How do you get a thousand people to come to your funeral? That was the question my cousin posed to the crowd at my father’s funeral eighteen years ago. The 1,100-seat auditorium held a standing-room only crowd for a man who had lived to fulfill the “three score and ten” suggested in the ninetieth Psalm. Since the question was posed at such a critical time in my life, I have often pondered how you have such a large funeral attendance. I have come to three conclusions: be famous, be young, or invest in the lives of others.
I have come to three conclusions: be famous, be young, or invest in the lives of others.
Take a look at the lives of David and Solomon. After Hiram had a built a great house for King David, David lamented that he lived in a magnificent structure while the ark of God was housed in a tent. He was going to fix that singlehandedly, but God had greater plans for David—to build a great kingdom. David’s son, Solomon, on the other hand, was charged with building the temple, which did house the ark.
Both men’s names have survived the ages because of their prominent places in Scripture. When you read their stories, however, they live in stark contrast to one another. What ultimately sets these men apart is the temporal and the eternal. While both of their names have stood the test of time, think about what is left of their legacies. Archeologists dig around the City of David trying to find some remnant of Solomon’s temple. When this earth is consumed with fire there will be nothing left of Solomon’s effort, but the house and lineage of David will live into eternity.
Do not hear me wrong--Solomon’s temple did have an important place in history. When the ark was brought into the temple, the shekinah glory of God so filled the place that the priests could not remain inside. It was not only the central place of worship; it truly was the house of God. It was incumbent on the people of God, however, to honor the legacy of Solomon’s temple by following the one true God.
I have spent the last twenty-eight years of my life helping churches build buildings. I believe in the importance of church buildings. They are great tools to help the people of God muster themselves to go forward in ministry. But that is all they are—tools. In the English language, church has taken on a dual meaning. The primary use in American culture is the church as a building.
Church buildings have a purpose in that they are a place from which the people of God are to go out and do ministry. Just like Solomon’s temple, church buildings will one day be in ruins, but the people of God will continue on into eternity. So the investment of a church building is a temporary one while the investment in people is a permanent one. The idea that the church building can last forever is ridiculous, but the idea that the people of God can last forever is founded in Scripture.
So when a church building reaches the end of its life, how does it get thousands of people to come to its funeral? Be famous? Possibly. We would all attend the funeral of the church at Antioch or the church of Ephesus. Be young? Hardly. It takes years of toil and effort for a church to make its mark on the world and then live through the backside of the life curve to where it ultimately closes its doors. House a people who have invested in the lives of others? Absolutely! The church whose primary interest is building people, not building buildings, will have an impact that resonates around the world. When it reaches its final days, such a church will find that its ministry has been multiplied many times over.