1.1 What’s the Theology?
This section looks at why buildings play an important role in the life of a Church, and why they are often the source of such pain.
The argument is often made (particularly among Evangelicals) that ‘Church is all about the people, so we shouldn’t invest in our buildings.’ Indeed some would say it is positively wrong to lavish money on buildings, because our focus should be out in the community, and one can make church anywhere ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name’. Yet in practice we live in a climate where we need buildings for shelter. We can rent space – often a school hall – but many churches find the weekly effort in set up and break down itself becomes a drag on their life together.
So we would say that Church is all about the people, and for that very reason buildings are hugely important. Why? Because of what it means to be human – the way God has made us. A building gives a Church a visible footprint on the ground. Those around us know where to find us when they need us. So buildings are also about identity, the Church literally ‘having a place’ in your local community.
Just as a person’s face can speak volumes about their state of mind and character, so a church building as the Church’s public face speaks volumes about the life within, or perhaps the lack of it. Sadly many church buildings are overly serious, or drab and uninviting, or even abandoned, while others affirm you and draw you into the joyful celebration within. God invites everyone to his party, and our buildings are a visible part of that invitation (or not…). Buildings can never do this on their own – the test of the invitation is the love and care of the people within. But nor are these buildings ever neutral and passive. Your church building is a bit like your partner in a dance – if either of you drags your feet you’re both likely to fall over.
The Start Of A Journey
Buildings are often painful because they demand that we put down roots, that we commit, in this case to being God’s people in this particular place. But they also need to be flexible enough to change, because you can guarantee that what the Church needs from its buildings today will have changed with the next generation. If your church is considering a major building project you are on the threshold of an exciting journey, and one which will not finish with the completion of the building work – that will just be the first chapter in an ongoing story. But even in that first chapter, you should be prepared to grow and change as you create the new home for your ministry that God is calling you to.