How long does it take to build a church?
182 years. It took 182 years to construct the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.
182 years is a long time. It probably felt like a dreadfully long time to workers in Year eight or nine of the project. It must have seemed like it was going to take forever. By the time Year 50 rolled around, how many of the original workers had retired? How many lifetimes did it take to complete this church-building work? Finally, the people in 1345 AD got to see the completed structure.
How long does it take to build a church? Not the church-structure, but the church-church. The people. How long does it take to build a congregation?
One year to explore the field. Another year to plant the first seeds and assemble a core group. A third year to plan and execute a launch. By year five, that mission is off and running. By year 6 or 7 or 10, that mission is standing on its own two feet. Time to move on to the next one.
Praise God when that timetable works out! Praise God for the mission starts that “catch” quickly like a spark in tinder and flare up into a roaring fire!
Praise God also for the “slow-burning” missions. Praise God for the church-building work that follows a cathedral-like timetable. Praise God for the missions that take lifetimes to grow.
If you are building a cathedral, stopping to measure your progress every few minutes only makes the goal feel out of reach. The row of stones set in place seems pitifully small. The edifice pictured in the building plan seems impossibly large.
Instead, let the builders just keep building. Let gospel work proceed at a steady pace. Let each living stone built on the foundation of Christ and his Word be set in place carefully and lovingly, yet urgently. Let the pace of the workers be diligent and energetic. And then…let the progress of the work rest in the hands of God.
Finally, in God’s good time, after all the halting human labor by frail human hands is finished, we will get to see the completed masterpiece that God himself constructed.
To Him alone be glory!
Home Missionary David Boettcher serves the dual-parish mission of St. John’s, Wetaskiwin, and Mighty Fortress, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, which plans to become self-supporting in 2022. For the many years of mission subsidy, these Christians are grateful for the patient and generous support through WELS Home Missions and the many members who have donated to Christ’s church. Thank you!
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