“How Have We Built?”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations
Warren Buffett is fond of saying, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” In other words, any fool can run a business successfully during a financial boom. However, when the times aren’t so good, foolish risks will be exposed, along with the ones who took them.
The same is true spiritually. Indeed, this is the point that Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. All of us who labor in the Lord’s church are building on the foundation that Paul, along with the other apostles and prophets, laid down. However, not all builders in the church build with equal wisdom and skill. Some are building for eternity; others are building without thought for the future.
When the fires of trial come, though, the quality of each man’s work will be revealed. Every faithful builder will endure, but the product of their labors might not. There are preachers and elders who will inherit eternal life but won’t bring any of those they taught and shepherded with them.
I think the present distress is just such a time of trial, and it will reveal how the workers in each congregation have been building. Most congregations in the United States are either still not assembling or resuming limited assemblies, and it remains unclear how all this will shake out. I’ve seen brethren speculating either gloomily (“Everybody will just start watching the livestream on Sunday morning and not bother to show up!”) or rosily, (“We’ll come back better and stronger then ever!”).
In reality, I think the answer is a great big, “It depends.” Some churches will lose many people; others will lose few to none. A common theme in those disparate results, though, will be the quality of the teaching and leadership the congregation has received before the crisis struck.
It starts with the greatest commandment. People who went to church pre-coronavirus because they loved the Lord with all their heart and soul and mind and strength will be back after the coronavirus has run its course. Devotion to Christ doesn’t sit on the couch and watch YouTube if it has any other choice. On the other hand, people who went to church Sunday mornings because they were used to going might well not be back after they’ve gotten used to not going.
So too with the commandment to love one another as Christ has loved us. Congregations where the relationships between brethren are strong will continue to flourish because those relationships will pull everyone back. The aftermath of the epidemic will change our society in many ways, but people still will be drawn to warmth and kindness. On the other hand, congregations where the relationships between brethren are not warm and strong are going to suffer greatly. If you feel lonely when you go to church, you might as well feel lonely staying home.
How have we built? Have we taught our people to love God and love one another? Have we presented every other commandment as depending on those? Or instead, have we wasted our time on feel-good fluff and trivia? The stakes for having gotten this right are already high. The stakes for getting it right in the future are even higher.