Building the Church

Touring the great cathedrals of Europe, I was struck by how vacant and cavernous they seemed. These empty shells speak volumes concerning the spiritual decline of Europe and its repudiation of its religious heritage. Yet, even in disuse, these majestic buildings remind us of a vibrant past when men and women of faith worked tirelessly towards a common ideal.

The work of building a cathedral in the Middle Ages required many lifetimes to complete. Much planning and preparation were required to begin the process. A site had to be chosen and a design selected. Materials needed to start the project would be acquired.

In this initial phase, as the work was just beginning, the builders of the cathedral would harvest and plant acorns. A century or so into the project they would need oak beams, and planting the acorns assured an appropriate supply.

Building the Church
The Lord’s church, of course, is not a physical building. The apostle Paul, however, uses the metaphor to describe the spiritual development of the church:

“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Eph 2:20-22)
Without pressing the analogy too far, consider the acorns we should be planting to further the future building of the church.

Look to the Future
The teaching of children immediately comes to mind. The church should make the preschool and elementary program a top priority for in these earliest years faith is developed and directed often to determine the future course the child will take in life. Like the acorn which provides oak for lumber, the children we teach today have an influence long after we pass from the scene.
Likewise, congregations are wise to carefully nurture their adolescents and young adults. The world in which teenagers and college students live today is much more challenging than we faced a generation ago. An investment in the lives of these young people, as well, will help assure the strength of the church in years to come.

Beyond these obvious applications for the church, each of us individually should ask what acorns we are planting in our lives. Developing good Christian habits, such as regular Bible study or consistency in visitation, begins with an initial step. Purposely building towards effectiveness in the Lord’s service requires the patience to take small steps today to assure success in the future.
The Lord established the law of sowing and reaping. The one who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. We must plant the acorn if we want to have an oak.

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