Summary: An introductory message for a new series dealing with church related issues.

God’s Glorious Church

The Master Architect

Matthew 16:18

Woodlawn Baptist Church

February 6, 2005


In Matthew 16, beginning in verse 13, we read the following words:

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”

Today as I begin a new series of messages that will deal with the church, I want to briefly explain to you what has led me to do so. All of my life there have been churches. For all of your lives there have been churches. If you want to think about it this way, there has always been “church,” at least dating back to the days of Christ.

Church: you get up on Sunday morning, put on your church clothes, go to church, you have church, then go home and get on with your lives. Now I realize that it is more than this for some of you, but for now I am speaking in very general terms about church and our culture at large. Drive through any town in any state across our nation, and churches will dot the landscape. Some are large, some are small. Some are Baptist, many are not. There are churches of all shapes and sizes, both new and old, some warm and others very cold, and as the song goes, “Red, yellow, black and white…” churches come in all colors too. I don’t have any idea how many churches exist in America today – thousands and thousands to be sure.

Now, let me ask you this about all these churches, including ours: How are we doing? I mean really, when you consider all the thousands of churches across our country, no matter who or what they are, how are we really doing? I was speaking with a good friend of mine some time back when the question began to formulate in my mind. We were talking about the religious culture of Jesus’ day, and about how He would enter a community and try to worship with the Jews on the Sabbath. The religious folk of Jesus’ day were so lost, so far from God because they had found a form of religion, but it was powerless. As the conversation went on, he asked me this: If Jesus were to come to America today, do you think He would enjoy our churches?

I can’t tell you how that question has loomed in my mind. Would Jesus enjoy church as we have made it in our culture today? The people in Jesus’ day thought that what they were doing was pleasing to God, but He hated it! It was empty, dead, worthless, and in fact Jesus said that the Pharisees were not leading people to God at all – but instead were leading them straight to hell!

If there is a comforting thing in these thoughts, it is that we are not responsible for what Jesus thinks about “church” in America. However, we are responsible for what He thinks about this church. Would He enjoy our church? If Jesus were to pay us an extended visit, would He delight in who and what we are? Would He take great pleasure in our worship services? Would He be filled with joy in our ministries? If Jesus were a student in your Sunday School class, would He be impressed with your efforts? If He were to spend a week with us, would He see a zeal for the lost? Would He sense a passion for His Word? Would He rejoice over our commitment?

If Jesus were to visit this church, would He enjoy Himself? Now, I am still relating why I am going to preach this series of messages. You may have already formulated an answer to my questions, but God has laid it heavy on my mind, and even after weeks of thinking and praying and seeking, I still do not know how to answer.

When most people think of church, they think in terms of what they get out of it.

• Why is that car in my spot? I don’t like walking all the way across the parking lot.

• Who is that in my pew?

• Why does he have it so cold in here? So hot in here?

• He just wants more of my money.

• Why did we sing that? Don’t they know I don’t like that kind of music?

• Why does he just keep going on and on? I need to get home.

• If he teaches that class, I’m not coming.

• If we have that service, I’ll just stay at home.

I could go on and on with this stuff – the little stuff that church people are infamous for making such big things. I don’t want to minimize the importance of some of these things – they have their place. Temperature matters. Music matters. Available seating matters, but they aren’t the main things that we too often make them to be.

What are the main things? Are we a church that God delights in? Are we a church that Christ would enjoy? Would He spend some time with us and say, “Great job Woodlawn! This is what I’m looking for!” Because you see – that’s the church I want to pastor. That’s the church I want to be a part of, and I know it is the church you want to be a part of also. That’s the church I want our community to see, the one I want to raise my kids in, the one I want to grow old in, the one I want to spend my money on, the one I want to shed my tears and sweat and blood for. It’s the church I want to labor for Christ in with you.

Now, having said all of that – my motivation for preaching this series is threefold. Number one, I want to know what God desires from this church according to what we find in His Word. Number two, I want to lead us to be that kind of church. I do not mean to imply that we are all wrong, but I think we call all agree that we are not all right either. Every church, like an individual, has room to grow and become more of what God wants it to be. Number three – I am tired of “church.” For all the churches out there – what are we doing that is really making an impact? I know there are some bright spots across the country, and I know there are some churches that are doing some neat things – but God is not glorified in a people who just want to play church – and He is not going to bless a church that is content with just going through the motions. I believe that according to His Word, according to the Spirit that indwells this body, according to the examples of those who have gone before us that God wants us to storm this town, to make some noise, to rattle some cages, to comfort those that are stirred up and to stir up those that are too comfortable. He wants us to win the lost, to baptize the saved, to be in the business of transforming lives, and if we will make His desire our desire, we’re going to see things happen that we never dreamed possible.

Over the course of the next several months, we’re going to cover a lot of ground, but today I want to leave you with this thought found in our text, in verse 18. Jesus said,

“I will build my church…”

I want you to leave here today being reminded of one fact: God designed the church, and it is God that builds the church.

He chose the organization

There are a lot of things I don’t understand about God. The Bible says that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” I don’t understand why God chose to place the most important message in the world in the hands of churches. Of all the methods He could have used, could have created, could have ordained, could have empowered, God chose the institution we call church and He made us His representative agents here on earth. That’s not my idea, it’s not your idea, but it was God’s idea. He chose the organization He would use to spread the gospel.

He chose the materials

When God put together His first church, He walked along and hand picked men who were the most unlikely candidates for world transformation. He didn’t pick from among the world’s most educated or talented – He picked common, ordinary men and women who were teachable, who had a desire to follow Him, who had a great love for Him, a love that grew over time, and even though they were sinful like you and me He commissioned them with the greatest task ever known to man – get the gospel to every human being on this earth.

He chose the foundation

Jesus didn’t leave it up to each church to decide what it would believe – He gave us the truth, sound doctrine to study, to believe, to stand upon, to stand for, to defend and to share with others. Woe to the church that builds on something other than Christ and His Word! When God designed the church – when He drew up the plans, He determined that the foundation had to be sure and settled – a foundation that would last.

He chose the purpose – to bring Him glory. He chose the officers – pastors and deacons. He chose the mission – a Great Commission! Whose church is it? It’s God’s! Who’s doing the building? God! Whose plan is God going to follow as He builds His church? His! That’s important because it really doesn’t matter what you want or what I want. What does God want? I’ll tell you what He wants – He wants to turn the world upside down through us: through you and me in the organization He called church, made up of men and women just like you and me, people who have been saved by the grace of God from their sin according to God’s grace and His shed blood on Calvary. It is a church that stands on Christ and His Word, carrying out His mission for His honor and glory with great love and joy and intensity – and that will be a church that Christ can and will enjoy more than we can imagine!

Now, why is any of this really that important? What difference does it make to remember that God is the Master Architect of His churches? What does it matter to remember that He designed and is building His churches? Let me tell you why it is important – because when we remember that God designs, that God builds, and that God blesses, then we are set free to become what He wants us to be! Are there boundaries? Sure there are – but there is tremendous freedom within those boundaries.

Back in the early ‘90s when I was working as a fitter, my supervisor would want me to work on some project. I had my work station and my tools, and someone from the materials prep department would bring me pallets filled with various parts that were labeled for my use, but no matter how prepared I was, or how well the parts were cut, or how many tools I had – without the right blueprints I couldn’t do the job. Often times, even after working on a project with the right prints for some time, I still had to reference them to make sure I was still doing the job right.

Church is no different. So often we enter a church with all the right tools. As I look around us this morning I see a wealth of knowledge and talent. We can be ready, we can be eager, we can want to do the job, but it is not up to us to determine what we build. God drew up the plans – it is His design – so we are bound by that design, but even in His boundaries we are given tremendous freedom to get the job done according to the parts He has given us to work with.

As I worked on planning this series last month, it occurred to me that I have been here three and a half years. In three and a half years, Jesus turned the world upside down with twelve ordinary men. Now I am not Jesus, do you remember what Jesus said when He prepared His first church for His departure? They were getting nervous. Where was He going, and what would they do? They had been doing some pretty amazing things together: Jesus and that first church. He was their pastor, they were the ministers. Jesus said it was necessary that He leave them – but He wasn’t going to leave them alone – they would receive the Comforter: the Spirit of truth. They were going to be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, equipped in every way, energized by God’s presence and power within them, and Jesus said in John 14 something that I want to close with:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

If there is a problem with us not fulfilling our purpose; if there is a problem with us not being everything we can be, it is not because God has not done His part – it is because we have gotten off course somewhere. How can we possibly do greater works than that first church did? Now that is the great adventure isn’t it? It will be up to each of you to decide whether you really want to attend to business as usual and to keep having “church,” or we can get strapped in and see where God takes us.

Some of you have been playing church with God – and you need to know today that God has not been pleased with it. He’s not interested in half-hearted devotion – He wants your full commitment – He wants all your heart, all your soul, all your mind. God wants to know this morning if you are in this for real. As we prepare for an invitation, can you turn to God in prayer right now and say that you are? That you are for real? That God has all your heart? Would you be willing to give Him your church this morning and allow Him to do with it as He pleases?

If you are a guest today, I want to invite you to be a part of our church family. I’m not inviting you to join a social club or a weekend hangout. I am inviting you to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to join Him in His work, to join us as we labor for Him. I am inviting you to zealously pursue Christ, to seek after His will, to be a part of a church that is going to labor, that is going to give, that is going to minister, that is going to grow, that is going to have faults, that is going to discover just what great things God can do when we are fully yielded to Him in our community. I don’t care what your color is, how much money you have, what kind of problems you’ve got: if you have a genuine desire to commit your life to Christ, then we want you to be a part of our church.