I once had the honor of doing a memorial service of a great Christian lady who had lived for the Lord many years. That day her family gave me a book of poems that belonged to her. In it I found these lines which have a timeless message:

  1. Someone wrote: I watched them tearing a building down, A gang of men in a busy town; With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell They swung a beam and the sidewalk fell. I asked the foreman: "Are these men skilled, And the men you'd hire if you had to build?" He gave a laugh and said: "No indeed! Just common labor is all I need. I can easily wreck in a day or two What builders have taken a year to do!" And I thought to myself as I went my way, Which of these roles have I tried to play? Am I a builder who works with care, Measuring life by the rule and square? Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan, Patiently doing the best I can? Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town, Content with the labor of tearing down?

  2. Am I a builder, or not? I know I want to be. Surely no one wants to be the one who goes about destroying much good (cf. Eccl. 9:18). And, scripture reminds me that I need to be a builder.
    1. Jude 20 - "But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith..."
    2. Eph. 4:16 points out that it is when each part is working properly that the body builds itself up in love.
    3. 1Pet. 2:5 - "You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house..."

  3. But how does one person go about being a builder? The New Testament offers at least five guidelines. First, a builder commits himself to God and the word of his grace.

    1. Acts 20:32 - "And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." He was "handing them over" to God and to the word of his grace, asking them to commit themselves to their care.

    1. Being committed to God and the word of his grace means depending on God's care enough to obey his word, trusting him enough to do what he says.

    2. Commitment means doing this even when, or if, it requires you to rearrange your plans, or to change your behavior, or to make other sacrifices.
    3. This kind of faith in God and submission to his grace allows him to be active in the building process. Paul described the church as "God's field, God's building" (1Cor. 3:9). In other words, a group of people who are committed to God and the word of his grace are his "building project." They allow him to work on them!

    4. However, a spirit of indifference which allows everything that comes along to take priority over devotion to the Lord and his way does not build; it destroys.

  1. A Christian also becomes a builder by humbly loving others.

    1. Christian Schwarz, after studying a thousand churches covering six continents, listed "loving relationships" as one of the necessary qualities for building up the church. He said, "Some years ago, when we published materials to help individuals, groups, and entire churches learn how to express Christian love, some specialists said that these were not "church growth materials." Yet our research indicates there is a highly significant relationship between the ability of a church to demonstrate love and its long-term growth potential....Unfeigned, practical love has a divinely generated magnetic power far more effective than evangelistic programs which depend almost entirely on verbal communication."

    2. Just as the seedlings in your garden need a certain warmth to do well, the seed of the kingdom grows in an atmosphere of brotherly affection.

    3. Remember that the apostle said that when each part of the body is working properly and it is growing, "it builds itself up in love" (Eph. 4:16).

    4. At Corinth, he dealt with members who were set on getting their own way by pointing out that some things puff up, "but love builds up" (1 Cor. 8:1). It does not seek its own good, but the good of its neighbor; not its own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved (1 Cor. 10:24, 33). "Love is patient and kind...not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful" (1 Cor. 13:4, 5).

    5. Humble love is so uplifting that people hunger for it. Years ago, long-time Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn learned that he had terminal cancer. He shocked everyone by announcing that he was going back to his small hometown of Bonham, Texas. People said to him, "Mr. Speaker, there are the finest facilities in Washington, D.C. Why go back to that little town?" Rayburn responded, "Because in Bonham, Texas, they know if you're sick, and they care when you die."

  2. In the third place, one becomes a builder by doing his part in the ministry of the body of Christ.

    1. During the bloody days of the Civil War, Artemus Ward, a famous humorist of that time, boasted, "I have already given two cousins to the war, and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife's brother." That kind of "involvement" is fairly common, but it has never made a person a builder!

    2. The Lord has organized his church "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). We all have work to do in the ministry that builds up the church.

    3. We're like teammates in a tug-of-war contest. Each member has to pull with all his or her ability. We're all different-some stronger, some weaker; some heavier, some lighter-but all of us have to put our strength and weight into the contest. It doesn't matter whether the contribution is big or small, but everyone matters.

    4. Not only does a builder do his part, he does it in cooperation with others who are doing theirs. In a "Peanuts" cartoon strip, Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels. Linus asked her by whose authority she could make such a demand. Lucy responded by putting her fist in front of him and saying, "These five fingers. Individually they're nothing, but when I curl them together like this, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold." Linus looked at his fingers and asked, "Why can't you guys work together like that?"

    5. A lot of people can work as long as they have control and nobody gets in their way. Many are very willing to let others serve as long as they don't have to do anything themselves. A builder, though, does his part in the work of ministry alongside others who are serving, too.

  1. One of the most obvious ways this must be true is when the whole church comes together. A builder meets with the congregation to offer unselfish praise to the Lord.

    1. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul speaks to what occurs "when you come together" (v. 26), or "if...the whole church comes together" (v. 23), or "in church" (v. 19). Notice that he assumes this will happen. Ray Ortland observed, "The Christian who is not committed to a group of believers for praying, sharing, and serving, so that he is known, as he knows others, is not an obedient Christian." Ken Joines wrote, "One beautiful aspect of congregation is that people of all ages mingle and learn to love and respect one another....Our problem is that people are simply losing their love for assembling with the saints to worship and to praise God together....Congregation is losing its appeal, its strength and its very purpose. The result is that the church is being weakened rather that strengthened. We are being splintered into little circles that tend to isolate themselves from the larger church."

    2. The guiding principle for our conduct when the church comes together is that we should seek to edify, or build up, the church. The apostle turned to this theme several times as he addressed problems the Corinthians were having in the assembly. He tells them to act "so that the church may be built up" (v. 5), to "strive to excel in building up the church" (v. 12), and to "let all things be done for building up" (v. 26).

    3. What does he mean? Our understanding of what is involved in building up the church may have far-reaching consequences. Some think of what makes themselves feel better. Others think of what is entertaining or exciting. Still others think of whatever increases the number in the crowd.

    4. One point that stands out is that when Paul speaks of things being done for building up, he is talking to me about what I am to do for the church. He doesn't mean for me to sink farther into self-absorption and complain that I am not being built up. He intends fro me to act lovingly toward others (v. 1).

    5. Another thing to notice is that what the apostle has in mind when he speaks of "building up" is stated in the passage itself. Building up the church involves speaking to people "for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation" (v.3). It means genuine thanksgiving through song and prayer which even the unlearned can understand and participate in (v.16). It takes clear instruction which calls lives into account (v.19, 24). A builder engages in the spiritual exercise which draws the hearts and minds of a congregation closer to God.

  2. The fifth mark of builders is that they speak gracious and encouraging word to one another.

    1. This is one of the most consistent requirements of congregational life. Not mean words or false words. But not withdrawn silence either. Gracious, honest, encouraging talk among people who see themselves of members of one another. That's what the Lord expects of us. The Cubs' scout at batting practice - "I don't watch, I just listen."

    2. Eph. 4:29 - "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

    3. 1 Thes. 5:11 - "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." Obviously, encouraging and building go together.

    4. But not everything that's called encouragement builds up. The wrong timing or the wrong tone may give it the opposite effect. The "encourager" may merely be condescending. Some, for example, even in offering a compliment, manage to paint everything else the recipient has done in an unfavorable light.

    5. Someone suggested that there are four qualifiers which make encouragement genuine and effective.
      1. Encouragement needs to be specific, not general.
      2. Encouragement needs to be honest, not flattering.
      3. Encouragement needs to be occasional, not incessant.
      4. Encouragement needs to be balanced with occasional correction. When it has these four characteristics, encouragement in one of the most powerful and uplifting forces in life, and it is certainly one of the most important activities of the church.

  3. Am I a builder? If I am, these are the habits of my everyday life.

    1. The Lord is a builder. He takes individuals whose sins he forgives and adds them to his church. He builds them into faithful and mature people who live honorably and serve unselfishly. He prepares them for the city whose builder and maker is God! Will you be one of them?