What are we Building: Building Materials

Written by Larry Doornbos, Director of Vibrant Congregations

Text: 1 Corinthians 3

Leaders build. They build a sanctuary in time, a community of joy, a city on a hill, a house on a rock, and the body of Christ. (see previous devotionals). To build well, however, Paul tells us we need to build with the right materials. 

The foundation of the building is secure—it is Christ. But leaders have to be careful how they build on the foundation. Some building materials will build up the church, others will not. In looking at 1 Corinthians, we can see Paul wants leaders to build up the church in

  • Unity (Chapters 1-4)
  • Wisdom (Chapters 1-2, 7-11)
  • Care and Justice (Chapters 11 and 16)
  • Health (Chapters 5, 6, and 12)
  • Love (Chapter 11-13)
  • Understanding of the Scriptures (Chapter 15)

Paul is using gold-standard materials to build up the church. 

Each generation of leaders has to ask, “What are the gold standard materials that we use to build up the church?” 

  • What are the tools in 21st century North America that build unity in the church? 
  • What are the forces in our day (forces different from those in Paul’s day) that make unity complex?
  • How do we teach the scriptures to 21st century people so they understand them well and apply them to their lives? 
  • How do worldviews of materialism, nationalism, and hyper-individualism accost our attempts to build the community of faith? 
  • How does the triumph of the therapeutic impact our congregations? 
  • How does the divide in evangelicals between evangelism and justice keep us from being on God’s mission to redeem people and restore all things?

Leaders face the critical work of knowing the times and the gold standard materials to address the times…a daunting task. Paul’s words, however, bring hope. For he names not only himself but Apollos as a builder. In other words, leaders work together to find the gold standard materials. And leaders from different backgrounds (Apollos is from Egypt, Paul from Asia Minor) enrich our materials through each person’s unique wisdom. In our time, we have the opportunity to learn wisdom from a broad group of ethnicities, nationalities, and life experiences. Listening to these many voices sharpens a leader’s understanding and helps reveal our blind spots—those places of hay and straw. 

When we ask ourselves at this moment, “What am I building?”, we also ask, “Am I building with the right materials?”