Joyful Noise

It is summer and we have already started seeing temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s with high humidity. Southeast Texas summers will make you wonder if the Lord loves us – and whether the weather is intended to make us stronger or just beat us into submission. If you are a couch potato and never go outside – the heat is a killer. If you have to work out in the heat, it can still be a killer, but you learn to cope and do things to keep your body working.

I remember in my younger days when my brother and I would be working for our father in his construction business. We built houses – usually for a developer who would be building a subdivision with hundreds of homes planned. The work gets subdivided into specialized crafts in a setting like that where the basic house construction becomes compartmentalized into the foundation, the frame, the cornice (outside trim), the siding, the decking for the roof and then the roof. Once the siding or brick is complete and the roof is on and the exterior trim is done – the house is in its “dried in” stage where the mechanical contractors can come in to do the plumbing pipes, electrical wiring and boxes for outlets and lights, air conditioning equipment and supply lines are run and any other items that require preparation before insulation can be installed and the interior walls and ceiling covered.

My Father, brother and I did the foundations ourselves. We set every form and double and triple checked every side for length, every house was checked with diagonal measurements to make sure that the house was square. We started the process with a surveyor’s transit – an instrument that we used to determine the elevation of the structure. Careful attention has to be paid to these early choices because the entire structure’s outcome depends on getting every dimension correct and the usefulness of the home to future residents depends on all of these factors being accurate. Toting heavy lumber, driving stakes into hard ground with a sledge hammer and nailing hundreds of stakes to make a form is labor intensive.

When it gets hot, the challenge only grows. We wore long sleeve white cotton shirts and your skin would tan – darkly – right through the fabric. We were drenched in sweat and if you didn’t drink enough water, then you would definitely get a headache. The work was hard and the environment made it harder. Before a single stake was driven, we had to cut dozens of boards into the pointed stakes that we would be using. Depending on the soil and the height of the form, we might need 3’ long stakes for the uprights and 4’ long stakes for the bracing stake that would hold the form exactly on the building line – we called those the kickers since they kicked out at an angle. Every upright stake had a kicker and every form board was nailed tightly and snugly to the upright stakes to make sure that when the form was filled with concrete – it would hold the pressure of the concrete and allow the foundation to take on its intended design.

You might think that none of this has anything to do with worship or ministry or the Christian life, but the environment for ministry can be a harsh one. Not all of your family or friends will love the fact that you are a believer who wants to share the love of God with them. In order to make sure that they hear the good news, you will have to be prepared. You will need to know the plan and understand the kind of preparation that must be done to execute the plan. Careful attention needs to be paid to our choices so that the future outcome will reflect our intended purpose. When it gets too difficult, you may need refreshment and encouragement.

Church is where we prepare for the spiritual work that we will do the rest of the week. What happens when you leave church is where the “construction” begins. Seeing how many people we can get to meet together is not the end goal – meeting is the place where we are refreshed, where we are encouraged and where we learn more about how to lay the right foundation so that the building that gets built is both strong, beautiful and functions like it is intended to function.

The things we do are not intended as the end – they are the means to achieve the end which is to make disciples. Worship isn’t Christian Karaoke – it is our focused attention on God from a heart of gratitude. Bible study is the time when we meet together as believers – connecting with one another intimately and receiving instruction from God’s Word and encouragement from each other. The sermon is crafted so that we can grow in our understanding of God’s Word and so that we are all equipped to obey the command to go and share the gospel with everyone we meet. Be encouraged – the work is hard, but God knows our every need, He has a perfect plan and He will provide step by step instructions.

Karl Mangurm