Let God Build the Church

God has a plan for your ministry. Learn how to build your church God's way in this article by Rev. Matt W. Leach.

You look around your church on a Sunday morning. Somehow it doesn’t seem to you to have the spark it should have. Oh, the sermons are good. But there is no enthusiasm, no excitement. The church doesn’t seem to be drawing people like you think it should. You wonder how your church can be set on fire.

Perhaps the answer can be found in putting together a New Testament passage, and an Old Testament passage. The New Testament passage is the story of a man of faith who had a problem. Zacharias had a problem with his mouth! His mouth got him in trouble with God. Luke in his Gospel tells the story of a godly Priest, Zacharias, and his wife, Elizabeth. This was a remarkable couple. They loved God dearly. Because they loved Him so much it was a joy to them to obey all of God’s laws in spirit and in letter. This is Zacharias’ story as written by Luke.

The Story of Zacharias

“My story begins with a Jewish priest, Zacharias, who lived when Herod was king of Judea.  Zacharias was a member of the Abijah division of the Temple Service Corps.  (His wife Elizabeth was, like himself, a member of the priest tribe of the Jews, a descendant of Aaron.)  Zacharias and Elizabeth were godly folk, careful to obey all of God’s laws in spirit as well as in letter.  But they had no children, for Elizabeth was barren; and now they were both very old. 

One day as Zacharias was going about his work in the Temple – for his division was on duty that week – the honor fell to him by lot to enter the inner sanctuary and burn incense before the Lord.

Meanwhile, a great crowd stood outside in the Temple court, praying as they always did during that part of the service when the incense was being burned.”  (Luke 1:5-10 TLB)

Zacharias had just received the greatest honor a priest could have. It was an honor some could only dream of. An honor that could come only once in a lifetime. There were over 20,000 priests. They were divided into 24 sections of about 1,000. Each section served only two weeks a year. And only one priest out of the thousand got to burn the incense before the Holy of Holies.

On this day the lot fell on Zacharias. He was thrilled to the core of his being. Yet his joy was mingled with a great sadness. He and his wife Elizabeth were childless. It was a horrible disgrace to be childless. The Jewish Rabbis had a list of seven people who were excommunicated from God. The list began, “a Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.” Childlessness was grounds for divorce.

Thus, on this day that was so important, with an honor so great, Zacharias was thinking of this great tragedy in his life. How often had he prayed; how many hours had he spent begging God to grant them a child? On this great day when he went in to light the incense he lifted up his prayer again. Suddenly a totally unexpected thing happened! Luke writes:

“Zacharias was in the sanctuary when suddenly an angel appeared, standing to the right of the altar of incense!  Zacharias was startled and terrified.

But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zacharias!  For I have come to tell you that God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son!  And you are to name him John.  You will both have great joy and gladness at his birth, and many will rejoice with you.  For he will be one of the Lord’s great men.  

He must never touch wine or hard liquor – and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from before his birth!  And he will persuade many a Jew to turn to the Lord his God.  He will be a man of rugged spirit and power like Elijah, the prophet of old; and he will precede the coming of the Messiah, preparing the people for his arrival.  He will soften adult hearts to become like little children’s and will change disobedient minds to the wisdom of faith.”

Zacharias said to the angel, “But this is impossible!  I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”  (Luke 1:11-18 TLB)

A Disbelieving Priest

Zacharias was like most of us. He and Elizabeth had prayed earnestly, begging God from the depths of their beings, to give them a child. Then, when God did say “Yes,” Zacharias couldn’t believe it! God said, “I’ve heard your prayer, Zacharias, and your prayer has been granted. Your wife will bear you a son.” The first thing out of Zacharias’ mouth was “You’ve got to be kidding!” 

Doubt and unbelief engulfed him. Why? Because he could only think in human terms. And in human terms it was literally impossible. “Look,” he said. “We’re much too old. Elizabeth’s womb has been dried up for years. And I know I can’t father a child.”  

Zacharias’ outburst illustrates one of the main reasons we don’t get their prayers answered. Instead of speaking words of faith and trust, all that comes out of our mouths is doubt and unbelief. Zacharias had the same problem we have. Like us, Zacharias couldn’t think like God thinks. Like us, his mind was trapped, and his vision couldn’t get beyond what his senses saw. All he could think of was that Elizabeth was long past her menopause, and he himself was dried up like a prune.

Getting Ahold of Zacharias' Mouth

Zacharias, the man of the Book, Zacharias the teacher of Israel’s faith, had forgotten about Abraham, the father of faith. Faith consists in believing in, trusting in, and relying on God Who always works by calling those things that be not as though they were. Paul writes about Abraham’s faith:

 “As it is written, I have made you the father of many nations. – He was appointed our father – in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed.  [For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped on in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised.  So [numberless] shall your descendants be.

“He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah’s (deadened) womb.  No unbelief or distrust made him waver or doubtingly question concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised” (Romans 4:17-21 AMPC).

The angel and Zacharias had a problem to solve: Zacharias’ mouth!

“Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel!  I stand in the very presence of God.  It was he who sent me to you with this good news!  And now, because you haven’t believed me, you are to be stricken silent, unable to speak until the child is born.  For my words will certainly come true at the proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20 TLB)

Zacharias was struck dumb for two purposes. The first was to stop the words of unbelief that were flowing out of Zacharias’ mouth. You see, words are extremely important. Words are the creative force God uses. By words, God created the heavens and the earth and filled the skies with stars. The prophets spoke God’s words into the earth telling of the coming of His son who would redeem us and take upon Himself the penalty of our sins. Peter reminds us of this when he writes that the heavens and earth came into being by the word of God (2 Peter 3:5). Words are powerful, and we can block God’s answers to our prayers by words of unbelief spewing out of our mouths.  

We cause God a lot of trouble with our mouths. God has wonderful things He wants to do in us and through us and for us. Because we can’t figure out how it can be humanly possible to do them, we keep spewing out our unbelief saying it can’t be done. It’s like a game of strategy. Each time God tries to do something good for us, we block Him.

The angel said, “Zacharias, you’re not going to block God! God’s going to do it, and you’re not going to be able to say a single word until it’s done. Every time you try to open your mouth to talk, you can’t. That will be a reminder to you that what God says He will do, He will do. And if you think it’s impossible because you can’t figure out how it can be done, tough. God will do it anyway!”

Following God's Plan

The second purpose was to add some frosting to God’s cake. By that I mean people were going to be talking for a long time about Zacharias, and his vision in the Temple. To have him begin speaking the moment his son is born and named would guarantee that people would go on talking for a long time afterwards. But this time, they would be saying, “This child has got to be special! God’s got something really great planned for him. We need to watch and find out what God is doing.” By this God guaranteed that there would be a growing sense of anticipation and expectancy

Look at your church and consider the possibility that God is saying to you, “This church is special. I have something really great planned for it.” Sometimes we say that a child began as a twinkle in its’ parents’ eyes. There was a point in time when there was no child, but only the dream shared by the mother and father. Conception is the bringing together of two things that have no life in themselves alone but together create a new life.

God has a dream for your church. You have a dream for your church. When God’s dream and your dream come together a new life is created. Dream large! Bathe your dream in prayer. God will be speaking His plans into you. You may think they are only your own thoughts. This is why it is of the utmost importance that you do not fall into the trap Zacharias fell into. Do not, under any circumstances give voice to your doubts and unbelief as did Zacharias. The angel shut Zacharias’ mouth. We do not have that luxury. We must silence our doubts (our mouths) and wait patiently.

This is the process of conception. Following conception there must be a period of pregnancy, or incubation. This is the time when the seed of the dream is nurtured in the womb of prayer and faith and trust, so that it can grow strong. Womb prayer is not just any kind of prayer. It is prayer that transforms and empowers God’s people. It is revival prayer.

Dry Bones Come To Life

Remember Ezekiel’s story of the valley of dry bones? 

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. And He caused me to pass round about among them; and behold, there were very many human bones] in the open valley or plain, and lo, they were very dry.

And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! Again He said to me, Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord, Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live; And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath and spirit in you, and you [dry bones] shall live; and you shall know, understand and realize, that I am the Lord [the Sovereign Ruler, calling forth loyalty and obedient service],

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a [thundering] noise, and behold, a shaking and trembling and a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I beheld, and lo, there were sinews upon [the bones], and flesh came upon them, and skin covered them over; but there was no breath or spirit in them.

Then said He to me, Prophesy to the breath and spirit, son of man, and say to the breath and spirit, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath and spirit, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath and spirit came into [the bones], and they lived and stood up upon their feet, an exceedingly great host. 

Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off. Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people; and I will bring you [back home] to the land of Israel. 

And you shall know that I am the Lord [your Sovereign Ruler] when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people. And I shall put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land. Then you shall know, understand and realize that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, says the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:1-14 AMPC)

The people of Israel were the dry bones. They had been scattered among many nations. Their capital city and Temple where God once dwelt lay in ruins. In their minds it seemed utterly impossible that Israel would ever be a nation again. Many years of captivity had passed. They were discouraged, and without hope.  

This was the setting when God brought Ezekiel to the valley of dry bones. To the people of Israel it seemed utterly, humanly, impossible that there would ever again be a nation of Israel. As Ezekiel looked at the valley, God asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

Now comes the exciting part. Ezekiel’s job is to preach the word to the dry bones. He is to say to the dry bones: “O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”  

What was “The word of the Lord”? It was this: God Himself would breathe breath and spirit into the dry bones. God would lay sinews on them and cover them with skin and flesh and breath. God will raise up Israel anew. God Himself will do what no man could do.

It is hard for us humans to let go and let God do His thing. God says, “Pray and trust Me.” We say, “Let’s keep trying to do it our way, even though our way doesn’t work!”  We look around, and we think, “A new pastor is the answer. A new pastor will bring in lots of people.”

But that isn’t how it works. God is telling us, as He told Ezekiel, that He Himself will build this church. He will breathe life into it. He will put sinews and flesh and muscle and life on it. It is God who builds the church, not man. Let me give you scriptural authority for that statement.  

“Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it:”

No man can do what God does. No man can make the dry bones live. Not many people, seeing a valley of dry bones, would choose to live there. All too often churches can be described as valleys of dry bones. If that describes your church there is only one way that it can come to life. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”

3 Steps To Enable the Lord To Build Your House

Three things are required to enable the Lord to build the house.

First, like Zacharias, we must not, under any circumstances, give voice to our doubts. Let the words of our mouths be only the words God speaks concerning us. God is breathing life into us. God is putting sinew and muscle and flesh on our bones. God’s spirit and breath are blowing into us, filling us with His spirit. There is a new wind blowing.

Second, we must pray as never before. It is prayer that will fill the church with children and people wanting to be saved. Prayer will cause people to come in off the streets to find a new life. It is our prayers that give God the opening into the lives of those for whom we pray.  

Third, we must take spiritual authority over Satan, the thief, the destroyer. It is he who comes in and causes trouble and steals people away. We must hold Satan’s feet to the fire, commanding him in the Name of Jesus to return what he has stolen sevenfold.  

According to the Book of Revelation and Paul in his letter to the Hebrews, every church has a mighty angel. But the angel can only do what we empower it to do. This church has a mighty angel. Our neglect and wrong ideas will keep him bound so that he cannot work for us. We must unshackle him and command him in Jesus’ name to go out and bring in the people who are to be heirs of salvation.

Our job is to let God do His thing. Let the wind blow. Let God refresh our spirits. Let God turn our drudgery into joy. Let God bring back those who are in far countries.  Our task is to watch the words of our mouths. We are not to speak unbelief. We are to do as Abraham did. We are to call those things which be not as though they were until they are (Romans 4:17).  

Finally, one last word from Ezekiel chapter 36, verse 36 (ESV):

“Then the nations that are left around about you shall know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places, and replanted that which was desolate.  I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it.”

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