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  • Don Walker

Cathedral Thinking


The 12th century began a wave of cathedral building throughout Europe. Magnificent large cathedrals were built for the glory of God and the prestige of the cities. These mammoth building projects, without the benefit of modern construction equipment, were a tremendous feat. Cathedral vaults reached heights of 80 to 160 feet. The spires and towers could be twice that height.


Not only did it require vast amounts of material resources; it was a task that would take many years to complete. The average cathedral took 80 years to complete and some took over 200 years of continuous labor. (The current St. Peter's Basilica in Rome required 150 years of work to complete by 1656. More so - the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, with its two great bell towers, each bursting more than 500 feet skyward, required 350 years of work spanning six centuries.)


It involved a generational effort. The generation that began the cathedral would not live to see it through to completion. The first generation passed on their building skills and in many instances their tools, to the next generation, which did the same to the third generation, so that there was an unbroken continuity in the construction. The first generation hired the architect, who not only designed the building, but also supervised its construction.


The vision of that first generation would only come into reality long after they were gone. They labored in faith, believing that the “seed” they were sowing would ultimately grow to maturity. They passed on the responsibility of the vision to the next generation. They built into their children a reverence for the task, and a sense of meaning and purpose. They imparted to their children a vision that would govern their lives.


In order to build a cathedral, there had to be “cathedral thinking.” They had a “long range vision” that saw into the future and shaped their daily lives. They did not live for the present, but lived for the future in the present. They laid down their “today” in order to pick up their “tomorrow.” They sacrificed the present for the future. A future they would only see from the “grandstand” of heaven. But they believed that the task that they were involved in was worth the blood, sweat, and tears.


The Church today needs an infusion of “cathedral thinking,” not for the purpose of building earthly cathedrals, but for the building of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 28:19). The Great Commission is a generational project. We must think generationally. We must pass on the “building skills” that we have acquired to the next generation. We must impart to our children, both natural and spiritual, a vision that will govern their lives and provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose. We must labor in faith realizing that we may never see our vision fully realized in our lifetime.


Take note of these concluding words from what has been referred to as the “faith” chapter of the Bible: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us so that apart they would not be made perfect” [Greek word – teleios meaning “complete’] (Heb. 11:39-40)


Cathedral thinking enables us to press ahead despite setbacks, and what seems to be the slowness of progress. We have what has been described as a “long haul” approach to life rather than an “instant, quick-fix” mentality. We have the ability to run the race with endurance (Heb. 12:1). The race we have been called to run is a marathon not a fifty–yard dash.


Cathedral thinking means that we must live strategically, rather than simply “day-to-day.” We must manage our resources and prepare for the future. We must leave an “inheritance” for the next generation. We must prepare the next generation to receive the “baton” from the current generation. This is exactly what Scripture admonishes to do. Paul instructed Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (II Tim. 2:2).


Due to an over-emphasis on the return of Christ, the Church has for the most part lost its ability to think long-term. We are plagued with a “short-timers” mentality that says, “we are getting out of here soon.” This has hindered the Church from building generationally. We seem to be only able to function in what is called in football a “hurry-up offense.”


It is my prayer that the Church will return to “cathedral thinking” and once again begin to build with the future generations in mind. xk��潃 �

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