Building mentality

Okay, it’s been awhile and I still haven’t finished my last series of posts on “entitlement,” but I’m going to switch topics for this post. I will continue, I promise, and will even say some positive stuff about pastors.

Our church has just decided to buy a building. It’s a nice building, and a good deal, financially speaking. But, I’m concerned that it will only enforce “ghetto” thinking (or, the “building mentality”) in the church. I’m concerned because that’s already the leadership’s mentality: get people into the building as often as possible.

What they don’t realize is that by getting people into the building, they are pulling people out of homes, and out of neighborhoods, where the “world” is. They think it’s building community; what they also don’t understand is that you don’t build community by putting people into a building. By doing that, the value that is taught is that community happens “in the building,” not in the homes.

Pastors talk alot about community, as well they should. Community is a good thing – an essential thing, for the Church. However, the reason they talk about it so much is because they don’t understand it. The traditional, liturgical church understands that community exists “theologically.” That is, by sheer nature of being “the church,” community exists. Perhaps more on that later.

Today (or tonite, more accurately) is Hallowe’en. And, as usual, our church is having a big “alternative” celebration (that looks exactly like Halloween) and is encouraging us all to come and bring neighbors to the building. Again, they are pulling people away from their neighborhoods, in perhaps what is the best opportunity all year to interact with your neighbors. Imagine, a night when people of all faiths or non-faiths are out walking around, knocking on doors, and giving each other candy! And, what to “church people” do? They run and hide in their buildings.

It’s wrong. We’ve always let our kids trick-or-treat, and for years we’ve walked around with them, meeting neighbors and having fun. Sometimes we serve hot chocolate to the trick-or-treaters. But, we insist on not hiding from our neighborhood, even on this “most evil” of holidays (un-holidays?). We usually end up at the “building” as the kids’ friends are usually there, and they play and have a good time, too. But, we do the neighborhood thing first.

If I were a pastor, I’d want to do everything possible to encourage people to get out of the stupid building and be “Christians” in their neighborhoods. Some pastors agree with me – there are those, for example, who would rather have you stay home from church on Superbowl Sunday and fill your house with non-Christians than hang at the building. It’s radical, I know.

Now, I’m not about to sacrifice any chickens or dance naked under the full moon. It’s way too cold for that in Oregon. But, I will answer my door and give away candy – in fact, I just took a break and did just that.

4 thoughts on “Building mentality”

  1. I’ve had that “tavern” thought for years… I think the coolest thing would be a combination pub & bookstore.

    I wonder why the old-fashioned “coffee houses” don’t work anymore? People seem to prefer the “5-minute relationship” – chat with the barrista who knows your name and your favorite drink, then disappear until the next morning.

  2. Yeah! Flashback, 1975… Hamilton Christian Coffee House… The building: one time bar, last incarnation as a grocery store… now turned into a place where former patrons of the bar, people who were rarely seen outside of church and middle of the road Christians (and MOR heathens; are they the same?) met. Jesus was the reason. No church in a 100 mile radius, could boast that diverse a mix of people on their best Sunday. Regular attenders came from as far away as 50 or 60 miles. Why? The building? No, it was somewhat repulsive, except for the cool sign out front that was a copy of an early Maranatha album cover… I think the biggest attraction was that it wasn’t anything like church. Not the building, not the people… And it felt right (spiritually, not emotionally). That christians and non-christians should be eqully drawn to a place. It was about the Gospel and that people who needed to hear it would enter that building… I think most modern church buildings drive away those that they claim to want to reach. Maybe church should be held at the local tavern.

  3. You express a very real fear in what comes with building ownership. I pray that you maintain your perspective, continue to hear God’s voice, and explore community in… well… community.

    Peace.

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