Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"I Was Wrong about Church Buildings"

I love see The Church continue to explore new Gospel shaped forms. Recently Francis Chan wrestling with the "comfortable substitute" that his church has found itself stuck in. And now Dan Kimball humbly confessing his reactionary response to previous forms.

If you are a part of a church, are the engaging this issue? What does it look like in your context?


Anna said...

The Catholic Church has a very long tradition of trying to build beautiful churches. I think medieval churches with their stained glass windows depicting Scripture stories and intricate art are designed to lift people's hearts and minds out of "ordinary day" mode and into a higher worship of God.

Then in the 60s and 70s, the Church went through a period where, for various reasons (like the we-should-be-using-this-money-for-the-poor reason), people tried to shift church buildings to simpler, less-decorated spaces (taking out stained glass windows and the like). And now there is a counter-reaction going on with people (especially the younger and more conservative set) bemoaning ugly and uninspiring church buildings.

A la John 12:1-7 or the Old Testament command to build the Temple with gold and riches, or the Cain/Abel story about giving your best to God, I would say that sometimes putting our money towards glorifying God by making beautiful the place we worship Him in, can be Scriptural. Where it becomes dangerous is when we use the money going into church buildings not for God but for ourselves.

I would say that there is no one simple answer for what every church congregation should do with their spaces or how to balance building improvements with other obligations like feeding the poor, except to ask God and follow where he leads. This is one of those things where two different true principles appear to conflict with each other, and the only solution I know of is to believe that God is talking to you and listen for his answer.

I would say that one difference I sense in listening to Catholics talk about buildings and listening to Protestants talk about buildings is that Catholics are more likely to have an incarnational view of it. We see the incarnation - God becoming man - as an affirmation of the goodness of the physical nature of man. We are body and soul together, and the two are not cut off from each other. So what we do with physical things affects and is an expression of what is going on with us spiritually. Protestants seem a little more likely to talk about buildings in practical terms rather than seeing them as an expression of our spiritual lives? (Although that's just a subjective impression).

DK said...

Great thoughts Anna! Thank you for sharing! Being largely in Protestant circles, I really appreciate the values you speak of within the Catholic Church.