[forthright] Only One Opens a Church

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 10:25:00 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Today's Prayer: Taking and giving life

COLUMN: Final Phase

Only One Opens a Church
by J. Randal Matheny

A sign in Sao Paulo, where we were taking kids
back and forth to camp this weekend, proclaimed
that some group was "opening a church." Not
infrequently we hear that phrase spoken, and
seeing it in large letters struck me that the
words are more than just an awkward expression.

Out near the Christian camp, it is told that one
man who bought a little dilapidated building,
formerly a bar, pondered whether to continue as a
bar or "open a church." He apparently had trouble
deciding which would bring in more money.

Biblically speaking, one does not open a church.
You open a store. You open a business. You can
even open, in Portuguese, an exception. You open a
can (of worms). But you can't open a church. At
least, not Christ's church.

This phrase is not merely an unfortunate
expression. It belies either pecuniary interest or
power issues. It climbs the height of religious
sectarianism and plunges the depth of human

God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Man
is God's tool to plant and water, but God makes it

Jesus said that he would build his church (Matthew
16:18). His reference is primarily to the
establishing of the church, as revealed in Acts 2,
but it is he who continues to build churches
throughout the world. It is not, and never can be,
a human activity. The New Testament speaks little
or nothing about church planting or church growth,
to the chagrin of church growth advocates.

It does speak of the progress of the gospel (see
Philippians 1:12). By these words Paul refers to
what happened to him, not what he caused to
happen. His imprisonment permitted him to preach
to people who otherwise would never have heard the

Christians pray, preach, and teach. And through
that divinely appointed activity, God makes it
happen. The Lord builds churches.

In some places, because of Christians' lack of
faith and disobedience, not even God is "opening
churches." But that is a different travesty.

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