To be the church, you have to be the church

During our time in British Columbia, the governing party—a socialist labor party called the New Democratic Party—held a leadership race.  The provincial premier, a deeply unpopular little mountebank called Glen Clark, had a neighbor and friend who was under investigation for running an illegal gambling operation.  Said neighbor was also a contractor who had built a sundeck for the Clarks at their main residence and another at their vacation home.  Together, they added up to about $10,000 worth of work.  When the news broke that Clark was the subject of a criminal investigation, he abruptly resigned from office.  (He would be indicted on two felony charges; he was ultimately acquitted on both counts, though not without being admonished by the judge for his bad judgment.)

The race to succeed Clark was a circus, as BC politics tended to be, and produced some truly funny moments. One of my favorites came from the Agricultural Minister, Corky Evans.  Evans had a country-bumpkin image which he liked to play up for comic effect. In announcing his candidacy for party leadership, he told the story of the time he had decided to build a house for his family.  Being impatient, he hadn’t wanted to take the time to put in a foundation, so he just built the house right on the ground. It seems to have come as a surprise to him when the house began to sink. As he told the crowd, this left him with two choices:  either tear down the house, or lift it up and put a foundation under it. Either way, it was going to be a very messy business.

Corky Evans used this to describe the state of his party, but it applies just as well to the church.  There is and always has been the tendency to try to build the church with, on, and out of human efforts.  Some churches are built with music.  Some are built on the charisma of the leader.  Some are built out of programs.  Some are built by spending lots of money on advertising and entertaining Sunday services.  All of these are accepted methods for church growth.

The problem is, to build a church in such a way is to do what Corky Evans did:  it’s to build a house without a foundation.  If you try to build a church on the most popular music, or the most entertaining preaching, or the most exciting service, or the best structure, or any other worldly foundation, you may appear to succeed for a time.  You may well produce a large organization that has lots of members and money and a high profile in the community.  What you will not have in any meaningful sense is a church, and so it will not endure.  Sooner or later, it will begin to sink, leaving you with only two options:  either tear the whole thing down, or try to lift it up and put a foundation under it, because without the proper foundation the building cannot stand.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, the only foundation on which the church can be built is Jesus Christ.  It must be built with the truth of who Christ is and what he taught if it is to last.

(Excerpted from “The Glory of the Truth”)


Photo:  Foundation framework and reinforcing steel for 150-ton permanent cableway hoist house.  United States Department of the Interior, 1933.

Posted in Church and ministry, Religion and theology, Scripture.

Leave a Reply