While speaking last year to a group of campus ministry interns about foundations of the faith, I tried to emphasize not just important foundations but the importance of teaching foundations. Far from being the job of the least experience staff member, I (not so subtly) suggested that the best and most important gig in the church is the foundations class. That is where your life and words can have the greatest impact.
Steve Murrell on teaching foundations:
“In the early days at our church in Manila, it was easier for a young pastor to get a chance to preach from the pulpit than to teach in the foundations class. I had no problem giving novice preachers the opportunity to preach on Sunday. But when it came to laying foundations, I only wanted seasoned ministers.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“According to the grace of God—which was given to me—like a wise master builder, I laid a foundation and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”
— 1 Corinthians 3:9-13
It’s very easy to begin constructing extensions to our spiritual house that “technically” still rest on the foundation of Jesus Christ but hang far out over the foundation. Below is an example of such a creative building project:
- Proposition #1: God loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us.
- Prop. #2: I am now a child of God and an ambassador for His Kingdom.
- Prop. #3: God want to show the world through us how much He loves them.
(Building project is going pretty well so far…)
- Prop. #4: We are heirs to all the promises of God.
- Prop. #5: Where God guides, He provides.
- Prop. #6: We are to be the head, not the tail.
(And so on, and so on until…)
- Prop. #12: It is God’s will for me to be rich.
- Prop. #13: If you really want God to heal you, you need to give $XXX to my ministry.
- Prop. #14: My minimum fee for preaching at your church is $30,000, a limo, a five star hotel, and a green room with…
To me (and to those who taught foundations to me), propositions #12 through #14 are absurd. However, people who believe those things didn’t begin there. One thing was built upon another until their faith and spiritual house took on that configuration. Eventually, their constructions extended so far out beyond the original foundation that the concept (i.e. prop. #14) could no longer be supported. It’s just too far removed from the foundation. The two options at that point are: 1) demolish that portion of the building, or 2) create some other type of additional support.
And there it is – right there. You have now founded and supported your church, your faith, or your life (represented by what you’ve built) on something other than Jesus Christ. This is precisely the kind of thing that, as Paul said, will be tested by fire at the last judgment.
Even though a new believer will not remember all the details ten years down the road, foundation classes taught thoughtfully and passionately will impart a kind of moral compass or plumb line. The details of your teaching points may be forgotten, but what remains is discernment or a sense of what is right and true (i.e. “true” as in straight, true, and plumb). An inner alarm remains to tell you that you are building outside the foundation.
So, let’s hear a big “hoo-rah” for the foundation class.
Walt Walker is a communications consultant and the editor of Every Nation North America’s News & Updates Online