldo B. Solis4:18 PM

    This a great reminder for those who are into doing church instead of being church.

  9. Tom NeSmith4:19 PM

    It doesn't matter what we believe... if we aren't genuine and honest with God... there's nothing He can do for us. If we allow God to have space in our lives... if we're honest about what's inside (and stop all silly and destructive attempts to present ourselves as anything different than what we are)... God can work with that. He certainly can't do one thing unless a person is honest. Church works against honesty.

  10. Well said, Tom. I do think that God works with the dishonest, inducing them toward finding Him trustworthy. Often that takes a good long while. Maybe we're insisting upon finding a life that works apart from Him, but He works with us to find that's an impossibility. When we find Him to be the perfection we've been seeking, He says (essentially), "That's what I've been showing you."

  11. Tom NeSmith4:19 PM

    God has a way of putting a monkey wrench into our plans for perfection. ;-)

  12. Sometimes that's the best plan. Ha!

  13. Cheryl York Olmstead2:14 PM

    Thanks, Ralph. Always true and timely.