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But I, brothers,[a] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you[c] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3 ESV)

Today we are discussing the 2nd of 3 messages from 1 Corinthians 3. Last week, we worked through this idea that God is the divine architect, who has designed this institution we call the church. The word church, means assembly. A church is a group of people, gathered for a common purpose. The church is not a building; the church is the assembly or gathering of God’s people.

We also saw last week that God uses people to build His church. It is God who ultimately builds His church, because He is the architect, the one who has designed the way for us to enter His presence. God brings growth to the church. But, God uses human agents, which we might call pastors, elders, or leaders to build His church.

The Apostle Paul tells us about His role in the church in Corinth. He writes,

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10–11, ESV)

Two things to note here. First, Paul says that he laid the foundation for the church while—second—other people build upon that foundation.

I want you to imagine that you were building a house. Your construction crew comes in and lays a foundation for a residential building and it looks real nice. It’s going to be a nice house that gets built on that foundation.

But, then the next crew comes in to start building the house and they show up with giant steel beams like you would use in a skyrise building. If you built on the residential foundation with giant steel beams, they would crush the foundation, because the foundation was designed for a simple house.

So, you ought to be careful to build the right thing or it’ll collapse; it’ll fall apart.

In the same way, when we decide how to build Christ’s church, we look to the foundation and ask the question, ‘What is this foundation designed for?’’

What is the foundation of Jesus Christ designed for?

To answer that, I want to introduce you to a principle.

Construct Connects to Commission

When you build something, the way you build it points to its commission or purpose.

When you build a house, the buildings commission or purpose is reflected in the final construct. The house has bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, because that’s what makes it a home.

And, when you build a warehouse, it doesn’t have bedrooms or a kitchen, but it has wide open spaces for whatever projects or storage are going to take place in that warehouse. The construct is connected to the commission of the building.

You know just by looking at it whether it is a house or a warehouse.

In the same way, the structure of the church is going to reflect the churches commission. Everything we do must be connected to the commission or purpose of the church, which we call the Great Commission.

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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)

The commission is to make disciples or followers of Christ, but it’s more complicated than that.

Making disciples, according to this passage, is threefold.

First..

  1. Jesus says to go to all nations or ethnicities. He says to go to people who are not like you.

Second…

  1. Baptize them. This presupposes that we already told them about Jesus and then when they believe, we baptize them as a symbolic representation of their new life lived for Christ in His Eternal Kingdom. Baptism is like an initiation into God’s Kingdom. This is the outward building of the church we talked about last week.

Third…

  1. Teach them to obey or follow Jesus. Another way to say that would be to teach them how to live as citizens of God’s eternal Kingdom. This is the inward building of the church we talked about last week.

If I were to summarize the Great Commission, I would say it like this.

The purpose of the church is to bring all nations into obedience to Christ.

A church that is carefully building on the foundation of Jesus Christ is a church that is reaching out to the nations and bringing them into obedience to Christ. That’s what a carefully built church looks like.

In our focal text today, Paul writes,

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12–15, ESV)

Paul points to different materials you can build with. He says we can build with gold, silver, and precious stones, as is befitting the palace of a king. Or we can build with wood, hay, and straw, which are all fine and good if that’s what you have, but that’s a common house built for a common purpose.

Notice, Paul isn’t condemning the church for building with bad materials. Wood, hay, and straw were common building materials of the day. Almost all homes were made from wood, hay, and straw. They aren’t bad materials. They’re just common.

And lots of practices of the church aren’t bad, either. But, many church practices don’t produce fruit for the Kingdom of God; they don’t build the church.

Remember, we talked about this last week, Paul isn’t talking to each individual person here. He’s talking to pastors/elders/leaders in the church.

When Paul points to the pastor who builds with wood, hay, and straw, he says, although his work has no eternal value, he will still be saved. Wood, hay, and straw kinds of pastors aren’t doing anything per se evil; they just aren’t building the church.

So, the question is, Are we building the church for Jesus, the King, who has ascended on high and rules over his church from the right hand of the Father in glory?  Or, Are we building something common, something with human purposes, something for this life? Or are we building something with lasting, eternal, value?

Paul says, the coming Day of Judgment will reveal the value of our work through fire. The common stuff, the human focused stuff, is the wood, hay, and straw which burns in the fire. Paul says, sure we will still be saved—we still spend eternity with Jesus—but we have no commendation for our work, no jewels in our crown to speak figuratively.

So, how much better if we actually build Christ’s church with gold, silver, and precious jewels? How much better if our church’s efforts build the church? How much better if our work survives the fire and we have lasting value?

So, with that said, I did some research. I wanted to know what churches that are successfully building Christ’s Church look like. We aren’t going to worry about the wood, hay, and straw. We’ll leave that for leadership discussions. But, I want to look at the church building, gold, silver, and jewels.

Let’s look at three characteristics of churches that are being built up with gold, silver, and precious jewels. I gave your four on your outline, but we’re only going to have time for the first three. And I want you to notice, these aren’t just pragmatic. They don’t just work. They are actually biblical and necessary for all churches in all times.

The first characteristic of churches that are building is…

Innovative Worship

When I say innovative worship, I don’t mean worship that mimics the culture. Very few churches have music, prayers, readings, and preaching that are stylistically the same as the culture. We aren’t trying to have a rock concert to attract people who like rock music or a hip-hop concert to attract people who like hip-hop.

People actually aren’t that shallow. They don’t expect or even want their church experience to mimic the culture. People come to church to experience something divine and supernatural. They’re looking for something new and different than what they see out in the world.

So, I’m not talking about mimicking the culture. What I mean by innovative worship is that we are constantly reconfiguring (or innovating) our worship to inspire those outside the church to listen to the good news of Jesus Christ and to commit to follow Him.

What is truly important in our worship, when it comes to reaching people with the good news of Jesus, is that we do all things with excellence.

Paul wrote,

But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:7, ESV)

Notice, Paul says we out to excel in faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, love, and also in grace. We ought to do all these things better than the culture around us.

We must have a core value of excellence in preaching, in music, and in other elements of our service, and especially in grace. Now, we don’t always hit excellence, but we strive for it. We continue to learn and stretch ourselves in new directions. We continue to innovate.

The Apostle Paul, himself, was an innovator. He writes,

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19–23, ESV)

I want you to notice he says, ‘To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ).’ What he means here is that he isn’t going to compromise what is true in order to get people to believe. Paul is not going to violate God’s standards in order to carry out God’s mission. Paul isn’t going to lessen the glory of God, or the marvelous gift of Jesus Christ. He isn’t going to make the Gospel less than full allegiance to a new King, Jesus.

When we say, innovative worship, we aren’t talking about violating God’s standards or lessening God’s glory or ‘compromising the Gospel.’ We are talking about wisely and carefully communicating the truth of Jesus Christ with excellence to the community around us. For Paul, that’s a good way to build the church.

So, if Paul innovates to reach the culture, then we’re going to innovate too. We’re going to continue to review songs we sing, styles of music, the language of our prayers, the time and style of preaching … because we want what we do, what we build, to reflect a heart for the community around us to know Jesus and obey Him as King.

So, innovative worship. A second characteristic of churches that are being built up is…

Lack of Conflict/Unity

We’ve talked about this quite a bit over the past couple months. Paul has already condemned disunity in the church three times in the first couple chapters of 1 Corinthians. He writes,

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV)

I won’t rehash all of that here since we’ve already talked about it. Instead, I want to talk about some implications of conflict.

When a church is in conflict, it affects their ability to build the church. They don’t get bigger numerically, which is outward—the communicating of the Gospel to people who don’t believe. And churches in conflict don’t gain spiritual maturity, which is inward—the continuing transformation of the Gospel for those who already follow Jesus.

Churches in conflict don’t build inwardly or outwardly. Churches in conflict actually do the opposite. Churches in conflict split or they cease growing and age out.

And this makes sense. In chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, we find out there’s some weird stuff going on when the church gathers for worship. We’ll deal with that in depth in a few months. But, Paul’s advice is applicable here. Remember, what a church looks like, needs to reflect the foundation of Jesus Christ. Paul writes,

If, therefore, the whole church comes together…and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (1 Corinthians 14:23, ESV)

What if people from the community were to come into the church and find the members of Sonrise fighting over different things? What does that communicate about Jesus and His church?

Thankfully, that’s not the case. I’ve never seen anything like that here. But, this can serve as a warning to maintain that unity, and to always look for opportunities for greater unity. Every time someone challenges our thinking—about the Bible, about our culture, about politics, or anything else—that’s an opportunity for humility so that we can become more like-minded, more unified, as we build the church.

This can serve as a warning to be careful about the things you put on social media about other people in the church. It can be a warning to be careful how you interact with other people outside the church. What does it communicate about Jesus if people know you are a Christian and you treat other church members disrespectfully, or you outright quarrel with them.

And on the positive side, what does it communicate to your friends and family, when you prioritize healthy relationships with other people in the church?

Our expression of unity and brotherhood with others in the church is a witness to the world of the unity we have with Jesus Christ. And that’s what we out to do. Jesus came to bring people into the presence of God, to unify us. The church must be careful to build in such a way that we are growing into greater unity.

So, churches that are being built up by their leaders according to the plan of God have innovative worship and they lack conflict. A third characteristic of churches that are being built up is…

Involved Church Members

It can be tempting to say that since the pastors of the church are the ‘builders,’ and the people are the building, that the people of the church don’t have responsibility when it comes to building the church.

It’s easy to feel as though sharing your faith, inviting people to church, and serving and making connections in the community are the pastor’s job. But, all that really means is that we have different callings and different giftings. Remember, Jesus is the foundation of the church, so look what he said about this. Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21, ESV)

I’d love to unpack this whole verse, but that’s a message on its own. For today, notice this. It’s not those who profess Jesus as Lord that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, it’s those who do the will of God the Father who enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, when we talk about the work of the church, it’s true that pastors, elders, directors, lead and teach and things of that sort. It’s true that the leaders lay the foundation and build on that foundation. But, part of that foundation, in Jesus’s teaching, is each individual in the church carrying out the will of God in their own lives. Everyone is expected to do the will of God in their own life even as the pastors and leaders build the church.

Beginning in September, we’ll have opportunities for you to get some training to carry out your part in God’s will for Sonrise church.

We want to be able to train all our members and attenders to reach out to people in their lives. We want you to get practical training for daily living the Christian life according to the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Statistics show that 100% of Evangelical Christians believe it is their personal responsibility to share the Gospel with others. Would you agree that it is your responsibility? Now, how many people have you helped come to faith in some way—brought them to church, prayed with them, told them the Gospel, studied the Bible with them?

The number one reason Christians don’t share their faith is because they aren’t exactly sure how. I want to help with that—and it’s actually simpler than you think it is.

More on that next week, though.

And, sure, every person in the church isn’t qualified to preach on Sunday and most of you don’t want to anyway. (If you do want to, let me know so we can start a conversation about ministry.)

But, every Christian is called to carry out the will of God—to do the will of the Father—by sharing their story with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors. Every Christian is responsible to do something eternal not just common, to build with gold and silver, not wood and straw.

Later in 1 Corinthians 12, one of my favorite chapters, Paul says that everyone is gifted for service to the Lord.

All these [giftings] are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11, ESV)

We all have something to offer to build the church.

And I find the involvement of our church to be one of the most critical characteristics of churches that are building, because when the members of a church are highly involved, it is 90% likely that, that church will grow.

In other words, even when other things aren’t quite going right, a church will still grow if the members are all involved. The best way for us to build the church is to encourage each other to be involved in the building of the church and get involved ourselves.

If you aren’t sure what being involved looks like, grab a church membership pamphlet from the info table and you’ll see a list of ways to be involved in the life of the church there. But, listen, commit to getting training starting in September, because that’s where your involvement really comes into play.

So many people are not involved because it looks like all the work is being done. But, God has gifted you to carry out a purpose and that purpose has eternal value… and that’s what we are doing in our training. Finding your place to serve with eternal value.

Our leadership team is really watching our worship. We’re constantly looking at ways to do things with excellence, and to innovate.

And for everyone else, I encourage you to get involved. I don’t just mean serving in some way. But, I want you to have buy in with Sonrise. When we have a men’s or women’s event, that’s an opportunity for involvement, regardless of age or anything else.

Get involved in the training beginning in September. It doesn’t matter how long you have been a Christian. Come to the training. If everyone does the same training, I believe that will give us greater unity of mind, and greater capacity to reach out to the community around us.

And as we do this, remember the architect. I want to leave you with a couple thoughts to remember the architect and His plan for the church. Three reminders and we’ll pray.

First, we ought to regularly return to the scriptures to make sure we are building what we are supposed to be building. Read the New Testament.

Does Sonrise look like what the authors of scripture describe as church?

If not, then we need to re-center on scripture.

Second, it doesn’t matter if you have the Gospel right if you have the church wrong. Most churches believe that salvation from God’s wrath and entrance into God’s Eternal Kingdom is the free gift of God for all those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And yet, many of those same churches don’t reflect that message back out into the community.

And third, it doesn’t matter how well we do church, if we have the Gospel wrong. Remember, Jesus is the foundation, and on Him and Him alone do we build the church.