Len Sweet loves to use his newfangled words (“chaordic” – huh?), but
he is onto something. The early church was a MOVEMENT in many
respects; the contemporary church, in even its most contemporary
manifestations, I fear (Willow Creek, Saddleback, etc.) is an
INSTITUTION. That’s not a massive criticism; institutions fit our
20th century paradigm. But a movement implies…well…MOVEMENT!
The ability to act and react and change and morph and not get caught
up in so much stinking red tape. I am not arguing against order; I
believe in it. But I am suggesting that it’s time to swing the
pendulum back the other way.
Should churchfuture entangle itself in building programs? I don’t
think that the answer is “no”, but I think that the answer is
certainly “not necessarily”. For my money, the answer is stronger
than that: “not unless there is a compelling reason” to tie up so
much money/time/effort into building buildings.
Look, all across the world there are thousands of churches that
ought to go out of business, right? Either their theology is
heretical, or they have lost all sense of purpose, or whatever.
Gazillions of man-hours and dollars are tied up…no, WASTED…in
perpetuating these mausoleums. Is God glorified by this? The other
week, one of our district churches closed. In a real sense, I
mourned this; I know the pastor, a great guy, and his family; I hurt
for them in coming to this decision. But you know what? In a real
sense, that’s not all a tragedy, IF the church wasn’t viable. All
around the world, dead horses are being flogged mercilessly in order
to attempt to revive them and, while God bless those pastors and
people who are successful in raising the dead (in those few and far
between instances when that happens), I wonder if we ought to treat
the death of a church as that bad a thing, IF in fact resources can
be better used in new works that WORK. And I think that one of (not
the only, granted) the reasons why this happens is because we have a
building (and in worse cases, a graveyard) and we keep things going
just so we can…keep things going…because we have a building,
don’t you know?
I said all THAT to say THIS: if we get back to MOVEMENT thinking
instead of INSTITUTION thinking, then at least we’ll be open to the
idea that leasing/renting, far from being a negative (“we’re
throwing money down the DRAIN, pastor!”) will be seen as a positive,
potentially. I’m not saying that building programs are going to
never be necessary–in many situations, it will likely be
unavoidable; I’d just like to a.) get people out of the mindset that
we “have to have a building that LOOKS like a church” (whatever in
the heck THAT means), and b.) get to the idea that the church can
flex with whatever the need of the hour is in ways that the
institutional church really cannot. Plus, in an increasingly
litigious society, with lawsuits more and more being aimed at
churches, a “lighter, leaner” church makes a less inviting target.
The whole building program thing is just ONE arena that I think
needs to be rethought in light of Sweet’s words; I think that this
concept ought to extend to many other areas of thinking as well.
This is just one that is on my mind currently.