When they built our house eight years ago, I remember being fascinated by the bricklayers. There was an absurdly beautiful and oddly choreographed dance of productivity. No one even had to speak, they just moved. I am still in awe of their ability to put up a wall in so short a time span.
Watching them work I noticed an interesting development among the workers. There were sometimes 3 and sometimes 4 men working on each wall. One of the men, I assume the newbie, was tasked with one thing, hauling bricks. He had to stay ahead of the other guy who was actually responsible for laying the bricks. Another guy was responsible for keeping the mortar in good supply, and then there was this other fellow.
At first he didn’t appear to do much, at least not as much as the others. Instead of a shovel, brick cart, or mortar bucket, he was outfitted with string and a level. He didn’t talk very much, but it was apparent he was in charge.
Some time later I spoke with a bricklayer friend of mine and asked him to explain the division of labor I had witnessed. “Oh,” he said, “that’s simple. He’s the Corner Man. Every job needs a good corner man. He sets the corners and everything else is built off of them. If the corner is off, the whole wall will be off. You NEED a good corner man.”
In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul explains how Gentiles are no longer considered strangers but fellow citizens with the children of Israel. Verses 19 and 20 read …
So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
Ephesians 2:20 (CSB)
These new believers were being invited into something not only special, but something solid. It was built on a foundation of those who had gone before, those apostles and prophets who had developed the early phases of this thing we call the New Testament Church. The greater comfort, though, is that the building had not only a good corner man, but the greatest of all time. In fact, the cornerstone Himself was the most solid and true thing to ever be.
Just like on my house, once the corner was set, the other foundation elements could follow. Since the corner was set correctly, the walls would be sure and straight … provided they were always in line with the corner.
When I watched the men build my wall I noticed another pattern. The corner man took particular care to get his setup just right. He set the first stone carefully, slowly, methodically. Then, he put these strange string guidelines that ran vertically from the base and horizontally from the corner, all tying back to that first stone.
Once the corner was set and the guides were in place and true, the lesser trained men could work at what seemed a feverish pace, so long as they stayed within the lines the corner man had placed for them. They were allowed freedom to flourish within the confines of the corner.
Like the Gentiles of Ephesians 2, we have been invited into something fantastic, something gloriously solid and true. Jesus, that same stone the Psalmist says was rejected by the builders, serves as not just the cornerstone, but the Chief cornerstone. He is the marker for all the other corners that would come after. He is the True One, He sets the standard by which we build this thing called the church. He is our Corner Man, so to speak.
If you are a pastor, elder, or any type of leader in the church, what kind of corner man are you? Can others work freely within the guides you have laid for them? Are your lines straight because they are set to the angle of the Corner? Or have you gone your own way, set your own corner, and deployed your own guides?
Anyone can be taught to lug bricks, and maybe even lay them down in a predetermined course, but every solid wall needs a good corner man or everything goes wonky. Likewise, every church needs a team of great corner folks. Just like the fellow at my house knew the others depended on his work to be right before theirs could be successful, so are the leaders in our congregations. If others are “laying spiritual bricks” on your guidelines, be sure they are painstakingly tied to the Corner.