As a young man, I was told I was a pillar in the church.
It made me feel good to hear the pastor say this, and I could hardly disagree. Of course I was a pillar. I was a good boy.
I didn’t drink or smoke or do burnouts in the church car park. I arrived early on Sundays to put out chairs and I stayed back to pack up the AV equipment. I served on the worship team and got to share the Word on occasion. I was not only a pillar; I was a rocket going places. Watch me soar!
I cringe to write about this now. I cringe to think how the label “pillar” separated me from those Jesus loves. Yet in the church, we divide people like this all the time:
• We have the reliable pillars and the nonpillars who show up late and bleary-eyed bearing the unmistakable smell of cigarette smoke
• We have those worthy to take communion and those who are not
• We have the happily-marrieds and the shamefully divorceds
• We have the mums-with-bubs fulfilling God’s call to be fruitful and the childless women who can compensate for their deficiencies by serving in the creche
• We have the well-groomed and definitely anointed folk up the front and the unkempt I’m-not-sure-if-they’re-even-saved wrecks down the back
• We have those who can teach and preach and the women
This sort of division is the antithesis of what Jesus wants to build, yet nearly every church divides people to some degree.
In the church I led in Hong Kong, I would boast that there was no clergy/laity distinction, for we are all priests in God’s kingdom. Then in the very next breath I would ask the “core group” to stay behind for a special lunch meeting. I invited people to partake of communion while at the same time encouraging some to hold back. And I definitely valued the workers more than the slackers. For years I prayed for the “missing pillars” to show up, by which I meant the good hard-working Christians, rather than the bad and broken ones.
To paraphrase George Orwell, we are all equal in Christ, but some are more equal than others.
Who is a pillar?
Did you know there is only one scripture in the Bible that talks about being made a pillar in God’s temple? It’s this one:
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will not go out from it anymore (Rev. 3:12)
If we must talk about pillars in the church, let us talk about them the same way Jesus did. A pillar is an overcomer and an overcomer is anyone who believes in Jesus.
This promise from the Lord should make you leap for joy. We are weak and prone to falling, but Jesus makes us strong as pillars.
The perception that only influential Christians are pillars is unbiblical. In Christ we are ALL pillars. You are not a pillar because you perform and produce. You are a pillar because Jesus has made you so. Do you believe in Jesus? Then you are a pillar in the temple of God. Period. The end.
What is the temple of God?
We are; the body of believers, the household of faith.
Jesus builds his temple one pillar at a time. Once upon a time, the presence of God inhabited a manmade temple, but now the dwelling place of the Lord is his church. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God?” (1 Cor. 3:16).
What does it mean to go out no more?
The last part of the promise is good news for the fearful and anxious. Jesus does not promise to end the tremors that shake our lives, but he does offer his rock-solid word to help us endure. He says, “I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God.”
The faithless are restless, but those grounded on the Rock of Calvary have peace during times of upheaval. Their world might shake and collapse, but they stand firm on the word of the Lord.
We are all pillars in God’s temple, but we will not act like pillars if we think we have to perform to become pillars. We stand by grace alone, so let us put aside the old habit of judging people for how well they hold up. Instead, let us praise God for his powerful promises that turn the puny, the poor, and the piddling into pillars.
We stand by grace, hold fast by grace, and endure by grace. We are all monuments to the grace of God.