I just watched a series of online videos produced by the large, downtown church where I grew up explaining their plans to tear down their facilities and spend about $130 MILLION to rebuild an entire state-of-the-art worship "complex" with glass towers and every amenity you can imagine. The aim of the video was certainly to show you the need for renovation and I'm sure they wouldn't mind a few "oohs" and "aahs" along the way. :)
After watching the videos, there's no doubt it'll be a HUGE transformation. But to me, the transformation looked like one of taking a beautiful, historic, and architecturally-rich church building... into something more like a glass airport terminal. (they even called it the "concourse") :)
As you watch the videos, they take you through the plans of this new church campus. The new "worship center" (the outside is similar to the lack-luster shape of a pencil eraser) will seat 3,000 people and be equipped with all the highest and latest technology. I noticed the HUGE screen that will wrap itself around the back of the 300-person choir loft-- it looked like the screens that wrap around brand new football stadiums and light up when there's a touchdown. A bright, neon blue sign said "WORSHIP" (could potentially be visible from space, I think). :)
But is all of this transformation really what will make churches "relevant" and "dynamic"? Is this what the next generation really wants? Those of you who are skeptics, do you say, "I'd LOVE to come to your church, IF I can expect the same level of entertainment I get at the movie theater!"
Do we forget what we're even about sometimes?!
The Lord Jesus Christ HIMSELF was born in a cattle trough. It was dirty. (Don't you think He was making a point by doing that?) King Jesus reached the world without even a place to lay his head at night! He rode on a donkey. He came to preach good news to the poor and called them blessed. I think the whole point of the GOSPEL and the whole point of our Christian faith is that Jesus, who is all majesty & glory & richness, STOOPED DOWN to become poor so that in Him we might become rich.
The young people I know & this new generation of postmoderns are eager for history. By the droves, they are leaving much of the "hype" of the mega-churches to find fulfillment in smaller places where they find true, deep community with others. They are longing for deeper meaning and for connections to historical things. They want substance over fluff. They want genuineness and authenticity over entertainment. Many would prefer small and REAL as opposed to something large and fake.
And I know that's not everyone. There's certainly plenty of people who will flock to this new facility. But is that really what it takes to produce a Christ-follower? And what kind of Christ-followers will it produce? (comfort-seekers? entertainment-seekers? or Christ-seekers?) Do people need a high-powered concert for church on Sunday, or do people need things like a community, a pastor to sit across the table from them, deep truths that will carry them through their pain, a place where they can find encouragement for their weary souls, and be reminded of the beauty of Christ's work on their behalf? People need the means of grace-- the preaching/teaching of the Word, prayer, sacraments, and the fellowship with the saints.
And I don't think "bigger is always better" to find those things.
All of this kinda reminds me of the same mentality behind parents trying to buy their kids' affection. Don't you want to stay with me? I've got a flat screen! I've got a big pool outside! (in the case of the church- how'd you like to be baptized in the outdoor pool? We've got plasma TVs and Guitar Hero for all the kiddos and comfortable seating for everyone!)
But the Bible says the best way to reach people (including your kids!) is with deeds of love and mercy. Love them. Go to where they are. Sit with them. Talk to them. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Give to them. Lovingly speak truth to them. Share your very life with them.
May all churches be places that don't have to build glass walls so people can see in--but where people go out into every area of the city to bring people in. May we be focused more on people than fancy buildings. May Christ’s transforming presence be felt ALL over the city as our people go out to love and serve it. May we be willing to make ourselves nothing (like our sweet Jesus did for US!) and be more concerned with bringing God glory.