Monday, December 01, 2008

On Buildings

Moving to America meant a lot of cultural changes, but one is a lot more obvious than many others...It's the first church i've ever been a member of that has had it's own building, which is interesting given that the south east of England isn't that far removed culturally from the Bible belt. Well, when compared to Africa and south east Asia anyway.

I think buildings are helpful but dangerous for churches, and i think both of these are illustrated by this coming wednesday.

This wednesday night we have the normal adult meeting, a full dress rehearsal for saturday's Christmas play, teen church and our kids programme. It's very cool, and illustrates why buildings are helpful. The dress rehearsal will be in the sanctuary (i don't like calling it that but 'the big room with pews' is less catchy somehow), the kids programme as normal in the fellowship hall on the other side of the parking lot, the teens upstairs in the teen room, and whoever is left over in one of the sunday school rooms. To be able to hold four different, differing meetings on one site is excellent. It's cheap and it's unifying. Good. Thank you buildings.

It's also dangerous as anything. We, I, can be so sucked into the thought that God only operates where there is a pulpit, good lighting and a baptism pool. That the 'sanctuary' is God's place, the holy of holies, and the sunday school rooms are just the outer courts, behind the curtain, away from the Glory. That thought couldn't be much more muddle headed could it? What sort of a God is that? 

Will wednesday evening be less special because there are fewer people than normal and we're not where we normally are? No. Should i preach the end of Titus 2 differently because i'll be behind a lectern not in a pulpit? What a stupid question. And yet, somewhere in my heart these questions flickered as we discussed this all in our staff meeting this morning. And thats not good. This is all without even considering the question of whether buildings make 'going to church' the same as 'going to walmart'.

Of course, the problem is not bricks and mortar. The problem is my heart. My sinful heart that loves prestige and security and nice lighting and a dozen other attendant things that i haven't even though of. Like so much, buildings are neutral. Sometimes we use them for very, very good things. Sometimes our hearts make them ugly, sometimes our hearts make them a functional god.

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