We're still unpacking books from our recent move and I happened to flip through "out of my mind" by Andy Rooney which I have no idea how we even came to own, but the first page that caught my attention was a chapter entitled, Too Many Churches.
Rooney writes: I think it might strengthen all churches if they closed half of them, tore down the buildings and sold the property for money they could use for useful purposes . . . There are about 300,000 houses of worship in the United States. Many occupy huge pieces of real estate in prime locations in every major city in the country. They pay no taxes. On many Sundays, even during the main service, the pews at thousands of churches are far below capacity. . . For the rest of Sunday, and for all twenty-four hours of the other six days of the week, many churches are deserted. It seems like such a waste . . . .
And then, get this: . . . it seems to me the various Christian sects have enough in common that they could worship as well together in one building as apart in several. Even if they didn't want to convene at the same hour, there would be plenty of time for each group to meet separately with just its members. Is there something members of one of these churches believe that would offend members of any other? Why can't they pray together in one building?
You aren't from around here, are you?
Apparently Andy has never met an eternally secure Baptist. Or a sanctified Nazarene. Or a predestined Calvinist. Or a thrice-dipped footwashed second act of grace spirit slain premillenial forgiven Christian. To suggest that we might share the same carpet???? And lose our salvation Andy???
The Church could stand to take a good look at itself from a perspective outside the stained-glass. These few paragraphs have left me wondering:
Is there a Biblical example of a church purchasing a building to meet in? Were the first congregations who chose to buy property to build a building considered radical and worldly, considering the New Testament's emphasis on frugality, and the new reality that our bodies are now the temple? I wonder how the shift away from the Church as a community of believers and toward the church as a building contributed to the compartmentalizing of our spirituality? Was there also a resulting shift of resources away from the poor and towards bigger buildings?
Teaching my two year old to share is about as natural as teaching her to fly. The church could stand to sit on the Time Out Chair and think about sharing as well. How creative can we be with our already tidy temperature controlled-build-it-and-they-will-come church buildings? How about setting-out a welcome mat to groups- even other churches GASP- during the times that it's sitting empty? My husband was a pastor. I can already hear him explaining the impossible logistics of this. But we put tons energy into THE MOST ENTERTAINING ENTERTAINMENT EVER!!!!!, why not put some energy into maxing out the resources we possess generously into the community?