Construction sites and cafeterias are not glamorous places to work, but they are God-ordained and God-honoring places where the work is never done in vain. In fact, the results will last forever. Why? Because we are not in the business of building buildings . . . we are in the business of building people. And people last forever!
I think that most of us would agree that when it comes to testing windshields or taking medicine or using new equipment, following the directions, silly as some of them may sound, is an important thing to do.
This past week, and any given week, some 70 plus churches in America closed their doors and went out of business. While I’m sure there are a host of reasons behind that tragic statistic, I am convinced that, for the most part, people failed to read the directions. While most people would follow the directions on how to use that new lawnmower, many Christians believe that a church somehow operates on its own – without any divine direction.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a growing, reaching, impacting church does not just happen.
Oh sure, any church, including this one, has at times blasted a frozen chicken or two into the air. But the church that honors God never does it on their own – they build it by the directions of God’s blueprint, called his Word.
By the way, what is a church. The word church is ekklesia. It comes from the verb kalew which means to call. The prefix ek further defines the word ekklesia to mean, “called out ones.”
1) A church is called out from the world.
They are a separated group of people who’ve been redeemed by the grace of God. Like shipwrecked and drowning people in the ocean, we’ve been rescued on the Life boat called Calvary. We’ve been rescued by the gospel of Christ.
But the church isn’t just called out from the world.
2) It’s also commissioned to go back into the world
The called out ones band together and pool their resources and then go back to the site of the shipwreck and pull as many people into their boat as they possibly can.
But how do you use this thing called the church – how does it operate? What do the directions say?
Well, if you turn in your set of blueprints to I Corinthians chapter 12 you discover that the church is not only called out of the world and commissioned to go back into the world, but you discover that the church is:
3) It’s compared to a living human body
I Corinthians 12:14. For the body is not one member, but many. 15. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18. But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
The manual on operating the church looks more like an anatomy poster than an organizational chart.
Every person has a role to play in the body. We have people in here who make up the hands and feet and mouth and brain, Lord willing. Everyone operates according to that gift or gifts that God has given you and then you become the gift of God to the rest of us.
D. L. Moody, who 100 plus years ago founded a church and a school and a publishing house and on and on said, “A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have an idea that the church is a place to simply rest in . . . to get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy, is all they want. The idea of work for them – actual work in the church – never enters their minds.”
We’re not reading the directions!
Turn over to Ephesians chapter 4
Ephesians 4:11. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12. for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
13. until we all attain to the unity of the faith (by the way, that’s a key phrase to understand. We are attempting to attain to the unity of the faith – whenever the word faith is preceded by the article “the” it is referring to a body of truth – doctrinal truth that forms the foundation of our faith. Jude wrote about the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints Jude 1:3. In Acts 6:7 we read that the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Paul said of himself in Galatians 1:20 that he who once persecuted the church is now preaching the faith. Our unity is always built upon our body of truth called often times the faith. And I say all of this simply because the church in America, and many of those churches who close their doors have failed to read this in their Book of directions. Unity is not derived from everybody thinking alike. Or everybody liking the same kind of music. Or everybody eating the same kind of food. Praise God. Our unity isn’t based on personality or appearance or social standing. Our unity is based on our collective commitment to the faith. The truth of Holy Scripture.) Paul goes on in verse 14. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15. but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16. from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the
building up of itself in love.
Paul tells us that two things happen when the body grows like it should:
- It is rescued from spiritual deception.
When you build up the body of Christ (v. 12) by attaining to the unity of the faith (v. 13) you are mature enough to keep from falling into spiritual deception (v. 14). One of the characteristics of children is gullibility. I have fun teasing my children by trying to fool them in some way. I remember telling my littlest girl something at the dinner table some time ago (when she was 5) and then laughing along with the family because of the way she had been fooled. I said, “Honey, it’s okay, Daddy’s just pulling your leg.” She immediately looked under the table at her legs and then said, “No your not, Daddy.” This is the same girl who a few years ago thought we were actually putting juice into our gas tanks because we would say, “We need to stop here and get some juice . . . we’re almost out of juice.” For all she knew, Texaco was the great dispenser of Apple Juice.
Tell a child anything and they may believe you.
Part of growing up as a body of believers is together we avoid the deception of false teachers.
2) Another benefit of building the body is that we are rescued not only from spiritual deception but from spiritual disability.
Again, in verse 15 there is the analogy of the human body – the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies (tendon and ligament and nerve and blood vessel) according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body.
The question you never ask is whether or not someone else is supplying their part for the functioning of the body, but whether or not you are supplying your part to the building up of the body in love.
When every joint of the body does it’s job, the body is not disabled but coordinated. That is true with a physical body and that is true with a spiritual body, called the local church.
Everyone contributes to the process by virtue of their spiritual gifting from God. Everybody rolls up their sleeves; everybody supplies a little elbow grease – everyone in the church functions for the benefit of the church. That keeps us from spiritual deception and spiritual disability.
I have developed a scenario that I use in our GreenHouse class to illustrate the operation of the church. It’s a scene taken from a cafeteria where a woman has tripped and fallen and spilled her bowl of soup. If we were all there, using our gifts for the benefit of not only this woman, but the entire church family, here’s how the body of believers would operate. The person in our midst who is a gifted pastor/shepherd would immediately form a line and guide people around the woman so they don’t slip in the spilled soup, or trip over the woman. The person with the gift of mercy would immediately go and sit down with the woman on the cafeteria floor and whisper, I know how you must feel; here let me wipe some of this soup off your clothing.
The gifted teacher among us would stand and say, “May I have your attention please. This dear woman has fallen and spilled her soup. You could translate the word spill “to tip out – or, to tilt in an extreme direction.” There are reasons why she spilled her soup – actually there are three reasons – so get ready to take notes so you won’t spill your soup either. The person with the gift of giving has already gone back and purchased another bowl of soup and is on his way to give the woman another bowl. After the woman has been seated at a table, the gifted exhorter leads everyone in the cafeteria in a round of three cheers for the woman who was willing to get back up on her feet. And just then, the gifted servants arrive with a mop pail and clean everything up and put the cafeteria back in order again.
Finding your place in the church cafeteria is not rocket science. But it doesn’t just happen either. It’s birthed by a willingness to supply whatever you can provide – and you discover that when you do, just as Paul said it in Ephesians 4:16b. “[It] causes the growth of the body for the building
up of itself in love.”
Now if I asked you to provide an illustration of a group of people acting like the church is supposed to act, where in all of the Bible would you turn?
Turn to Nehemiah 3
If you turn your study notes over, you’ll see the bold line indicating the perimeter of the wall that Nehemiah would rebuild or repair.
Nehemiah’s plan could be summarized with the phrase, divide and conquer. For that’s exactly what he did.
Some forty names are given who headed up that many task forces. He had carefully planned his work and now he works his plan.
And in this list of names, gates and wall sections, you discover much more. In fact, what you discover are lessons from this Old Testament Construction Site that can apply to any New Testament Church family.
The first lesson that Nehemiah provides the New Testament church is this:
1) All of the people willing to work were given the opportunity.
Whether priests or professionals; noble born or common stock; single men and women are both mentioned in the work; professionals and politicians; native residents and outsiders, craftsmen and artists.
Some of them would repair the wall closest to their homes. Others were communters and given various locations. Some repaired existing walls while others started from scratch, using the blocks that had since been broken down. Some of them worked on the different gates with their massive hinges and bolts, while others picked up rubble and carted trash away.
I find it interesting that the very first group of workers Nehemiah mentioned was led by the High Priest.
In 3:1 we read Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel.
These towers were on the westward side of the Sheep Gate. It is significant that Nehemiah gave the priests this particular location. Nearby the sheep and lambs who were brought to the Temple for sacrifice would enter the Sheep Gate. This was holy ground to them.
They couldn’t possibly know that one day, some 400 years later, Jesus Christ himself, the Lamb of God would walk through that reconstructed gate to go and pray in a garden nearby called Gethsemane. And then, no doubt brought back through that same gate by the soldiers who arrested Him and brought him before the Sandhedrin. He was indeed the final lamb led to the slaughter, Isaiah tells us in chapter 53:7.
But Priests don’t work with stone and hammer. They did here – and they set the example for the rest of the people. Anybody who was willing to work on the wall did!
That leads me to the second lesson.
2) Some of the people didn’t necessarily know how to do the work.
You’ll notice in verse 8 that Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9. Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs.
Imagine, a politician, a goldsmith and a perfume maker laying brick. What did they know about building walls and restoring breaches. It didn’t matter. Evidently, Nehemiah provided them with additional workers who could show them how.
The person who says they can’t because they don’t know how should learn a lesson from a perfume maker who is hauling rock and working with a trowel.
3) Some of the people were able to do more work than others
In verses 11, 19, 21, 24,
27 and 30 you have the interesting phrase repeated – and they “repaired another section”. In other words, they did the job they were asked to do and then they did more.
What a tremendous testimony of people who went the extra mile.
The fourth characteristic of a good church is found in some of the people who were willing to work in more difficult places than others.
Look at verse 14 and you’ll notice a man named “Malchijah the son of Rechab, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem who repaired the Refuse Gate.”
That term Refuse Gate can be translated Dung Gate. Basically it was the gate through which all the garbage and filth was taken. Here’s a member of the royal caste willingly working in a terrible place, where the stench from the valley of Hinnom below, where the garbage was dumped, wafted up to him throughout the day.
Compare his working conditions with the location mentioned in the next verse. 15. Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, the official of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it, covered it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David.”
In other words, you have one official who willingly works near the garbage dump and another who gets to work by the pool near the King’s flower gardens.
Some of the people were willing to work in more difficult places than others.
5th observation: Some of the people were willing to work harder than others.
Even among all those who willingly worked, one man just shown above all the others. He’s mentioned in verse 20.
After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
This is the only person whose attitude or spirit Nehemiah mentions anything about. The Hebrew word translated “zealously” comes from a word that means “to burn or to glow”.
Just because you work willingly doesn’t mean you work with a glow, right? Baruch represents those who work and smile while they work. They show up at their posts with cheer and kind words. They are a pleasure to serve with and around. May the tribe of Baruch increase in the church today.
6th Observation. All of the people able to work wouldn’t.
One author makes the comment, Nehemiah not only mentioned the workers but shirkers.
In verse 5. Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.
We’re not told why. We’re just informed by Nehemiah that there were some who refused to help. It’s interesting that the nobles would not work, but the commoners would.
Even today in the church, her ranks are filled with common people much more so than the worlds influential. Not many mighty, not many noble.
Last observation: 7th All the people who worked with their hands revealed the condition of their heart.
If you skip ahead to chapter 4 you discover a wonderful description of them, that we would long to be true of us today. Verse 6. So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a
mind to work.
Literally, their hearts were in their work. They put their hearts into the work.
In a few months so many things will change about our church. We’re going to leave this warm, comfortable auditorium (I say warm, some of you are saying, are you kidding, I’ve frozen in here for years; and comfortable – this is like flying coach on Midway…okay; In a few months we’re going to leave this … auditorium.); we’ll leave this intimate space designed for 400 although we have found a way to pack 600+ in here – for a space designed to seat 1,600. That will be so different. If will feel differently and it will require adjustment and flexibility.
In our staff meetings and elder meetings we’ve spent time talking about what will happen when space limitations are lifted. Most of us expect anywhere from 500 to 1,000 new people to come in during our first 12 months. For you old timers, you may remember that in this facility, we had 500 come in the first year alone. I expect the same will occur down the street. That’s a lot of people. Many of them will be curious. All of them will have needs.
Who will feed them? Who will disciple them? Who will pray with them? Who will teach their children? Who will wipe their tears away, children and adults? Who will challenge them? Who will love them? Who will direct their cars to parking spaces? Who will change their babies diapers? Who will teach them stories. Who will sing in the choir and lead us in worship? Who will dust off their instruments and play them?
Where at the wall will you roll up your sleeves. Where in the cafeteria will you serve another – I promise you there will be spilled soup.
Do you just attend church, or is your heart in the work that God is doing in the body of believers.
Construction sites and cafeteria’s are not necessarily glamorous places to work – but they are Godly and God honoring places where the work is never done in vain.
In fact, the results will last forever. Because we are building people – and people last forever.
Would you bow your heads. . .
I want to close our study this morning by asking you to answer a question that you need to answer for yourself.
Between you and your Lord.
With your heads bowed, just looking at that study note in front of you. Down at the bottom. Where is your place of service in the cafeteria; your place of ministry at the wall:
Would you fill in the blank right now. Can you?
Maybe you need to simply promise the Lord right now that before very long you will fill that line in with some ministry at the wall; some service in a cafeteria called the church.
It really isn’t an option . . . remember Paul’s challenge in Ephesians, “Every joint must supply according to the proper working of each individual part, causing the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
I have been collecting for some time now different stories and clippings related to the subject of reading the directions first or simply following directions.
I will admit though that I’ve been collecting things that justify the fact that I don’t need to read the directions first. I don’t. Even though, to this day, my family loves to laugh at that time, two Christmases ago when I put my daughter’s tricycle together, saying, several times to my wife, I can do it without the directions. Only to reach the final step of attaching the seat and discovering that I had put the thing together upside down. Where did I throw those directions.
Now I did read these directions a couple of months ago when my older daughter purchased a new straightening iron
for her hair.
I read the directions with her and was amazed at some of them. Like, “Do not use while in the shower; do not let heated surfaces touch your eyes” And this one, “Never use while sleeping.” Now that explains all those bad hair days – you were asleep when you fixed it.
Here are some more rather brilliant directions sent to me by a Colonial attender:
On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert are the words: “Do not turn upside down.” And where do you think the words are written? If you read the words, it’s too late!
On a bottle of Boot’s children’s cough medicine: “Do not drive a car after taking this medication.”
On a Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding package: “Product will be hot after heating.”
On Nytol Sleep Aid: “Warning: May cause drowsiness.”
On a child’s Superman costume: “Wearing of this garment does not enable one to fly.” Now that one I can understand.
Here’s a true story that John MacArther gave on his radio program – it was written up in a Journal called Feathers: Evidently the British needed to more carefully read the directions on the use of a special gun that NASA simply calls the “Chicken Gun.” This gun has been specifically built to launch a dead chicken at maximum velocity directly onto the windshields of an airliners, military jets and even the space shuttle. The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshield materials and construction.
British engineers heard about the gun and wanted to use it to test the windshield of their newest high speed train. Arrangements were mad and a gun was sent to the British engineers. The testing site was arranged and the gun loaded with a dead chicken. When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as the chicken hurtled out of the barrel, smashed through the shatterproof windshield, blasted through the control console, broke the engineer’s backrest in two and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin.
The horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment explaining what they had done, along with the designs of the windshield and then asked for further suggestions. NASA responded with a one-line instruction: “Next time, thaw the chicken.”