What happens when good intentions bump up against biblical examples? Specifically related to the church, what happens when an idea based in good intentions meets in scripture an example that is completely different? How should we handle this?
Let's take an example: the construction of large church buildings.
What happens when a church, after much prayer, believes that they are led by the Holy Spirit to construct a new building of some kind? It could be an addition to what they already have or a completely new gathering facility. Either way, the outlay of money is significant but the reason is to minister to both the church body and the surrounding community. Let's say the church doesn't even have to take out a mortgage but instead pays for it in cash (unlikely these days). The new building is constructed with only good intentions.
When we look in the bible we never see a church construct a building in which to gather. The early church met occasionally in the temple and Paul gathered with believers in the Hall of Tyrannus. However, the general practice, especially outside of Jerusalem, was to meet in homes. Also, please note that those buildings were not constructed by churches. They already existed.
What do we do in this situation? A church, with good intentions, believes that the Holy Spirit has led them to construct a new building. They believe this so much that they even have a special service "dedicating the building to God." They are determined to serve both the saved and lost through the new edifice. Meanwhile, the scriptures never hint that churches should build gathering places. Instead the model is generally home meetings, with occasional gatherings in pre-existing buildings.
In this situation we actually have a contradiction: a well-intentioned building project contrasting with no new buildings in the bible. What do we do with this? Must we follow the model we see in scripture, or are we free to do what we feel led to do? What if they contradict each other? Are the differences simply cultural and therefore unimportant, or are we to learn something from what the original church was doing?
These are important questions that need to be answered. I think we all agree that either extreme is absurd and incorrect. On the one hand we can't simply say that we have good intentions and/or say that the Holy Spirit led us, and then proceed to do blatantly unbiblical things (such as embrace false gospels or gross immorality). On the other hand, we also don't have to follow the biblical model so exactly that we move to Israel or Greece, wear loose fitting garments, and read from scrolls.
But what do we do when the situation is, for lack of a better term, somewhat gray? For example, what about buildings?
I believe we must begin with what we know for certain. We know that the early church did not construct buildings. They seem to have had more than simply pragmatic reasons for this. Small gathering places led more naturally to community in Christ. Also, they were then free to give to the poor instead of a building fund. In the end, we know they didn't build church buildings.
What about those who say that they have good intentions, prayed about it, and were led by the Holy Spirit to build their new edifice? My question to them is, "How do you know what the Spirit led you to do?" If they say that they "just knew," then I start to really have doubts. If they say that they were all in agreement, I could respond by saying that groups can make wrong decisions. If they say that the felt positive about it, I could say that I feel negative. This becomes extremely subjective.
We need to remember that the Holy Spirit inspired scripture and has given us all we need to know in scripture (for faith and practice). The Spirit testifies to the truths of scripture.
In making decisions, we need to look somewhere objective. We have that in the bible.
(There are certainly areas of freedom in this life that are not specifically addressed in scripture. I think the use of alcohol, for example, is one of these. It is not directly addressed in scripture - use not abuse - so we have freedom there. In this post I'm talking about what is directly modeled for us).
When good intentions bump up against the biblical model, I'll go with the biblical model. As for the construction of church buildings, it really doesn't matter what people's intentions are or how they feel about it. Those buildings go directly against what we have modeled for us in the bible. The bible is objective in that we can read it and understand it. We may disagree on its interpretation, but we can still comprehend it.
Intentions must bow before scripture both in what is commanded and modeled. Otherwise, almost any issue can become subjective and lead to all sorts of damaging conclusions.