As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
It is a shame that churches spend untold amounts of money on elaborate meeting houses, gymnasiums, recreational, entertainment and other facilities for themselves when in the first century – as far as anyone can tell – not one assembly of saints owned even a square cubit of real estate! All that was given went to some immediate need.
The justification(?) that the expenditure of great amounts of money and the building of extravagant “church plants” is necessary to reach the lost simply does not “hold water.” All that the first century Christians had to attract people was the gospel – the story of the crucified, buried and resurrected Jesus – and the lives of loving, sacrificing people to adorn that teaching. In an environment of material poverty the church grew at a phenomenal rate.
The church is simply the people who have been called out of the world and into Christ. Its commitment is to Him and not to an edifice of brick and mortar. Christians are the “living stones” that make up God’s building. Its adornment is the beauty of holiness – the pure, lowly, devoted, loving lives of the saints. And every bit of what they do can be done without buying buildings, buses, or party balloons! Neither its existence nor its success depends upon money or real estate. How different Christianity would be today if we imitated the early church!
Deitrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian killed by Hitler’s regime during WWII said, “The Church is her true self only when she exists for humanity. As a fresh start, she should give away all her endowments to the poor and needy.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Letters and Papers from Prison).
How did the early church do it? They grew by following the plan Paul described in Ephesians 4:15-16. He said that instead of being “children” who could be led into all kinds of error they should…
“…grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
The real assets of the church are the people who make it up. Their lives, their love and their abilities utilized for the glory of God and for the benefit of their brethren and the world. People who are engaged in productive, helpful lives, not only in “church” work, but in all their employment, personal and family affairs help to build the church. People who let it be known that they belong to the Lord Jesus Christ and that what they do is to His glory and praise are the kind of people who strengthen and spread the kingdom of the Lord.
With Jesus Christ as it’s foundation, this kind of building is the only lasting construction there is. The buildings of brick and mortar will eventually crumble into dust and be forgotten, but the spiritual building of the church will endure for eternity!