Jack Skinner is a missionary who is based in Dallas. In his newsletter this month he writes that he was passing by a church building that he passes by everyday. The building is in a small rural town near the city. On his commute into Dallas one day, the baptist church had a new sign in front. Where the kiosk might have a humorous message from the pastor, or the title of this weeks sermon, the sign read “Self Storage call…” At firs Skinner thought it was a nifty sermon title- “self storage” instead of “baggage” or “you can’t take it with you,” but no that building that had been on that corner for more than 60 years had become “Self Storage.” What is the cause for church buildings to lose their relevance and be sold or re-purposed?
It isn’t that people do not need the gospel- that is evident in the number of people who buy Bibles every year hard cover and digital! So what is it- is it the economy? Is it the schedule, career or is it money? It could be a bit of all of the symptoms that people who are on a treadmill find themselves with more obstacles than on the road to recovery. Skinner says it is the lack of commitment. And that is true but what are pastors and missionaries lacking in their commitment?
This reminds me of what happened in Scotland. For years the great hymn writers, the preachers and the theologians answered the call to “go” and that’s what they did- they went! They went half way round the world and when they came back their small chapels and Cathedrals at home became galleries, offices, concert halls and homes. This is the case in Denver and all of our major cities and our little towns. The main-line has eroded the Biblical, they have stopped the lifestyle of Systematic lifestyle and they have sent the evangelicals half way round the world.
What is the church?
Relevance is everything and when we lose our theology, we lose our way. Theology matters. When churches try to tickle the ears instead of leaving no doubt of where our final destination may be, then while people want to hear a comforting message- they also want to know the truth. Otherwise our church buildings become galleries, concert halls and theories where they offer “entertainment” that is designed for escapism. So the churches become smoke and mirrors instead of salt and light.
People not audience
People need storage units, they store up their treasures and still the mice and bugs get in. People want entertainment and they would like to escape and so we sell our church buildings to art galleries, to impresarios, and even to free newspapers and self-storage units.
Bottom line: Until we realize that the church is not a building but are the hearts and the minds, the Body of Christ and the people willing to talk theology and to go- even if it’s around the corner instead of half way round the world. The church are people who are working together to bring Biblical truth, Systematic approach to the obstacle course, and to live an Evangelical lifestyle beyond the walls of the church- other wise were just stuffing our theology at a self-storage unit.
Richard Beattie is the Denver Evangelical Examiner, the Minister of Leadership and Communication at Friendship Fellowship a church that reaches people with intellectual disabilities, their caregivers and their families in Denver and Colorado Springs. To find out more e-mail Friendshipfellowship@juno.com.