The call from Haggai, from what we already noted last week, was the restoration of the temple of the Lord. So what does this passage have to do with us in the new year 2012?

We are not confronted with the ruins of a temple in Jerusalem Does his exhortation have any relevance today?

At the very least, Haggai’s message means that we should not be satisfied with worshipping in crumbling and dilapidated church buildings if we ourselves are living in suburban split-level homes or comfortable high-rise apartments that abound with many luxuries.

Without giving in to an “edifice complex” – which erects extravagant structures and leaves the congregation in debt for years to come – we should have facilities of dignity and beauty for the worship of God.

But Haggai’s message clearly goes beyond this. The temple of God in the New Testament refers to God’s people. Like living stones drawn from any cultural quarries, they are built on the firm foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the unifying cornerstone.

The Lord’s own are to become a sanctuary for the indwelling Spirit of God (Eph 2: 20-22; 1 Peter 2:5). Through evangelistic outreach, new stones are added and the temple takes shape.

Through Christian education, nurture, and fellowship, we learn how to fit in with one another as mutually supportive members of the true church.

We should understand Haggai’s call as our summons to build up the church. This is done as we edify one another in love. What good is it to construct a house of worship in Romanesque, Gothic, or Georgian syyle, if we fail to build up people?

Paul emphasized the importance of mutual edification when he wrote about each believer doing his or her part to further the spiritual maturity of others. When that happens, we no longer will be infants, tossed back and forth by the winds and waves of false doctrines (Eph 4:12-16).

Jude, the half-brother of Christ, similarly challenged us to live in a way that differs radically from the death-style of those who are unspiritual and divisive (Jude 20,21).

Do we hear what the Spirit is saying to us through Haggai today? Are we doing something constructive to build up people and rebuild the church?

However much we need places of worship, generous funding and efficient administration, we simply must have more people builders.

Joses, better known as Barnabas, was a wonderful people-builder during the early days of the church.

In Acts, we find him giving willingly for the support of the poor, sponsoring a new convert named Saul of Tarsus, when others treated him with fear or suspicion.

He encouraged the young disciples at Syrian Antioch to persevere, encouraging Paul in his first missionary journey. He followed a course of conciliation when others pushed for confrontation and giving John Mark a second chance to prove himself after a shameful failure.

Barnabas edified churches because he built up people. We may have the buildings, the church boards, the budgets, but where are the sons and daughters of Barnabas?

John Knox applied Haggai’s exhortation to the rebuilding of the church in Scotland during the 16th century. Appropriately known as “the thundering Scot,” Knox vigorously expounded the message of Haggai to call the people to share in the work of restoring the Scottish Kirk.

Whenever the Lord’s spiritual temple is desecrated by heresy, schism, or immorality, Haggaui’s call to reconstruction is always relevant (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Narayan Mitra is pastor of the Merritt Baptist Church and Chaplain at Thompson Rivers University.