1 Kings 8:12-21 – It’s The Culture That Counts Not the Building

Posted: December 3, 2018 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 8:12-21
Solomon Praises the Lord

As many of you know already, I am a huge Clemson University football fan. Yesterday, a day after winning its fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship, the Tigers (ranked #2 in the polls and the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings all season long) were selected to appear in the 4-team college football playoff tournament for the fourth straight year. To say that Clemson football has been successful is an understatement. Only Alabama has won more games over the past 8 seasons than Clemson. What is it that makes Clemson so successful in football?

One thing that Coach Swinney has done over the past decade since he became head coach has pressed and pressed the university and its donors to improve its football facilities for the day to day operations of the football program. Over the past decade, with the success on the field, the university and the athletic program donors have vastly improved the football facilities to the point that they are considered by many to be the best in the country. The recently opened football operations center with its indoor practice facility, meeting rooms, weight room, dining hall, player recreation areas, labs, and so on is an awesome facility to see. You can take a quick tour at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lupS-rvh6Zw. As you can see, the kids that play football at Clemson have the best of the best. I am sure that this facility, the other first class football facilities and the 86,000 seat football stadium all contribute toward the elite recruiting classes that the school garners each year.

However, other schools have great facilities, but do not and have not delivered the same level of success that the Tigers have over the past decade. What makes Clemson different? It is the culture of Clemson football that is different. The coaching staff there recruits players that fit with the culture of Clemson. Sure, they go after the best of the best athletes but they don’t just go after a guy just because he is rated a five-star athlete. He must fit within the nature and culture that Coach Swinney has established at Clemson. He has developed a close-knit family atmosphere within the program at Clemson and he chooses players who will fit within that system and culture. He selects players that he can develop into men. He selects players that have the desire to be the best. He selects players that he knows will represent the university well after they leave the program. He has selected a coaching staff that reflects those same values and they all have been together on that staff for anywhere from 7-10 years – something unheard of in this world of coaches leaving constantly for the next big gig.

That’s the difference. It’s about people and developing people and instilling a culture of excellence and a culture of accountability. The kids that play at Clemson know that there are lines in the sand that they cannot cross. They know that standards are high. But yet they would go through a brick wall for Coach Swinney and his staff.

That’s what I thought about this morning is that buildings don’t make football programs, people do. In the same way, the Temple building was important, yes, but it was what God had been doing for 480 years before that – establishing the culture of the Israelites – which was the most important. With that thought in mind, let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:12-21, now:

12 Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 13 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!”

14 Then the king turned around to the entire community of Israel standing before him and gave this blessing: 15 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has kept the promise he made to my father, David. For he told my father, 16 ‘From the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have never chosen a city among any of the tribes of Israel as the place where a Temple should be built to honor my name. But I have chosen David to be king over my people Israel.’”

17 Then Solomon said, “My father, David, wanted to build this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord told him, ‘You wanted to build the Temple to honor my name. Your intention is good, 19 but you are not the one to do it. One of your own sons will build the Temple to honor me.’

20 “And now the Lord has fulfilled the promise he made, for I have become king in my father’s place, and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised. I have built this Temple to honor the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 And I have prepared a place there for the Ark, which contains the covenant that the Lord made with our ancestors when he brought them out of Egypt.”

In this passage, we see that, for 480 years after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, God did not ask his people to build a Temple for Him. Instead, He emphasized the importance of his presence among them and their need for spiritual leaders. It is easy to think of a building as the focus of God’s presence and power, but God chooses and uses people to do His work. Building or enlarging our place of worship may be necessary at times, but it should never take priority over developing spiritual leaders.

Buildings don’t make a church disciple people. Buildings do not make people want to share the gospel. Buildings do not make our people grow in Christ. Buildings do not preach. Buildings do not teach. Buildings do not shepherd. Buildings are nice for sure. Buildings are helpful in doing all the things that I just said, but it is the culture of the church that matters. If the culture of the church is not aligned with the purpose that God has given the church – to spread the gospel to the world and to disciple the faithful into deeper relationships with Jesus Christ, then, buildings are not worth the brick and mortar they are made of. The old saying from the movie, “Build it and he will come!”, is not true when it comes to churches. We must have a culture of people who are on fire for spreading the gospel and discipling those that are among the faithful. The building is just a tool. It may attract people at first but it is up to the culture of the church to keep them there.

Lord, help us to be a people that want to be excellent for you. Help us to have a fire in our bones to spread the gospel to the world around us. Help us to see our church buildings as bases of operations rather than the end product. Help us to see our church buildings as filling stations where we get fueled up to go back into the world and battle for the gospel. Help us to love you more than the buildings that we build. Help us to work FROM our buildings and not FOR our buildings.

Amen and Amen.

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