The joint, of course, was eventually completed. So was the basement after months of late nights and long weekends, several bouts with the city's building inspectors, and probably hundreds of trips to Home Depot and Lowe's (they still owe me). Because I'd tackled virtually every facet of the construction process—from design to electrical to drywall—the addition to our house became one of the proudest accomplishments of my life so far.
I imagine those working in construction get a similar feeling whenever they drive by a project they helped complete. My hands had a part in creating that lasting structure. My abilities played a significant role in making that building stand and operate.
At some point, you've probably felt the same about your church. Not necessarily the physical structure your congregation meets in, but the scaffolding of lives that comes together to form the body of Christ. As a pastor or church leader, you play a vital role in your church's formation, in the strength of its structure and in fulfilling the vision for which it was formed. In fact, many pastors thrive as they become the church architect, construction manager, bricklayer, framer, interior designer, etc.—all on a weekly basis.
The problem, however, lies less in the multi-tasking than in the building. The first part of Psalm 127:1 is a familiar yet profound Scripture: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."
Pastors are skilled at building people, ministries, sermons and staffs. We're naturally good at making something out of nothing—which, when you think about it, is an impressive skill. Architects dream something out of nothing. Builders construct something out of nothing.
We are neither when it comes to the house of God. When we neglect the blueprints of Scripture and treat the church as our own building project, we're asking for trouble. We may be confident in our own God-given skills, but we can never forget the foundational truth of Psalm 127:1: God builds; we labor. It's as simple as that. Christ told Peter that upon him He would build His church—not vice versa (see Matt. 16:18).
What happens when we switch these around? We labor in vain. And the houses of worship we build, although immaculate and impressive on the outside, are foundationally unsound, destined to crumble someday.
This may seem an awkward warning to offer in an issue celebrating innovative church buildings (see p. 40). And yet I can't help but see these beautiful, creative and functional expressions of God's gifting as physical reminders of a spiritual truth that every successful pastor holds close to his heart. The Lord builds His house. We are the workers, the laborers, the servants. We are not the architects or builders. God help us when we forget this.