A burden lifted from me as a pastor of a local church when I realised the implications of what Jesus said to Peter about the church. Peter had confessed that “Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Immediately after this Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:13-19). The thought was profound. I cannot build the church. The General Conference president Ted Wilson cannot. The best evangelist, elder, pastor or leader cannot build the church. Jesus’ statement showed intent and ownership. Jesus will grow, develop and mould the church in His way and time. The church belongs to Jesus. He is the head of the church. I thought as a pastor I was responsible to lead others to make this happen and would get discouraged when I did not see growth in numbers and discipleship.
But I don’t have to build the Church—Jesus must do it. However, it does not mean that I, nor you, do not have a part. At that time Jesus also said, “I give you the keys of the kingdom.” The kingdom of God was a major theme of Jesus’ teaching. This kingdom had different values—joy, perseverance, love. It was shown in how people live, how they care for the marginalised, how they forgive others (Matthew 5-7,13, 25). This kingdom became a reality in people’s lives when they confessed, like Peter, who Jesus is and followed Him. When Jesus’ disciples are with other people and ministering to them, the kingdom of God is near them (Matthew 10:7).
Jesus builds the church when His people love like Him, minister like Him, speak about Him and live for Him. The growth is on Jesus. Consistently living by the values and methods of Jesus is our part. When Jesus brings that power into our lives and harmony to the church—the church grows. This was illustrated in the establishment of the church post-Pentecost in Jerusalem. The church worshipped, ate in small groups, learned, ministered and collectively this was a living witness that Jesus was indeed working in the church. At the end of the passage it says, “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47). It is God who built and grew that church. Jesus hasn’t changed–He’ll do it for our church now.
God builds the church when He can trust the church with new people. Can God trust our church with new people? If not–what keys of the kingdom do we need to ask Him to develop in us now?