Yesterday on Out of Ur, author, pastor and all-around swell guy Dan Kimball recanted of his earlier belief that church buildings are nothing more than a drain on resources and propagate consumer Christianity.
My anti-building phase was a reaction to having seen so much money spent on church facilities, often for non-essential, luxury items. I was also reacting to a philosophy of ministry that treated church buildings like Disneyland; a place consumers gather for entertainment. But these abuses had caused me to unfairly dismiss the potential blessing of buildings as well.
Understandably, there are a lot of people who feel this way. It can become very easy to see the church building as the goal, rather than a tool to be used to forward the gospel in our communities. And that was the thing that helped Dan see the value of the building:
When we planted our church in 2004, we needed a place to meet. We found a very traditional church building that had a sizable “fellowship hall” originally used only for donuts and coffee on Sundays. Wanting to use the building differently, we converted the fellowship hall into a public coffee lounge featuring music and art from the outside community. The Abbey, as it’s now called, is open seven days a week and offers free internet access.
Just yesterday I was in The Abbey and saw about 20 people, not part of our congregation, studying and hanging out. (During finals week I counted 90 students packed into the place.) While there I talked to a brand new Christian who has been coming to our gatherings. He found out about our church from a Buddhist friend. His friend loves coming to The Abbey and recommended our church because he trusted us.
We’ve also used our building to serve our community in times of crisis. When wildfires forced nearby residents to flee their homes, our building became an overnight refuge for those without a place to stay.
These missional opportunities would not be possible without a building.
I know there are a lot who would disagree with me, but a building is important. Not because it’s a status simple or an indicator that a church has arrived (wherever the destination may be), but because it’s a wonderful and helpful tool to further the name of Christ in our communities when used well.