Building or renovating? Get to the WHY

“The decisions to build or renovate were not economic decisions, nor were they business decisions — these decisions to build were spiritual decisions.”

  • Why do you want to build new ministry facilities? 
  • Why do you desire to renovate these old, tired and outdated sanctuaries and children’s spaces?  
  • Why are you planning to expand your present facilities?

All are valid questions, but the answers might not necessarily be the real reasons why.

“We need more space.” “We want to provide a better environment for our worship.” “We really can’t reach people with the condition of our facility.” These are the most common answers we, as ministry facility designers, hear when we ask the “why” questions.

While these might be accurate and factually correct statements, the real why we build or renovate should be much deeper.

When we look back on the great building projects of the Bible, we see something at the root of each project. Moses was called upon the mountain in Exodus 25 and emphatically told by God, “Have them construct a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, so you shall construct it.”  Nehemiah wrote of his donkey ride around Jerusalem, “I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.”  

What’s the pattern? These building projects were God’s idea, not man’s.

God was putting into the heart of Moses and the heart of Nehemiah what He wanted constructed. The decisions to build or renovate were not economic decisions, nor were they business decisions — these decisions to build were spiritual decisions. There was a clear leading from God. God was about to do something through the people for a purpose greater than they could see.

God was about to take His people on a journey to teach them how He works through them to accomplish His purpose. If you read the story of the tabernacle Moses built, God stirred the hearts of His people to bring every resource needed to construct this beautiful place of gold, silver, bronze and precious fabrics where His presence would dwell. In fact, they had to be asked to stop bringing their offerings. This group of nomads — wandering in the wilderness with no jobs, no homes, no source of revenue — brought more than enough! 

God also provided every skilled worker needed for making every single part of the tabernacle exactly as He designed it. For Nehemiah and those in Jerusalem, God gave the people a mind to work. Even amid ridicule, threats and political challenges, they pressed on to complete the walls. God provided for both projects through His people.

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God was setting up for what He planned to do next. When God put into the heart of Nehemiah to restore the walls of Jerusalem, He was preparing the city for the return of His people. After years of captivity for their previous rejection and rebellion, God was about to bring restoration and revival! Ezra was rebuilding the temple; Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls and God’s people were moving home.  The city of Jerusalem was being restored to its former glory as the place where God and His people dwelt and demonstrated to the world around them the greatness of their God!

Perhaps you are considering, pondering and praying about a new facility, a renovation or an expansion project. Look beyond the need for more space. Look deeper than updating old carpet. Ask God what He wants to do. Seek His face to discover His purpose for the project so that He can provide, and He can lead.

If you look beyond the obvious, God can show you how a building project can result in much more than new bricks and glass. It can take people on a spiritual journey; it can draw out of them purpose they never knew; it can raise their level of faith; it can give them opportunity to experience the miraculous. 

In addition, you will be preparing for what God is planning to do next. Remember that His ways are higher than our ways, and He is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think as His power works in us.  

We might think we know “why” we are building, but get ready, because when we follow God’s leadership in the building process, we often get to see much more than a new building — we get to see changed lives and eternal outcomes.

Rodney C. James, a former pastor, is president and founder of Master’s Plan Church Design & Construction in Tulsa, Okla. 


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