Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sell the Church!

I've been blessed to stay with a friend up in New Hampshire over the past few days, and it's been both a fun but also very meditative experience.  One thing I spent time doing was reading some of the first posts I wrote for It's Only A Northern blog back in 2009.  The post that particularly struck me was something I came up with for the by the way community entitled "...with each gift that you share may you heal and repair..."  The title of the post itself is part of a beautiful environmental stewardship called "Changes" by Xavier Rudd, but the substance of the post is about all forms of Christian stewardship.

Stewardship is a much wider concept of course than simply properly using your financial resources.  It also means caring for the environment, for our own bodies, our families and our own borrowed time.  One thing that I've been thinking a whole lot about lately is how stewardship of all these amazing gifts from God functions in our congregations as well as in our own individual lives.

I've had a number of conversations with friends over the last few weeks about how in our increasingly pluralistic and disconnected society, church buildings often get in the way of proper congregational stewardship.  For one, they obviously get in the way of financial stewardship... old, large and perhaps unnecessary buildings cost a lot of money that could otherwise be used towards mission efforts.  Church buildings also frequently represent poor environmental stewardship... those same old buildings waste a lot of energy to cool and heat.  Most importantly though, church buildings often represent poor stewardship of the opportunity we have as believers to be the body of Christ in this world and serve our neighbor.

One can't make blanket statements for sure, as there are more than enough examples of church buildings being essential resources for the towns and cities that surround them.  Frequently though, maintaining and worshiping in beautiful buildings take congregations out of the communities they're meant to minister to... the Church ends up becoming identified with a building rather than the sisters and brothers that make up the body of Christ in this world.

There's a number of ways the "building-free" congregation can work.  This post at Till He Comes makes some helpful suggestions: "Sell Your Church Building."  One might worship in smaller house-church "cells" most weeks and then occasionally get together in a larger location.  Other faith communities could rent out meeting places, helping support a local business or even another congregation.  A group could even regularly meet in local bars and coffee houses, getting out and being visible in the community and learning from them in turn.  Indeed, selling church buildings can end up helping congregations sell the Church itself to a disconnected, pluralistic culture hungry for faith and community.

God's peace,

No comments:

Post a Comment