The Church, what it is, and who builds it


People use the phrase, “If you build it, they will come” and often contribute it to the 1989 classic movie, “Field of Dreams.” However, the original phrase was, “If you build it, he will come.” Ultimately, the movie was about one farmer following his dream and building a baseball field in his cornfield. In either case, a Christian speaking about the church would be remiss to make such a claim. Although, people do make special visits to beautiful facades that are deemed to house the church. For example, when people visit the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, many of them tour the Chapel because the architecture and appearance are striking. The same goes with the Sistine Chapel when visiting Vatican City, Notre Dame Cathedral when visiting Paris, France, and the Westminster Cathedral when visiting London, England. Even more, the Acropolium of Carthage is listed as one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world but sadly it is no longer used as a worship center but a cultural center. This begs the question, why was it built and why did it fail?

Let’s examine a few questions to determine what a biblically accurate phrase might be concerning the church and the building of the church.

What is the church? The Apostle Paul refers to it as the body of Christ. This means that a Christian who is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is part of the body and therefore a member of the local church.

1 CO 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

EPH1:22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Who is the head of the church (body of Christ)? Jesus the Christ.

COL1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

EPH5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Who builds the church? Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.

MT16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

How is He building the church? Upon the rock which is Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

MT16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

1 PET 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Who grows the church? The Lord.

AC2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

How does each Christian participate in the growth of the church? Devotion to studying the Bible, relationships in the church, worship, prayer, and practicing or living out their faith. Each Christian must also participate in carrying out the purpose of the church.

AC2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

EPH4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Who gave the church its purpose? Jesus

MT28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

AC1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Who gave gifted people to the church to build up the church? Holy Spirit

EPH4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Who is appointed to oversee the church? Pastors and elders.

AC20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

1PE 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Have we determined what a biblically accurate phrase might be concerning the building of the church? As we speak about the church and its growth, understanding that He, Jesus, is building His church, a unified body of believers and not a building, it would be inaccurate, downright false, to say, “If you build it, they will come” or “If you build it, he will come.” Rather we should say, “If He builds it, it will grow” or “If He builds it, it will never fail.” The calling card won’t be a design or a sign but a love for God and one another. JN 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

In the life of a local church, if the church builds the church, it isn’t His church. It might be a building, organization, or program but it isn’t His church. A quote from Reverend Billy Graham sums up the matter. “The church, the body of Christ, will never fail. However, when churches turn away from God’s Word to chase after the worldly system, they stumble and fall. There is a vast difference between godliness and worldliness. There is a crisis today of many professing Christians walking hand-in-hand with the world, making it difficult to distinguish the Christian from the unbeliever. This should never be.” ~Rev. Billy Graham

Going back to our question in reference to the grand Acropolium of Carthage, why was it built and why did it fail? It may have been built as a place for the church to worship but now it’s a mere cultural center. Okay someone built it, referring to the building, and people did come at least for a while. I hope they came to worship King Jesus but that is impossible for me to know nonetheless, something eventually went wrong. What’s more, now we know it was never about the building. In any case, if Jesus, the head of the church, builds it, the focus won’t be on the building or a program. Instead, it will be a family, the body of Christ, who loves Jesus and one another and He will build it on the rock, the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

A Work in Progress,