Building the Church

I wonder what our landscape would look like if churches invested the same foresight, planning and intensity in building their new facilities as they exercise in obeying the Great Commission.

Our church is building a new church building. We have spent years preparing for this event. We have focused on building unity and community and preached on whole-life stewardship. We have spent countless hours investigating and purchasing property. We have undertaken a three-year capital giving campaign. We have drawn multiple sets of plans and hired a series of engineers, consultants, designers, architects, contractors, and builders.

Our staff and elders have worried and prayed and organized and debated the plans for building a facility for worship and outreach. We have repeatedly painted the picture of the ministry that will be possible in the new facility. And every week we ask our people to give extra time to help in the construction and the move. The current plan is to have not only a facility for worship but for sports ministry, a music institute, and a day care center.

Our church leaders have labored long and hard over the best facility to serve our community in the interests of attracting people and making disciples.Our people have given sacrificially in time and money to make it possible.

It makes me wonder where the Church would be in world evangelization if local churches approached the Great Commission with the same degree of commitment and diligence.

Alternatively, I'm trying to picture what the American church landscape would look like if local churches went about building their new facilities in the same way that most of us undertake our part of reaching the world beyond our community.

I will sketch how we might go about building new churches if we did it like we do world missions and you picture the results.

The church would select a weekend (or perhaps even a week) once each year to promote the building process. Special banners would be hung. An outside speaker would come in to explain the need for a building and exhort the people to give for the new church. There would be a potluck dinner. Additional meetings would be held during the week, pretty much the same as in past years, attended by a small minority of the congregation. And a special offering or faith commitment would be taken. Most people would find this weekend considerably boring and somewhat uncomfortable but perhaps necessary. After this one weekend, little would be heard about the building campaign until the following year.

During the special weekend, someone might feel called of God to become part of the construction team. If that person persisted in this direction, they probably would go away to construction school for a year or two, during which time many in the congregation would lose touch with them. Then they would come back to the church and ask the church to help finance their work on building a new church. The church might, if the budget allowed, provide some financial support for this worker who would be seconded to a construction contractor. The individual would then spend a year or more soliciting funding from other churches and individuals to provide for his income while he worked on the new building.

The contracting firm would decide where to build the new building and design it. Because contracting firms tend to work where there are already a number of churches, most new buildings would be clustered in those locations.

The church would be informed of construction progress through periodic newsletters and an occasional visit from their own construction worker. During the several years of construction, many would forget about their worker and some would move on to other churches. A handful would pray periodically and a few diehards would pray faithfully for the new building and the people who would be won to Christ. New people would come to the church and not discover that a new church was being built. Some of the letters reporting on construction progress and obstacles would be posted on an obscure bulletin board. Few would read the letters and probably no one from the church would go visit the construction site.

At the discretion of the construction firm, the church's worker might be reassigned to another construction site at any time. The church might be informed prior to, or after the fact or not at all. For most of the congregation this would not be a significant matter.

If the worker could not obtain sufficient funds to support himself during the construction project, he might have to abandon the work. The people of the congregation (those who remembered him) would probably feel sorry for him and might try to help him out, but the significance of his lack of work on construction of the new church would probably escape them.

Very few people in the congregation would be concerned whether or not the building was actually completed and whether anyone came there to worship. Perhaps no one would pray for the people who might be won to Christ by the congregation meeting in the new building.

So, you tell me. What would the landscape look like?

And what would it look like if church leaders were as dedicated to building the Church globally as they are to building new facilities in their own communities?