It’s a Monday morning in mid-April, the church secretary is looking forward to a quiet day in the office to catch up on clerical work on the pastoral staff’s day off. It had been an unseasonably cold winter, followed by two weeks of rain. Gazing out her window, it’s hard to visualize what the new education wing and fellowship hall will look like, when all she sees right now is a muddy mess.
The door opens, in walk Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As one of the church’s largest donors, they pledged generously to the building project believing it would be completed in time for their daughter’s fall wedding. They have come to ask for a guarantee this will happen, or they will pull their financial commitment and use the money to rent another facility. The secretary gives the Smith’s contact information for the Construction Superintendent.
Mr. Smith isn’t on the building committee, but takes it upon himself to pay a personal visit to the Superintendent. He questions the Superintendent’s work ethic and lets him know the project delays just cost the project a significant portion of its funding. Mrs. Smith calls her friends for support, letting them know how “far behind schedule” the project is. One of her friends knows the company installing the drywall on the project. She thinks it’s only fair to let them know they should look for other work, because the church project is “far behind schedule.”
Pastor Rob is home enjoying time with his two young children and wife. It’s been a tough year for him personally and in ministry – not to mention the added responsibility of a building project. However, he was recently encouraged by an interaction with the new Construction Superintendent, Chris. He told Pastor Rob he had never studied the Bible and often wondered what it would be like to be part of a church. Pastor Rob invited him to join his morning Bible Study and Chris said he’d give it a try.
In the construction trailer on the far edge of the church property, Chris stares at a set of blueprints as Mr. Smith leaves his office. He’s spent all winter away from his family during the week striving to keep the project on schedule. He’s spent countless hours organizing subcontractors and maintaining quality control measures…only to have a member of the church criticize his work ethic and put the financial viability of the project in question. If this is how Christians behave, Chris wonders if he should even bother attending the Bible Study tomorrow morning. He feels like a failure.
For decades, ministry professionals and laymen have utilized the “Four Spiritual Laws” format to understand God’s blueprint to reconcile man to Himself. Yet, we tragically disconnect from the message when leading churches through a building program.
When faced with the pressures of a building program, gospel centered leaders understand their foundation must be infused with the attributes of the gospel to produce God honoring results. By aligning with God in prayer and intentionally modeling the “Four Spiritual Laws” from the pulpit, churches can conduct a gospel centered building program in committee meetings, on the construction site, and in the community.
Gospel centered building program attributes
God’s plan – Perfection: God is perfect, man is not. Churches teach and embrace this simple truth, but when faced with a building program, we often hold one another to an unachievable standard of perfection. Conducting a gospel centered building program requires church leaders to maintain a focus on God’s plan for people more than man’s plan for a building. Remember…Who you are building for is more important than what you are building, and how you treat people working for you is a reflection of the culture in your church.
Man’s problem – Sin: Building programs by nature create tension and conflict. The pressure to build consensus and raise money during a building program can create a toxic environment where our sinful nature manifests itself in damaging ways. As leaders, we must not be surprised when imperfections surface and mistakes are made. Maintaining a gospel focus during a building program means we expect problems and see them as an opportunity to display the gospel. Remember…We must see imperfection as an opportunity for grace. How we treat people reflects our understanding of our sin nature.
God’s solution – Grace: Church leaders must recognize extending grace is not free. It wasn’t free for God and it won’t be free for us. Having been the recipient and extender of grace on hundreds construction projects, I’m humbled every time grace changes the course of a conversation. When we choose to serve others first, we honor and bring glory to the One who first served us. Remember…Grace is not free or fair. Grace will cost you something, but we must understand the importance of reconciliation and its role as a reflection of Christ’s sacrifice.
Man’s response – Repentance or Rejection: Building programs directly involve hundreds, if not thousands of individuals. The nucleus is church leaders and members, but the program extends beyond church walls to include local government agents, insurance agents, bankers, neighbors, material suppliers, architects, contractors, and subcontractors. At every point of contact, an opportunity exists for conflict or connection. Mistakes will be made and an opportunity to extend or receive grace will result. When leaders quickly model repentance and grace, and seek to promote a culture of reconciliation between God and man, the church’s impact on the community will be felt far beyond the physical structure being built. Remember…We are responsible for our own attitudes, actions, and reactions.
Having witnessed the pain and suffering of church splits and failed building programs, I can attest there are no winners when unity is fractured. I’ve committed my life to helping churches avoid these struggles, but I realize it’s only by God’s grace and provision ministry moves forward. I urge you to maintain a gospel centered focus in all things, especially when facing a building program.