In my office is a pencil drawing of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. A dear friend, Susan, drew this for me many years ago. It is a treasured piece of art. It is also a reminder to me of how people from the Revolutionary War era attended services in houses of worship in Virginia and throughout the colonies. I like to picture George Washington and Patrick Henry singing to God in that historic structure.
When we hear the word “church,” we often think of buildings and steeples. When the Bible employs this word it directs us to think of a movement of people. Jesus expanded on the confession of the Apostle Peter with the words, “‘…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’” (Matthew 16:18) One of the things we derive from Jesus’ words is that the church is his. The Greek word for build, oikodoméō, can be used to describe a construction of a building, or the edification of another person – building someone up. God wants to build the church through us.
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” (I Cor. 14:12) To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (I Thess. 5:11) From these words we may conclude that our actions and words build up the church. There are so many ways we can encourage one another.
Believers may be encouraged when we pray for them. They may be encouraged when we affirm their gifts and devotion. They may be encouraged when we share with them the promises of scripture. They may also be encouraged by our own faithfulness to God under times of duress. Charles Spurgeon wrote:“Oh, to have a church built up with the deep godliness of people who know the Lord in their very hearts, and will seek to follow the Lamb wherever he goes!” We’re to prepare, and be prepared for the purpose of building up. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up….” (Ephesians 4:11-12) But building up the church is not simply about how we treat other believers.
Non-believers may be encouraged when we take time to communicate that they are loved by God and by us, in spite of what differences we may have. Our Lord illustrated this so clearly during his conversation with the woman at the well. She was surprised that Jesus, a Jew, spoke to her, a Samaritan. Contrasting the water that came from the well with the gift of eternal life, Jesus offered her living water. “‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:13-14) The end result of this conversation was the woman’s sharing of Jesus’ words with people of the community. As a result, many Samaritans in the town believed in Jesus. The church was built up!
May we be part of the building up of God’s church with the way we minister to both believers and non-believers!
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com