Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the following comments while resisting National Socialism’s effort in the 1930s to pursue in Germany a synthesis between the Gospel and their political ideology. With the Confessing Church, he insisted on the Lordship of Christ against the idolatrous claims of the Nazis. His words are a challenge to any assumption that we can “build” movements anywhere.
Of course, I’m not opposed to the metaphorical wording of our vision as long as we understand–as Bonhoeffer did–that it is Christ who energizes our efforts as we “toil, struggling with all his energy that powerfully works within us.” Paul certainly spoke of himself as a skilled master builder, of laying a foundation on which others are building, of being a co-worker in the planting of fields (1Cor 3; Col 1-2).
Still, Bonhoeffer’s words are a good reminder.
But it is not we who build. He [Christ] wills to build the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess — he builds. We must proclaim — he builds. We must pray to him — he builds. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of building. it may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province.