Building in Community
Two men are digging a ditch. A third man walks by, and asks a question:
“What are you doing with the shovel, sir?”
“Oh, I’m just digging this ditch.”
“And you, sir?”
“Well, I’m building a beautiful school!”
Do you see the difference in each man’s outlook or attitude? One man looked at his job as hard work. He couldn’t see beyond the job he had to do at the moment. The other man was looking ahead. He saw the beautiful school that was going to stand on that spot.
Are you like the first man, or the second one? Do you see a beautiful building, or just mud to dig? In this lesson we will consider the foundation on which we must build and how to build on that foundation. Let’s be builders in our community!
Building on a Proper Foundation
Your Christian life is very much like a building. Beneath every great building there must be a solid foundation. Foundations are usually made of stone or cement. They support the whole building. If there is no foundation, the building will fall down. It is the same way in the Christian life. Your spirit of community must be based on the solid rock, Jesus Christ. He is your foundation. “For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
A biblical foundation is necessary for spiritual growth. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus told the story of two builders. One built his house upon a rock. That is to say, he had a good, solid foundation. The other man built his house on the sand, without a proper foundation. The floods came and the storm raged. The house on the sand fell. The house on the rock did not fall.
In this story, Jesus said the wise man who built on a rock is like a person who obeys the words of Christ. The rock that he or she builds upon is obedience to the teachings of Christ. The man who built on sand is like a person who does not obey the words of Christ. The sand that he or she builds upon is disobedience to the teachings of Christ.
It is one thing to say we believe in Christ and quite another thing to walk in obedience to His words. Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do” (Matthew 7:21).
You need a solid foundation in your life to support you when the storms come. They come in many different ways: the death of a loved one, sickness, loss of possessions, or temptation. When we have built upon the foundation of obedience to God, we have a clear conscience and we can have confidence that He will help us in the time of storm. In 1 John 3:21-22 we read these words:
If our conscience does not condemn us, we have courage in God’s presence. We receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
Only our faith and our foundation in the Lord and His Word will keep us during difficult times. Is He your foundation? Are you obedient to His Word?
After the foundation is laid, we can start the actual building. Now comes the thing that will be seen. We are not only building as individuals, but we are also a part of the universal church of Jesus Christall believers together being built into a complete structure, with Jesus Christ as its foundation. The Bible tells us to “Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5). And in Ephesians 2:20-22 we read these words:
You, too, are built upon the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, the cornerstone being Christ Jesus himself. He is the one who holds the whole building together and makes it grow into a sacred temple dedicated to the Lord. In union with him you too are being built together with all the others into a place where God lives through His Spirit. We are all stones in the same building. The Scriptures give us much instruction about our relationships with each other. Here are some words of advice given by the apostle Paul to some of the churches:
Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together (Ephesians 4:2-3).
Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you (Ephesians 4:29).
Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32).
Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
As often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith (Galatians 6:10).
And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).
These verses make it clear that the community of believers has a great responsibility towards each other. Among believers, more than any place else, the spirit of community should always be seen, fellowship, communion, partnership, love, concern, giving, and receiving. The early church practiced this kind of community spirit (Acts 2:43-47).
When we build in community with others, we must be adaptable. I did not say changeable! An adaptable person is one who can fit into whatever ways are most suitable to meet the needs of others with a common goal. For example, a friend that you are witnessing to asks you to go to the zoo with him on Sunday evening. You have a habit of going to church on Sunday evening. So you suggest to your friend that you will go to the zoo with him earlier on Sunday, and then you would like to take him to church with you. In this way, you have pleased your friend by sharing in a wholesome time of fellowship, and you have an opportunity to win him to the Lord.
If we want to win our community for Christ, we must have a plan. But our plan should always be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. If He wants to change it, allow Him to do so.
The city of Seoul, Korea has a population of several million people. There is a church in Seoul whose members minister to many thousands of people each week. But their building will not hold that many people, so they have learned to adapt to meet the needs of the people.
In Seoul it is common for people in the different sections of town to gather for public meetings in small “town halls.” Each section has its own leaders who meet with the people of that section. The pastor of the church has followed the same practice in ministering to the people. They could not all come to the church, so he has taken the church to them. He has adapted to meet their needs.
If three people live in the same part of the city, one of them opens his or her home for a weeknight meeting. They invite their friends and neighbors. As people find the Lord, the group grows. When there are 12 people, the group divides. Now there are hundreds of such small groups throughout the city, reaching 45,000 people every week.
Too often we forget that the church is not a building—it is people. It is important to worship together, but we need to be willing to adapt when necessary in order to reach people everywhere with the gospel.
Bricks and stones have been used as building materials for many years. The same bricks or stones that can be used to build churches, schools, and hospitals can also be used for building prisons. The same pieces used for building bridges can also be used for building walls. The difference is in the plan of the builder.
Bridges make it possible for people to move in two directions to cross over barriers. They are a means of having community. They bring people together. Remember in our first lesson that one of the basic meanings of koinonia indicates a two-way relationship a giving and receiving relationship. Bridges or walls can be built without the use of bricks or stones. We build bridges by showing friendship, helping people, and being available when they need us. Or we build walls by holding back our friendship and closing ourselves off from others.
Christians should try to have friends on all levels of society. We are building walls when we consider ourselves better than others. We are also building walls when we refuse to reach out to those whom we consider to be on a higher level than ours. Whether you are a farmer, a laborer, a clerk, or a government official, you can have friends on different levels than your own.
Then you should try to win them to the Lord. I have never won a man to the Lord without first of all making him my friend.
Walls divide and separate people. Probably you have read about the Great Wall of China, which was built many hundreds of years ago and still stands. It was built to keep some people out and to keep others inside the wall. It is safer to build walls than bridges. When we build bridges we take a chance on being hurt or rejected. But Jesus has promised to be with us, and He will bless us when we reach out to people. He said in John 16:33, “Be brave! I have defeated the world!” He did not pray that God would take us out of the world, but that He would keep us close to Himself and safe in the world (John l7:15).
Sometimes walls must be broken down before we can reach others. There are walls because of differences between people, such as their level in society, or race, color, or customs. Jesus had to break down some walls when He witnessed to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-9).
We must continually choose between building walls or bridges in our Christian community and in our larger community in the world. Are you building bridges or walls? Are you showing a true spirit of love to your community? Are you winning the lost to Christ by first of all winning them to yourself? Your community will know the true meaning of community spirit when you minister love.