The Design of the Church
The Design of the Church
You and your friend are hiking in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As you round a hill, you come upon a sight that stops you in your tracks. In front of you are four giant faces carved into stone. Each head is as tall as a six-story building. The faces are a perfect likeness of four American presidents—Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln.
After taking photos of this magnificent find, what conclusions would you come to concerning its origin? How did these faces appear on this mountainside? What reasonable options are there to explain it?
Perhaps they happened through chance. Over the years, wind and rock slides combined to produce these four faces. But that seems silly, doesn't it? We know that Mount Rushmore exhibits the three signs of design: forethought, planning, and intention.
Mount Rushmore is the brainchild of sculptor John Gutzon Borglum. Borglum wanted to create a memorial of America's most revered presidents (intention). Borglum and his four hundred workers devised an ingenious method of removing more than eight hundred million pounds of stone created by the blasting (planning). Before the blasting could begin, designers mapped out the size and shape of each president. The presidents' noses are twenty feet long and rest above mouths that are eighteen feet wide. Each of the presidents' eyes is eleven feet across. The carvings are scaled to individuals who would stand 465 feet tall (forethought). After fourteen years of work, the four busts were completed, and Mount Rushmore opened to the public in 1941.
We often use this example to illustrate God’s design of creation, but it has another equally valid and interesting analogy – the church.
The Church has been designed with God’s forethought, planning, and intention. In fact, the church that you pastor is a part of God’s grand design.
There are three very specific things we can say about God’s design:
THE CHURCH WAS IN THE ETERNAL PURPOSE OF GOD
Have you ever taken the time to consider where the church came from? I’ve actually heard people refer to it as an afterthought of God’s. They claim that when Jesus came, God expected the Jewish people to welcome Him with open arms and accept Him as their Messiah. Then when they didn’t, the Cross and Church became necessary. What absolute nonsense!
The Bible is very clear that the Church has always been a part of God’s plan:
Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Ephesians 3:10–11 (ESV)
Did you catch that? “This was according to the eternal purpose he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God’s plan, from the very beginning of time, was to build His church so that His manifold wisdom would be made known.
Notice very closely who God gave the responsibility to spread His manifold wisdom to – He very clearly says that it would be “through the church” that this would take place. His plan, from eternity past, was for you, and me, and all the members of His Church to spread His wisdom until the day that Jesus returns.
How do we do that? Well, there are obvious ways, such as through preaching and teaching. But it is also through witnessing to your friends and neighbors, it is through living out a life that is a model of how God expects us to live, it is by giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.
God’s wisdom is made known through His church, which is a part of His eternal purpose, and that church is made up of people like us from all over the world, just ordinary folks, tasked with a great and wonderful responsibility.
Doesn’t it make you feel good to know that you, and the work you do on God’s behalf has always been a part of God’s plan? You matter to God, and what you do and say matters to God, and it also matters to those you do and say it to.
THE CHURCH WAS PURCHASED AT THE CROSS
What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever purchased? Perhaps it was a car, or a wedding ring? Or maybe a house? I remember buying a house for the first time and looking at the payment schedule over the next 30 years. It would take 360 months of payments before we really owned it. It seemed like an incredible amount of money to invest in a place to live, especially when we saw what the interest added up to, but it was worth it.
God paid an incredible price for the church. Not for the church buildings we meet in, but for the church that consists of every person who has ever lived, or will ever live, who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. – Acts 20:28 (ESV)
God looked at the purchase price for the church, which was the precious blood of His only Son shed on the Cross, and He said, “they are worth it!” Think about this for a minute – the price paid for you to be a part of the church, and to live in the eternal kingdom of God, was none less than the very blood of God’s own Son, Jesus the Christ. God was willing to give His Son for your salvation.
Would you do that? If voluntarily giving the life of your son or daughter would purchase the salvation of some stranger would you be willing to have them nailed to a cross, beaten, tortured, and scourged until they breathed their last? The truth is, I don’t think most of us would.
But God would, could, and did! And we live in eternal gratitude for that fact. We are a part of a living organism, the church, which God believed was worth the purchase price, the death of His Son.
THE CHURCH WAS FORMED BY THE SPIRIT
If you haven’t noticed yet, we have all three members of the Trinity integrally involved in the church of Jesus Christ. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all play a role in this grand masterpiece we are privileged to be a part of.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. – Ephesians 4:4 (ESV)
Notice that it is the work of the Holy Spirit which joins us together into one body. There are not many churches, but one church. Although we have many denominations, there is only truly one church, and that church is the one to which the Holy Spirit has drawn us together. One Spirit – One Body – One Hope.
The Holy Spirit joins us together to empower us to accomplish the calling of God which has been planned for all of eternity. Each of us, coming together and using the gifts He has given us, find both unity and purpose in working toward the fulfillment of this calling.
Kevin Miller tells a story I’d like to share that will help pull this together for us.
Once upon a time there was a famous house builder and painter. After designing the homes, he would then build and paint them. As a painter, he was such an amazing artist that he didn't even need drop cloths. He had a steady hand, and he was finicky about using good brushes and quality paint, so there were no drips, just tight trim lines.
This craftsman always designed, built and painted the homes all by himself—with his own hands … but then one day he had remarkable idea. As he was standing by one of his houses, he saw a bunch of kids walking home from the local elementary school. They were minding their own business, laughing and carrying their backpacks, until he shouted, "Hey, kids." When they looked up, startled and awestruck (because everyone in town knew about his amazing skills), he asked them a surprising question: "How would you like to do some painting?"
"What do you mean?"
"I'll tell you what," he said, "I'll give each of you a bucket of paint and a brush, and you can paint my new house. Do you want to give it a try?"
"For real?" they squealed with delight.
The painter nodded as he said, "Yep, for real."
"Cool!" the kids said.
He opened up the back of his truck and pulled out a load of brushes and paint cans and then pried open the paint cans. They started splashing paint on his garage door. They got paint on the sidewalk, too, and some on each other. But they also got a lot of paint on the house—all different colors, especially on the parts of the house that were under 4 feet high.
As other kids came by on the sidewalk, they asked, "Can we do that, too?" And they joined in. In about an hour most of the first floor was now covered with paint.
The house painter's neighbors came over after dinner and took it all in. "What is going on?" they asked. Another blurted out, "Look, I gotta be honest, your house looks like a tornado ripped through Sherwin-Williams. What were you thinking?"
"Well," the house painter said, "of course I could have painted this house all by myself, but I've always built and painted houses in order to bring joy to others. So based on that goal, this is the most beautiful house I've ever made. Then dozens of their friends will want to come to this house. They'll bring their friends to show what they've painted. And each one will say, 'This is the home of the master painter and builder, but it's also our house.'"
In the same way, when God the Father, the master creator and painter of the world, pours out his Holy Spirit on his followers, he hands every single one of us a can of paint and a brush, and he says, "Go to work. Use your gifts and let's paint a beautiful house for the world."
I hope this article will help you to begin thinking of the church in a broader way than you ever have before. Obviously the church means a great deal to God, or He would have never planned it, sacrificed for it, and sustained it in the ways we have seen.
How about you Pastor? What does the church mean to you? Is it something you’re willing to plan, sacrifice, and sustain, or is it just some place you decided on for a career? I think you and I both know what our answer should be.
 J. P. Moreland; Tim Muehlhoff, The God Conversation (InterVarsity Press, 2007),
 Kevin Miller, Church of the Resurrection, Wheaton, IL