What David Hebert Told Me

Many years ago, in another time and another place, the church I then served as a pastor was preparing to go through a major building campaign. Our program was similar in some respects to what we are attempting to do here at Calvary. In one major aspect things were quite different because that church met in rented facilities (a storefront that had once housed a furniture store). Our plan called for buying six acres and then constructing a series of buildings, including our first sanctuary. One day during a meeting of the church leadership, I commented that the new buildings were much needed because they would enable us to minister more effectively. That statement seemed rather obvious to me, but my friend David Hebert took exception to it. David was one of our elders at the time. I can see his face as I write these words. It would be harder to find a nicer, kinder, more pleasant person to be around. In all the years I knew him, I can hardly ever remember him raising his voice at all. He was even-tempered in the best sense of the word, which made him a very good elder because he didn’t let his emotions cloud his judgment.

But that day David pulled me aside and strongly objected to my comments. I was so surprised that I couldn’t really remember what I had said. Then he repeated my statement that the new buildings would help us minister more effectively. That’s not true, he said. Buildings are just tools, nothing more. They provide clean, safe places for our various meetings and assemblies. But they don’t guarantee effective ministry, he said. True, I responded, but they make it easier for us to minister more effectively because the environment is conducive to spiritual growth. He wasn’t buying it at all. Good ministry depends on the people, not on the buildings. We discussed things for a while and then parted ways, both of us convinced of the rightness of our positions.

I hadn’t thought about that conversation for perhaps 15 years until the other day. Then I realized that I now agree with David. Since our discussion, I have had the chance to travel around the world. I’ve seen incredibly effective ministry in very difficult circumstances in Haiti, Nigeria, Belize, India, Nepal and Russia. There is no necessary correlation between big buildings and good ministry. Buildings help us care for more people and they do help us organize our work more efficiently. But the ministry that changes hearts comes from the heart, not from bricks and mortar.

As we move forward with our expansion plans, let’s dream big dreams for the glory of God. Our prayer should be, “Lord, while you are helping us build more buildings, please build us, too. Work in us so that you might be able to work through us to reach more people for your glory. Amen.”

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