Our Church buildings an impediment to growth?

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.
— Winston Churchill

My brother-in-law is an architect and since he began his studies some years ago, I was reminded of the quote to the left by Churchill. 

Taking this quote at face value and I see how this is very true for the Church. For instance, if you build a sanctuary that has pews all facing one direction and set up like a lecture, then when you enter the space you will expect to be lectured to. This passive form of participating shapes the way we understand how we are to "be the church". Church becomes a practice of cognitive work that hinges on the ability of the preacher to hold your attention for any period of time. We walk out of worship critiquing before we reflect on what we just experienced. We say things like, "good sermon" or "why don't we sing more songs like that?" or "I don't like this part of worship". And why should clergy expect any different?

When we build a building that feels like a movie theater, then we are going to have a congregation expecting a good show each week.

We have built Protestant church buildings in a way that shape us. Architecture is a powerful sermon, and that same sermon is preached every hour of every day of every year. So I give a little slack to the people who argue about the color of the carpet in the sanctuary. Carpet color may sound like a silly argument, but as Churchill points out, the shape of the building shapes us. 

My clergy peers and I talk about how to change the church and what the future of the church will look and feel like. We are talking in the same way previous generations talked about changing the Church. We talk about programs. We talk about sermon styles. We talk about pub ministries and young adult ministries. We talk about relevance and authenticity.  Could it be that perhaps what has been traditionally seen as one of the greatest assets of the Church, our buildings, are our among our greatest liabilities? 

It is hard to out preach brick and mortar.

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