By Ryan Shaw
The issue of building churches and ministries is an important one for spiritual leaders. How do we go about it in a way pleasing to the Lord? What are the pitfalls to be aware of?
This is a serious issue in the heart of Jesus. He cares immensely about the “how” of our building.
Paul exhorts us in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 with a sobering truth, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work.”
The “foundation” of any building is central to its effectiveness. A shallow foundation may be sufficient for a small house. But a large and strong building requires a deep foundation with pilings secured to bedrock.
Many ministries and churches fail to lay adequate foundations in their development. Foundations take time, patience, faithfulness, listening to the Lord, obedience and dying to self.
Foundations are often focused on inner life expansion and maturing of a leader and not necessarily the ministry itself. To build a suitable building the Lord has to first build His leader.
In addition, many do not build on the right foundation of Jesus alone. It is easy in ministry to focus on causes, doctrines, teachings, numbers, miracles, even our gifts and skills; making them an end in themselves.
These are not bad in themselves. They are meant to be part of the “building.” But we’ve often made them our foundation. We’ve focused on the “things” of the Lord instead of on the Lord Himself.
He is the center of all and in Him all will be summed up at the end of the age. Our failure (in Jesus’ estimation) is often the result of low spirituality based on superficial fellowship with Jesus.
We’ve enjoyed our work for Him more than we’ve enjoyed HIM. We know much about Him but are we deepening our experience of “knowing Him?”
We’ve made the work our emphasis when true ministry springs from the foundation of ministering unto the Lord Himself (a lifestyle of meditating on the Word, praying it back to God, fasting, worshiping, obeying, communing with God).
Many will be asked to trumpet a variety of focal points in the body of Christ. This is right and good. Yet these are never to be the “foundation” of our work. They are to be built upon our fervent devotion to Jesus as the only foundation.
Why are we prone to “build” upon other foundations than Christ? Because we’ve bought into unbalanced pressure to grow our ministries. This motivation can cause us to do whatever is necessary to “please the people.”
Jesus faced a similar temptation. In John 6 an interesting separation takes place. Two groups were following Jesus. The first was doing so because they saw the “signs” He was doing. The second was following Him because He had miraculously fed them.
Today, human nature is still the same. Many follow Him for the miracles He does while others do so because He provides for their sustenance.
A leader who wants to build a ministry primarily based on numbers (an uneasy foundation for sure) has an easy time doing so if the ministry foundation is on miracles, preaching on God’s provision or any number of other superficial motivations.
These are good and of the Lord in themselves, yet never meant to be the foundation of people’s commitment to following Him. Jesus challenged the crowds in John 6:27 by teaching them that HE was what they needed, not the stuff He did for them.
The list of benefits we partake of through His inheritance is extraordinary. His goodness is undeserving. Yet, benefits are never to take the place in our hearts of loving Him for who He is and not merely what He does. This is the separating of the wheat and the chaff.
Jesus’ subsequent teaching in John 6 confused the multitudes and in verse 66 we see the culmination of typical human motivation, “From that time on many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”
Let us commit to being a people building adequate foundations built on the right foundation – a lifestyle of growing in abandoned devotion to a Living Man: Jesus Christ.