Summary: Our purpose is not to build a great church, but to reveal a great God.
His name was Simon, but his friends called him Peter. If we translated his name into our language we would probably call him “Rocky” or “The Rock.” Peter was one of Jesus best students—one of his closest followers. He had heard most of Jesus sermons and parables. He had been present for most of Jesus’ miracles. Peter was an FOJ—a friend of Jesus.
Peter prided himself on his devotion. He loved Jesus. He believed in what Jesus stood for. He was convinced that God had anointed Jesus for a special purpose. Peter made this declaration one day while Jesus and his disciples were traveling through Caesarea-Philippi.
Jesus asked: “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They responded with all the typical answers: “Some say you are John the Baptizer. Others say that you are Elijah. Still others say that you are one of the prophets come back from the dead.”
“Interesting,” Jesus said. “Now I have another question for you. Who do you say that I am?” The disciples had probably anticipated the question, but they still unsure how to answer. Everyone, that is, except Peter. “You are the Christ!” Peter declared, “You are God’s anointed!”
What a wonderful insight. Peter knew just who Jesus was and what his ministry was all about—or did he?
About a week later Jesus sent out for a prayer retreat in the mountains—inviting James, John, and Peter to accompany him. After several hours of prayer—just about the time the disciples were ready get some sleep—something amazing happened. Jesus was transfigured—that’s a fancy word that simply means that his appearance changed. His face developed a glow. His clothes became as bright as the flashing of lightening. It was an awesome experience. Not only that, but the disciples discover that Jesus was not alone. Joining him on the mountain were two ancient Jewish heroes—Elijah and Moses.
Now this was not a typical, normal, everyday experience—even for Jesus. Something special was happening. The disciples understood this. The appearance of Elijah and Moses confirmed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah. The transfiguration was a revelation of the presence, power, and glory of God. It was an epiphany experience—an eye-opening appearance of God.
How did Peter and his partners respond to this magnificent sight?
Excuse me, Mr. Jesus, if its okay I’d like to say a few words. To begin Jame, John and I would like to thank you for letting us see this marvelous sight. We feel blessed to be here! And now that we’ve witnessed all of this I believe I know what we are suppose to do. We need a building program. We need to build a great church to commemorate this fantastic event.
Peter’s reaction is interesting. He has witnessed a revelation of God’s glory. What’s the first thing he wants to do? He wants to build something. He wants to erect a new sanctuary. He wants to build a new education building and fellowship hall. He wants to create a new institution. Peter wants to build a great church.
Peter’s not alone. This past week I did an inventory of the books in my library—specifically looking at the books related to evangelism and church growth. They were all pretty much the same. Each contained strategies, ideas, and techniques designed to help the church grow. By growth these authors meant that the church should have dynamic pastoral leadership, pumping programs, prosperous finances, a good location, adequate parking, ample space, accessible facilities, and attractive landscaping. One author identified these aforementioned traits as the “keys to an effective church.”
Can you see the similarity between this author and Peter? Both fall into the same trap. Both believe that the primary purpose of the people of God is to build a great church. Jesus, however, is not concerned with whether his people build a great church. Instead he was us to be a people who “reveal a great God.”
In an article titled: “Why I DON’T Want to Build a Great Church”, Neal McGlohon, Leadership Consultant for Baptist Metrolina Ministries, writes:
Everyone would probably agree that a great church is one that reveals a great God, but we often get sidetracked and our focus and actions don’t match that belief, or goal…As a result, we scramble and strive to reclaim or multiply our “greatness.” We get burned out and frustrated trying to build a “great church,” …by trying a new program, returning to a old program, hiring more staff, trying new staff, being driven by innovations, being driven by traditions, changing locations, adding facilities, etc. (In the process) we find ourselves more committed to church (the organization) than to Christ Himself. Renewal will only come as we go back and build a foundation on the Biblical truths and values that help the people reveal a great God.