When God Is Moving part 2
When God Builds a Church
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 29, 2006
The Olympics are coming
up in February, I’m starting a new series of messages next week based
on the Olympics, and we all know that the Olympics have their origins
in Greece. So to commemorate the 2006 Olympics, I thought I’d teach you
a little Greek this morning.
So here’s a little Greek… [PowerPoint] - George Stephanopoulos – He’s
about 5 feet tall. I think that qualifies as a little Greek.
Other than that, I want to teach you a word of Greek. Here’s the word…
Now, you may recognize
that word already. You may be thinking about the Old Testament book
that comes from that root word… Ecclesiastes. It’s the Greek word that
we translate as “Church”. Now, what is a church? Watch this…
[Video – Essentials 5-4 – What Is a Church?]
The word Ekklēsiā refers to the church. But what is the Church? Well,
the word literally means…
Called Out Ones
We are the Church. We
are the “called out ones”. But we aren’t “called out” in the sense of
separating ourselves from the world, which I’m afraid many churches
have done! We have become little “monasteries” where just our own
people come for spiritual blessing with no contact with the outside
world. But that’s not what Ekklēsiā is about. We not “called out” in
the sense of being separated from, but “called out” as in given a
mission and purpose. We are called out and called forth to serve and to
work and to submit and to build and to grow and to reach new people!
But the key is to understand that we are the called out ones. Ekklēsiā
refers to us, as a people, not to any building. We are the Church. In
refers to the PEOPLE not the BUILDING
It can refer to us here
at Sunrise as a local group of believers getting together. It can refer
to the Church universal—believers around the world and throughout time.
But when the Bible talks about the Church, it is always in reference to
the people, not a building where they meet.
So in the passage Jim read for us, when Jesus said “I will build my
church”, He wasn’t talking about the construction of a building; He was
talking about PEOPLE being called FORTH with a purpose!
Now, Jesus did say that He would build His Church. How’s He going to do
that? How does Jesus build the Church? Well, that’s what I want to
spend the next 20-22 minutes discussing. You can use your notes
provided for you in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the
blanks. Let me just give you six general statements about how Jesus
builds His Church. First of all…
The Church is Built…
1. By Jesus
Matthew 16:18 (NLT)
“… I will build my
Five simple words from that verse, and in those words Jesus plainly
laid out who has the ultimate responsibility for building the Church
and whose Church it is. He said, “I… I will build it.” It’s not
something He has ditched on us… it is something He is intimately
involved in. In fact, He promises in His Word…
Matthew 18:20 (NLT)
“For where two or three gather together
because they are mine, I am there among them.”
And notice, too, whose church it is…
Jesus said, “I will build...MY CHURCH”
He didn’t say, “I will build your church”
He didn’t say, “I will build Greg’s church”
He didn’t say, “I will build the Wesleyan Church” or the Baptist or the
Pentecostal or the Nazarene or the Catholic… whatever…
He said, “I will build MY CHURCH”
The Church isn’t the building...it’s the people. People who have given
their hearts to the Lord... those people BELONG to God. We are His
People. We are His Body. We are His Church. And He is the One bringing
2. With our
Involvement, Faithfulness and Prayer
He builds the Church,
but He welcomes us into the process. He entrusts us with
responsibilities. He delegates authority. He allows us to play a role.
In fact, He believes in us so much, that we are the primary way He
grows His Church. He has no plan “B”, we’re it.
And so He counts on each of us to use whatever gifts or talents we have
to serve others. He has given each of us special abilities which He
intends to be used in serving and encouraging and helping others, and
building up the Church.
Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Under his direction, the whole body is
fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it
helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and
growing and full of love.
I read a story this week about a man who called a preacher to say he
wanted to become a church member. But the man went on to explain that
he did not want to worship every week, he didn’t want to study the
Bible, he didn’t want to visit the sick, and he didn’t want to serve as
a leader or as a teacher. Basically, he wanted to join the church as a
member, but he didn’t want to assume any responsibility or become
involved in any meaningful way.
Well, the preacher commended the man for his desire to be a church
member, but told him that the church he was looking for was located in
another part of town. In fact, he even gave the man the address of the
church he should join. So the man wrote down the address and then hung
Then the man went out, got in the car, and drove to the address he had
been given. And what did he find when he arrived? He came face to face
with the result of his own attitude of not wanting to be involved....
because at that address stood an abandoned church building, boarded up
and ready for demolition.
We are God’s plan A. And He has no plan B, we’re it. He wants to use us
to build His Church. And if we refuse, the entire Church… the entire
Body of believers… suffers.
We’re talking about how Jesus builds His Church, and if you want to
look at Church history, the greatest period of growth the Church has
ever experienced was right at the beginning and is recorded in the book
of Acts. When you start with about 120 followers of Jesus and add
thousands every day, that pretty good growth.
During those early days, the apostles, or the church leaders, would go
around to different towns speaking to the local churches and teaching
them what it means to live a life of faithfulness to Jesus. You see an
example of this in Acts chapter 16 when Paul and Silas and Timothy were
Acts 16:4 (NLT)
Then they went from town to town, explaining
the decision regarding the commandments that were to be obeyed, as
decided by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were
strengthened in their faith and grew daily in numbers.
They learned the Word of God, they put it into practice and obeyed it,
they remained faithful to it, and because of all of that, Jesus was
able to use them to reach others.
One of the things we learned during our 40 Days of Purpose Campaign was
The Church needs to “grow warmer through fellowship, deeper through
discipleship, stronger through worship, broader through ministry, and
larger through evangelism.”
~ Rick Warren
And we are involved in every part of that. And notice the attitude we
are to have in all of this. We are to be humble and prayerful…
2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NLT)
“Then if my people who are called by my name
will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their
wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and
heal their land. I will listen to every prayer made in this place
Number three… The Church is Built…
3. In Christ’s
Power, Name and Authority
Let’s go back again to
the passage Jim read for us. In that passage in Matthew 16, we saw how
Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Basically, he’s saying…
“You know, Pete, we’ve spent a lot of time together over the past 2-3
years. I’ve tried to teach you how to live, how to love, how to serve.
You’ve seen me perform some incredible miracles. You’ve heard the
scuttle-butt about me… what people are saying, the good and the bad.
There are all kinds of rumors, but you… I’ve spent more time with you
over these past couple years than anyone else. Who do you think I am?”
And how does Simon Peter respond? He says…
Matthew 16:16, 18 (NLT)
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,
the Son of the living God.”…
[Jesus replied…] “Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this
rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not
Now, this is an interesting passage, because there’s some debate about
what Jesus was saying here. What “rock” is Jesus talking about?
Some believe Jesus was referring to Peter, and saying that Peter would
be the rock or the foundation of the Church. And that kind of makes
sense, since the very name “Peter” literally means “rock” or “stone”,
and because Peter became such a great leader in the early church.
But others would say… and this is what I would say… that Jesus was
referring to the truth that Peter had just professed… “You are the
Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In other words, the very fact that
Jesus was the Messiah, the Saviour of the World, the Son of the living
God would be the foundational truth of the Church. So I believe Jesus
was indicating that HE would be the rock upon which the Church will be
built. It would be built in HIS name, in HIS power, in HIS authority.
I think that becomes pretty clear when you look at what Peter himself
later said about Jesus in Acts 4…
Acts 4:11 (NLT)
“For Jesus is the one referred to in the
Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has
now become the cornerstone.’”
So Jesus proclaimed, “On this solid foundation of who I am… the Son of
God… I will build my Church”. And then He added, “and all the powers of
hell will not conquer it.” Or as the New International Version
translates this verse…
Matthew 16:18 (NIV)
“…on this rock I will build my church, and
the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Hades being another word for hell. What’s Jesus talking about here?
He’s talking about power. He’s saying that there’s no power that can
withstand or overcome His Church. Because His Church is operating under
His power, which had no equal.
And I want you to notice something else. Notice that it talks about the
“gates of Hades.” Now, where do you find gates? I mean, do you find
gates on the battlefield? Of course not. Are gates typically picked up
and taken along as weapons? No, they’re not. I have often read this
passage and pictured the powers of hell surrounding the church and not
being able to break through the gates. But that’s not what the verse is
saying at all. It’s talking about the gates of hell! The Church isn’t
on the defensive, we’re on the offensive. With the power and authority
that Jesus gives us, nothing can stop us. We can even storm the gates
I was watching a show the other day and one of characters talked about
how she believed in someone so much that she would follow him to hell
and back. Well, Jesus makes that possible. With His power and with His
authority and with His name, we can tear down every stronghold of the
enemy, build the Church, and expand the Kingdom of God.
4. According to
A couple weeks ago, I
was reading a book written for church leaders. And the book pointed out
a Bible passage to me that I had never really noticed before. It’s in
the book of Exodus, chapter 23. Moses has lead the Israelites out of
slavery in Egypt, they now find themselves living in the wilderness
along the Sinai Peninsula, and God tells them how He will bring them to
the land He has prepared for them… the Promised Land. And He talks
about how he will deal with the others who were occupying the land at
the time. He tells them…
Exodus 23:27-30 (NLT)
“I will send my terror upon all the people
whose lands you invade, and they will panic before you. I will send
hornets ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and
Hittites. But I will not do this all in one year because the land would
become a wilderness, and the wild animals would become too many to
control. I will drive them out a little at a time until your population
has increased enough to fill the land.”
He wouldn’t do it all at once. He would drive them out a little at a
time. He would only drive the others out of the land at a pace which
the Israelites could handle.
And that’s what happened. In the first four chapters of Joshua, when
they finally reached this Promised Land, they move quickly into the
land and claim the territory. It all happened fast, and miracles were
almost a daily occurrence. They were exciting days with dramatic
But then you hit chapter 5 of Joshua, and everything seems to grind to
a halt, before eventually continuing at a much slower pace.
I tried to think about what I would do if I were in their sandals. And
I think my first reaction… if everything was going full-speed ahead and
then all of a sudden we stalled… my first reaction would be to ask,
“What’s wrong?” I would wonder about our strategy, I would wonder about
our work ethic, I would wonder about our faith levels, I would wonder
about our purity, I would wonder about our leadership, I would wonder
about a lot of things, trying to find the answer to “What’s wrong?”
And really, flaws or weaknesses or sinfulness in any of those areas can
cause a church to stall. But that’s not always the reason. Because from
that passage in Exodus 23, we see it was God’s plan all along for the
Israelites to take control of the land slowly, a little at a time, at a
rate they could handle. God wanted to make sure that the nation of
Israel didn’t expand so fast that the people weren’t able to keep up.
He wanted to make sure the nation had grown enough to handle it.
And I think it’s the same way with the Church. I’ve seen different
churches go through different growth spurts and then level off for a
time. And I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to their momentum. But
perhaps it’s all by God’s design. Perhaps God is coordinating numerical
growth with spiritual growth, and He wants to be careful not to allow
the numerical growth to destroy the spiritual growth.
“One of the greatest challenges for believers is to comprehend God’s
timing… It tests my faith when God moves more quickly than I expect,
requiring me to pick up the pace. But the greater test is when God
moves more slowly than I expect, requiring me to wait upon Him.”
~ Wayne Schmidt
So when the things are going fast, we need to pay attention to God and
not get distracted by other things or get too caught up in the
excitement. We need to trust God and follow Him where He leads, and not
veer off on another path.
And when things are slow, we need to trust God then, too. And it’s at
those times we can pause to re-evaluate where we’re at. Is this period
of slow-growth by God’s design, or is it because of some sinfulness or
weakness of our own? Plus, we can use those times to grow deeper and
deeper spiritually. Just as the Israelites had to grow in numbers in
order to occupy more of the land, we have to grow and mature
spiritually before God takes us on to the next level.
Here’s what I know: God sees the big picture, He knows what needs to
happen when, and I can trust Him. Even when it came to Jesus being born
as a baby, it was foretold centuries in advance. But it wasn’t until
the timing was right that Jesus came into this world.
Galatians 4:4 (NLT)
But when the right time came, God sent his
So the Church is built according to God’s timing. It is also built…
Pruning, Winnowing and Refinement
How many gardeners do we
have here this morning? I’m not much of a gardener myself… that’s more
Shera’s territory. So I’m not really speaking out of my expertise; I’m
just speaking from my limited understanding. But from what I
understand, if you are taking care of your garden and you have a plant
that you want to grow nice and big and strong, there are times that you
actually have to cut parts of it away, right? Now, on the surface that
seems counter-productive. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense that if
you want something to grow you have to cut part of it off.
It’s called pruning, and what you’re doing is this… you’re looking at
the overall health of the plant, you’re identifying branches or leaves
that are dead or diseased or that have stopped growing, and you cutting
them off so that the rest of the plant will not be hindered by them.
Jesus used this process of pruning as a metaphor when talking about His
followers. He said…
John 15:1-2 (NLT)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the
gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he
prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
John the Baptizer used a different illustration to teach the same
thing. He was talking about Jesus, and he said…
Luke 3:16-17 (NLT)
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the grain with
his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, storing
the grain in his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”
Again, outside of my areas of expertise. But from what I understand,
during the winnowing process a farmer would take a pitchfork full of
grain and toss it into the air. The good grain would fall back down,
while the useless chaff would blow away in the wind.
One more illustration. Gold or silver is purified by fire. Basically,
if you take some raw gold or take some raw silver and stick it into a
hot fire, it will melt down and all the impurities will be burned away.
That’s how you refine gold and silver. And sometimes, God will take His
people through a time of testing… a time of refining… in order to burn
away the impurities.
Zechariah 13:9 (NLT)
“I will bring that group through the fire
and make them pure, just as gold and silver are refined and purified by
fire. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say,
‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’"
Jesus does this with us as believers and as His Church. He prunes us…
He winnows us… He refines us through the fire. It’s never an easy
process, but it is necessary. You see, the end-goal is for the Church
to be without blemish… pure and holy before Jesus.
Ephesians 5:26-27 (NLV)
He made [the church] clean by the washing of
water with the Word. Christ did this so the church might stand before
Him in shining-greatness. There is to be no sin of any kind in it. It
is to be holy and without blame.
So the Church is built through pruning, winnowing, and refining.
Sometimes God has to burn away the impurities or remove one part to
preserve the health of the whole.
And sixth, the Church is built…
Matthew 16:18 (NLT)
“… I will build my
Some people think that the best days of the Church are behind her.
Some people think that the Church is in decline...
Some people think that the Church is ineffective...
But Jesus said, “I WILL BUILD My Church”
He didn’t say, “I will see My Church falter”...
He didn’t say, “I will just watch from a distance while the Church
He said, “My Church is going to grow. My Church is going to flourish. I
will build it.”
And He has done so. And He continues today. Worldwide, the Church is
growing and taking new ground every day. There are more believers today
than ever before in history. The Church is flourishing today as never
before, especially in countries like China where Christianity is
oppressed. It’s an amazing thing… the Church has always been the
strongest and grown the fastest when under oppression. Probably because
it has been refined by the fire of testing.
Two verses from the Book of Acts…
Acts 2:47 (NLT)
And each day the Lord added to their group
those who were being saved.
Acts 9:31 (NIV)
Then the church… was strengthened; and
encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear
of the Lord.
One thing you can count on is that when Jesus starts something, He
finishes it. He has started to build His Church, and He’s going to keep
building it as long as there is time. He’s not going to retreat, He’s
not going to give-up, and He’s not going to fail. He will build His
Church… that’s a guarantee.
And the great thing is,
you and I have the privilege of being part of the adventure. Here we
are, still a young church ourselves, but we are His Church. And He has
incredible plans for us, most of which we can’t even dream of right
So as a Church, let us never be afraid of where He wants to take us.
Let us never waver in our faith that He is leading us. Let us never
discard our trust in Him and choose to find our own way. Let us never
abandon our calling as a Church to introduce individuals to Him and to
help them grow. And let us never give up pursuing the goal of being
pure and holy before Him.
Jesus, thank you for building Your church. Thank you that Sunrise, as a
local gathering of believers, is part of your universal Church. Thank
you that Your Church is not defined or bound by bricks and mortar, but
that we are your Church, and you have empowered us with Your name, Your
power, and Your authority. We come before You this morning, asking You
to continue to build Your Church and expand Your kingdom. Purify us,
and use us we pray. We pray this by the authority of Your name, Amen.