Back in 1997 I was able to see first hand how a big building is constructed. Due to our church fire on Christmas, we built a new 16,000 square foot building from the foundation up. It was interesting to see how each of the parts worked together (or didn’t work together). I was able to help with the roofing, painting, and of course, cleaning.

Building a church congregation is similar to building a church building. In fact, Paul uses construction to illustrate the growth of a congregation. In this post, I want to share with you some of the principles I learned in 1Corinthians 3:9-23 from Warren Wiersbe and shared with our congregation.

Many people look at this passage as a description of a Christian’s life. But the correct interpretation according to the context is the local church. The local church is compared to the Temple of God – the earthly residence of God. Not only is the body of the Christian the Temple of God (1 Cor. 6:15), so is the local church. One day we will be judged by how we build our local church. God is concerned that we build with quality. Your church  is God’s church and He wants it built right.

We must build on the right foundation.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

The foundation is Jesus Christ. The foundation is the most important part of the building. A ministry may seem to be successful, but if it is not founded on Christ it will eventually collapse and fall. When a church gets away from the message of Jesus Christ it has gotten away from its purpose.

We must build with the right materials.

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on itendures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:12-17)

Paul describes two kinds of materials – temporary and permanent. Paul is describing the teachings of the church founded on the Word of God as the only proper and permanent component for church growth. Everything else will else will be destroyed.

The “day” Paul talks about is the second coming of Jesus. At that time, unbelievers will be separated from believers. Believers will receive their promised reward in Heaven. Believers will not be judged regarding salvation – salvation is sure, but they will be judged for their works. This is not purgatory. The works are burned, not the believer. Only works built on the Bible will last.

Paul also issues a warning to those who would destroy God’s Temple – the church. He will destroy them. Beware how you treat God’s church.

We must build according to the right plan (v. 18-20).

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

God has a wise plan to build the church. It is no secret. According to the Great Commission, we are to win, baptize, teach, then repeat. According to Ephesians 4: 11-12 the duty of the pastor is to mature the saints to do this work so that the church can grow. It is foolish for the church to borrow methods from the world.

We must build with the right motive (v. 21-23).

Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Our motive should be the glory of God. The Corinthians, and many contemporary churches, are more interested in the glory of people. On his desk in the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan had a little sign that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” But we do care who gets the credit – we want to glorify God.

You can read some of my other articles about church: The kind of church Jesus likes, A place to belong, 6 reasons you need a church family, 7 reasons going to church is good for you.