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Architectural Evangelism – Part 2

March 7, 2011

Disney's Magic KingdomIn my last post (Architectural Evangelism – Part 1) I talked about why some people think church can’t (or shouldn’t) be fun. In this post I’m addressing another argument that asks, why do churches try to make their sites “fun” instead of holding church where people already want to go and are already having fun.

I think that’s actually a great idea when it is allowed, and many innovative church planters are already doing that. People like Mark Batterson at National Community Church have been taking churches into movie theaters for years. Other churches have opened in community centers, public squares, schools, coffee shops, and even bars and nightclubs.

There is no shortage of churches willing to go where people enjoy, but unfortunately there is a limit to the availability and accessibility of these places put on churches by the people who own them. These places all have other primary functions, and often these functions take place almost 24/7 and many of the owners of these places don’t want churches coming in and affecting their ability to make money or to just be a place where people can go to enjoy themselves without being preached at.

Where’s the “happiest place on earth?” Everybody knows that’s one of Disney’s catch phrases, but can you imagine Disney letting a church come in and set up there? Movie theaters also have limits. They don’t mind letting a church come in on Sunday morning when they aren’t showing movies so they can make some money by letting the church lease the theaters, but they will throw your church out quicker than you can blink if people start deciding they want to watch the next hit Vampire movie on Sunday mornings.

Beyond time limits, there are also size limits based on the available space in these public “fun” areas. Almost any of these locations, including Disney could be used for a “church gathering” if it is limited to a handful of people sitting in a group and sharing among themselves, but once evangelism and growth happens they will quickly wear out their welcome in these places. That doesn’t mean these places can’t or shouldn’t be used for “church”. They absolutely can and should be leveraged wherever possible.

But what do we do with the thousands of existing churches on existing sites around the country? Should they remain as “boring” church buildings, slowly dying through disrepair along with their dwindling membership? Should they sell their buildings and acreage and try to lease space where people are already enjoying themselves? The reality is there are not enough fun places churches would be allowed to go to even if they wanted to, and the sites and building resources they already own can be more greatly leveraged long-term than leasing temporary spaces from others. Plus losing those “church-owned” properties to other non-church groups would be a net negative to those communities.

Let me be clear…I don’t believe that church buildings save anybody, nor do I think you have to have a building in order to be a church. But buildings, when properly used as tools and not monuments, can be a tremendous resource to impact people and their communities, and they can be fun and inviting places that are capable of standing on their own.

What unusual locations have you seen churches use? Do you think having an enjoyable church building or campus is a positive for your church and your community?

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