When I came to Kingston I saw my task as building up the group of people that met in the building that was called St. James Anglican church. In my first year I tried to visit every home on the congregational list, those in hospital, and the forty or fifty older people who could not make it out to the Sunday services. I worked hard at the sermon I was to preach on Sunday and as much Bible teaching as I was able to give on other occasions. I also conducted large numbers of funerals, weddings, and baptisms for any who were in any way connected with the congregation.
I got the idea that success was measured by how many attended each week and the offerings that they gave. I was building up St. James' church in that building, and I don't think it occured to me that it was Jesus, the Son of God who was building his one church in the city.
In any big business corporation success depends on the CEO (the Chief Executive Officer) having a clear idea of what he intends to do. He also needs the ability to impart that purpose to every single person from the Vice-Presidents down to those working on the line. Without that, the organization flounders and fails.
In our case as Christians, Jesus is the Chief Executive Officer of our business. He had said to Joseph and Mary "I must be engaged in the things of my Father" (Luke 2:49 literal translation). That was appropriately translated "I must be about my Father's business" (KJV). When it finally dawned on Peter who Jesus was, he said "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." As a result Jesus picked him as the first living stone of the world-wide temple he intended to build. "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:15-18).
When he wrote his Epistle Peter was very conscious that it was Jesus who had called him and many others to be part of this building. "Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah (1 Peter 2:4-5). Unlike human temples, this temple is located in and permeates the life of every city in the world.
That reminds us that our CEO did not suddenly begin his work among Christians in the New Testament. A thousand years before that he was described in the Psalms as the Messiah King, the Lord of Hosts, Sovereign Judge among the nations. In the Prophets he was pictured as intervening from time to time in terrible judgment when a nation failed to care for the poor and oppressed, widows and orphans, and foreigners who come to live among them (see Advent Comings of the Lord among the Nations). He also exercised fierce wrath on Baal worship and false religions that misrepresented his love and compassion.
Similarly when the Pharisees and Sadducees had been excluding people, Jesus warned them that they had made the temple into a den of thieves (Matthew 21:13). So he said that in that generation, within the lifetime of his hearers, he would come and destroy the temple in Jerusalem and its religious establishment (Matthew 23:35-36, 24:34).
Instead of thinking I was building up St.James Anglican Church, I should have seen that it is our CEO, the Messiah, who is building his church in this city according to his vision, and in his own way.
When a company is small the CEO can have physical contact with each person in the organization. But as it grows other means of communication are needed. This used to be done by hundreds of memos sent out on paper to every department in the organization. These days the CEOs of big organizations in Kingston (like Alcan or Dupont, Kingston General Hospital, or the Royal Military College) convey their vision to every person by computer.
But instead of using paper memos, telephones, or computers our CEO leaves it to the Holy Spirit to guide, inspire, and empower every member of the Messiah's church in this city. "The Advocate (Latin advocatus, one called alongside), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you" (John 14:26). "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come" (John 16:13). This means that communication within the church is done by a Person, the third Person of the Trinity, who knows just how to communicate the vision of our CEO in a way that each can understand. We will come back to the importance of this in the final chapter.
In addition to this continual very personal activity of the Holy Spirit, every Christian has the right to talk personally to the CEO himself any hour of the day or night about any aspect of our business. He wants to hear our concerns, he involves us in his plans, and he delights in our suggestions and prayers for the work. For our personal and family needs we can also talk to God the Father like a little child calling out "Abba" (Daddy, Romans 8:15).
Evidently our access to the three Persons of the Trinity needs no special words, or rituals, or any kind of intermediary to help us. Many good things are done by the traditional church organizations, but they do not have the monopoly for Jesus' work in this city. He directs our activity by the Holy Spirit, and to do that he may guide groups of Christians to organize in many different ways for the purpose that he has in mind.