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 The Difference between a Congregation and the House of God by Zac Poonen

In Haggai 1:7, 8, Haggai urges the people to complete the building. The foundation had been laid many years earlier. But they stopped there.

Jesus spoke a parable about a man who laid only a foundation and then did not complete the building (Lk.14:28-30). That parable comes right in the middle of a section on being His disciple. What Jesus was implying was that evangelism without disciple-making was like laying a foundation and not completing the building. Is a foundation necessary? Yes, absolutely essential. That is the first work to be done when building a house. Is evangelism necessary? Certainly. That too is the first work to be done. But if you only evangelise and don’t make disciples, that is wasted effort – as useless as a foundation without a building.

Hebrews 6:1-3 warns us of such foolishness: “Let us not lay again the foundation of repentance, faith, water-baptism, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and teaching about resurrection and the final judgment.” All of that is just the foundation. The writer says that we must then press on to perfection – that is building the house. After we have converted people to Christ through evangelism, we must make those converts, disciples of Jesus who follow Him and press on to perfection.

So Haggai’s message is not about laying the foundation. It is about perfection – completing the building, the Body of Christ. What is the difference between a congregation and the house of God? If you cut out 50,000 stones from a quarry and bring them to the building site, that is evangelism. These stones symbolize people who are born again. But they are not a building as yet. They are just a pile of stones. That is what most evangelical congregations today are. These stones must now be built up, being placed next to each other, if they are to be an expression of Christ’s Body. That is the difficult part – to build them together into the house of God.

Many churches today are mere congregations, where one man (the pastor), like a watchman, has to ensure that no-one steals his “stones”. When one of his “stones” decides one day to join another church where he can receive more spiritual help, the watchman will complain that others are stealing “his stones”! But if he had built that stone into a building, it would have been impossible for anyone to steal it. If you build the Body of Christ, you won’t have to worry about others stealing your members. When stones are built together and cemented, with stones on top of them, under them, and to their left and right, who can steal them?

I have led a church in Bangalore since 1975; but I have never complained that anyone stole anyone from our church. Those who are being built together as a body in our midst cannot be stolen. So let us build God’s house and not just lay a foundation and accumulate stones.

Notice the strong rebuke the Lord gives in 1:9-11. There is a great need in our churches for preachers who know how to speak a word of rebuke in love. There is plenty of preaching nowadays, but very little rebuke and correction. When God allows defeat or constant failure in your life, you need to stop and listen to what He is trying to tell you. Ask yourself, “Why is the fruit of the Spirit missing in my life? Why is my family-life in a mess? Why is there no rain from heaven? Why is there a dryness in my life?” (1:9-11). It may be because you are more concerned about earthly matters and your bank account than about your walk with the Lord!

When Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest heard this prophecy, they responded to Haggai’s message immediately and said, “We will start building God’s house straightaway.” or symbolically, “We will not engage in mere evangelism henceforth. We will make disciples as well. We will build Christ’s Body and not a one-man church.” The church is to be like a functioning body - and not a pile of body parts, as found in anatomy laboratories - where they have many hands, legs, eyes and ears lying around, but none of them connected with each other by life. And so they cannot function together. Many churches today are exactly like that.


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