Back in 2010, work began on a massive recreation centre in our small city of Owen Sound. Everything was on target until the contractors hit a layer of quicksand.
Work was delayed for the better part of a year while engineers constructed concrete platforms which would carry the weight of the building given the presence of the quicksand. Needless to say, millions of dollars were added to the project’s cost.
If the work had not been done, nothing would have happened for a while. But at some point, the whole thing would have started to tilt or sink.
The problem with many churches is in the foundation. To begin with, did the church have a building permit from God? Not a physical permit for a physical building, but a spiritual permit for a spiritual building.
I’m writing this from Emmanuel Church in Durham, the cathedral city in northern England where I lived and met Elaine and first got involved in church planting. Emmanuel was founded out of a series of daily early morning prayer meetings on the university campus which extended for an entire year. It’s fair to say it was a time of massive openness to God and his Spirit. Emmanuel was also founded by a small group of young but completely sold-out followers of Jesus, many of whom made considerable sacrifices in the process. And it was founded by people who believed in the absolutely authority of the Word of God and in the importance of honouring the work of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, the foundations were right.
Having come from an extended leadership gathering in that church, I can report that the same values are still there. The DNA is intact.
Because the foundations were right, and the builders continued to be faithful to the foundations, Emmanuel Church has been directly and indirectly responsible for planting many new churches around the world and played a role in thousands of people coming to Christ. And the work of advancing the boundaries of the kingdom through its people continues.
The CN Tower, then the world’s tallest free-standing structure, was built when I was a student at the University of Toronto. It took a very long time for anything to appear above ground level, because the foundations were sunk hundreds of feet into the ground. In spite of the massive foundations, the tower can still sway several feet in either direction at the very top. But no earthquake or hurricane will ever cause the tower to topple.
And what about the picture at the top?
Our daughter Anna and son-in-law Chris are part of Trinity Road Chapel, an evangelical church in south London. The picture is the cornerstone of that church building. Charles Spurgeon was the greatest preacher of his time. His ministry and influence continue until the present day.
The foundation, spiritually and in this case literally, was right. And that church continues until now to be faithful to the gospel and have a significant impact on the surrounding community.
It’s never a bad thing to go back to our foundations, check how good they are, and see whether, if they are solid, we have remained faithful to them.
And then build! To the glory of God.