Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Some Thoughts on Church Buildings

I am in and out of lots of different church buildings each week as I make visits for Manuelito Navajo Children's Home. It is obvious that Churches of Christ have been in the midst of a building boom over the past decade, or so. I am surprised at the number of new facilities I am seeing. I am impressed by the architecture and practicality of these new structures. It is obvious that there is an intent to make church buildings attractive, accessible, and usable throughout the week and for a variety of activities, and not just Sunday worship. But, I do have some observations to make.

  • To build a church building on the same block as another church building seems wrong to me. You've seen such places, where two or more churches are located on the same intersection. I've seen more than one intersection that has a church facility built on each corner! Does this sight not send a negative message to the community at large? It is certainly not a picture of unity. It is too much like the sight of competing filling stations or fast food restaurants and presents an image of the church that is not consistent with the Gospel.

  • A church building without windows is one of the most unattractive sights I see. Maybe I'm being too particular, but a church without windows suggests one thing to me . . . a group that is closed off from the world about it. Or, put another way, a group that is closed-minded and unwilling to look beyond itself. Now, I know, that architecture is not necessary a reflection on theology, but perception . . . the analysis of those looking at us . . . is important. A church without windows (and a hard to find, or unwelcoming entryway, by the way) is uninviting to outsiders.

  • A church facility that is left to deteriorate and is unkempt suggests a lot to people passing by. A dead lawn, as superficial a thing as that is, communicates . . . and not positively. A few flowers and a kept lawn can brighten up a place as much as, and perhaps more than, a multi-million dollar face lift!

  • When the church building supplants the home as a center of activity, then I think something is wrong. I know many churches where the vast majority of fellowship activities are held at the church campus, so much so that families are no longer entertaining others in their houses. I grew up in a large congregation with a large building, including a youth center that would accommodate a hundred people. And, we had many activities there, BUT the activities I looked forward to were the ones held in someones home. Those Sunday night devotionals hosted by various families were some of my favorite youth group activities. Sadly, it seems that in many places such activities are a thing of the past. There's a point where our buildings become too practical.

  • It is sad, and I believe sinful, when a congregation mortgages their mission obligations to build a new meeting place. I know of so many evangelistic and benevolent works that have lost much needed support because some church wanted to build a gymnasium. I believe God mourns over these frivolous choices.

I have been in many multi-million dollar places of worship, BUT my favorite places to worship include a rustic log chapel at Pine Springs Youth Camp and a lakeside amphitheater at Camp Blue Haven. I love the words of Jesus, "Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18.20). (Yes, I acknowledge that the immediate context of this statement is not worship, but there certainly is a principle implied that guides our worship.)