Beauty in the Church

I remember walking into one church building, it was a church that had seen my resume and called me for an interview. The building was rundown, dirty, the wall paint was no longer white, the carpet was coming up, and there was a hole in the ceiling of the auditorium. It was not a very beautiful place and the pastor search committee didn’t like me (except for the chair of the committee) because I was too young, had too much initiative, and too big a vision. Really, the deacons at this particular local church simply wanted to stay in charge without too much hassle. As far as I know, they are still looking for a pastor and it’s been about four years since they started looking.

I want to set something straight before we get into the text of Scripture. The church is the people, not a building. The early church (and many churches around the world today) didn’t have property starting out. They contented themselves with sharing the Gospel and meeting wherever they could to worship Christ together, to sit under the teaching authority of Scripture, and to eat together followed by communion with Christ. So, the property of a church is a secondary consideration. Whether or not there is a pulpit is a secondary consideration. When we cannot afford a church building, we are still the church and there is no shame in meeting in a home, in a park, or under a bridge. In fact, in many circumstances that is desirable. Being a local church costs nothing. It is our consumer mindset that misleads us to think otherwise.

Genesis 4:3-7

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

I want to notice a couple of things in this text. Cain brought some of what he had while Abel brought the best of what he had. God looked with favor on Abel’s offering and with disfavor on Cain’s. So, we find this principle at work: God desires the best of what He gives us to steward, not merely something. Whether our offering is preaching, singing, playing music, serving, or caring for property that is given by God, God’s desire is that we give our best. Too many times we content ourselves with just doing something because we feel as if it has to be done. We know from God’s conversation with Cain that He desires fozr us to give Him the best out of what He has given us to steward. This means much concerning the beauty of our property, our music, and our preaching.

Cain became angry. God addressed his anger by asking, “Why are you angry?… If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Our offering to God, no matter the material of that offering, reveals our hearts. If we do not do well (give the best of what God has given us to steward), sin is crouching at our door and its desire is for us. If we do well (give the best of what God has given us to steward), will we not be lifted up?

This is going to apply differently in different contexts. There are places where being the best steward of God’s resources means not having a building at all. There are other places where it means having a large church campus. In every instance, we are to present God with the best of what He has blessed us with for His glory alone.

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