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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Missional Week in Review, August 6-12, 2012: Church Buildings

My parents live in a retirement community in Florida. It's big, it's pretty infamous (books have been written about it), and 90% of the people living there are over 55. Most are retired, although I have met quite a few people over the years who still work. But the place is hardly a beehive of industry. Anyhow, my mom was telling me the other day about all the congregations in the community that are in building programs. The list included 16 that she knew of...the town has 50,000 full-time residents, and they have 16 different building programs for religious communities going on at the same time??? Color me impressed...or, actually, color me "What else is new?"

My parents generation built church buildings. My Dad can rattle off capital campaigns for church buildings that he has been a part of that is as long as his arm...I know every time I have been involved in one, we have looked to my parents' generation for leadership. Those folks sure know how to build buildings.

I think about that because I have never heard of people who write blogs writing about their experiences with building buildings. I am sure a few have, but I can't recall anything...usually we write about God, church-stuff (not the building unless it is backdrop for a story), or Jesus, or politics, or culture, or anything...yet, one of the greatest Christian legacies is its buildings. Even those European cathedrals that now house artistic events or are historical monuments, are still a testament to God's people in a particular time and place.

But in our Lutheran tradition we distinguish between "community" and "building" when talking about Church. And I think most people do these days as well...if the stuff I read about is half of what is going on there is a lot of Church happening without buildings. One of my friends shared a great part of his life in a comment on the July 16 post (read below), and that kind of stuff happens all the time.

I remember one time walking into a 1/2 completed sanctuary we were building with the Treasurer of the Building program. Harry and I looked at the immensity of its space, its towering rafters, its mammoth entrance doors, and he looked at me and smiled. What, I said? Well, he mused, if this church thing doesn't work out, at least we'll have a great place to store hay.

Sanctuary=Barn, sanctuary=barn, and nowadays, barn=sanctuary, barn=sanctuary.

The mission shift (I love that phrase by Steve Knight) comes about because a great many young people do not have to worry about where to worship--their grandparents took care of that. And when the now 20 and 30-years old get aged enough to move down to Florida, apparently, there will be church buildings waiting for them there too.

I've spent my entire theological and pastoral career dealing with the residual effects of my parents' generation's understanding of Christianity. I have battled an inability to have spiritual direction, an overt formality imposed upon community, and their insistent intractability toward change...and I have done it all in their buildings.

If you have a building where you worship, one of the most missional things you can do these days is give thanks that someone once was there to build it for you. Now, granted, you have to maintain it, update it (I will do a whole blog someday on how to retro 19th Century buildings for Internet ministry), and--most importantly--cherish its builders, no matter how far in the past they are. Because just like us and our wi-fis and blogs and microphones and movie screens, those folks were trying to be with God too.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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