A Church on Every Corner

I recently read an interesting thing about Wal-Mart. It seems that in cities across the country, Wal-Mart stores are up-sizing from their regular old large retail centers to shiny new extra-large “Super Centers.” In many cases, these new stores are right next door or across the street from the old stores.

The problem is that the distinctively Wal-Martian building design and layout (you know, gray and blue big-box warehouse with two main entrances and a chain-link fenced-in “garden center” on one side) makes it difficult for any other retailer to use the old buildings. So the old stores are sitting empty.

Some communities are now requiring that new Wal-Mart stores be built with future use in mind, with store designs that are more easily subdivided for varied uses should the current Super Center ever vacate to build, I don’t know, what’s bigger than a Super Center?

For some reason, this reminds me of church buildings.

Western Europe is home to thousands of church buildings. Cathedrals, basilicas, chapels, and temples that were once full of devout religious people now sit empty in every part of the continent. In the U.K., Some have been converted to pubs. In Italy, many are used a museums. At least European church buildings are pretty to look at.

In one hundred years, what will have become of your church building?

Whenever I try to encourage Americans to be church planters, they almost invariably say something like, “There’s already a church on every corner.” The problem, of course, is that these people are mistaking “church building” for “body of believers.”

We certainly don’t need more church buildings.

9 thoughts on “A Church on Every Corner

  1. Good words on church buildings, unfortunately most do not think about the future as you propose. I also like your “churched out” post. God bless your work in W. Europe!

  2. I agree that we don’t need more church buildings. The question I want to ask is do we need more church plants?

    In the Atlanta area there are church plants in every public school. My home church has 2000 attending on Sunday and a church plant is started in the high school across the street. A good bit don’t make it but they waste alot of money in the process. So why are so many churches being started among those you who have so much access while we largely ignore the rest of the world. Where is the balance?

  3. Camel,
    That’s a good question. I think the answer has a lot to do with your definition of church. I’m familiar with the kind of church plant you refer to. Many of them do fail, and a lot of them are meeting in a school or community center temporarily until they get big enough to start their own building program.

    I believe that we do need more church plants. Not more of the same, but more of a different kind of church. We need more because churches aren’t like school districts. Just because there’s a big one in a suburb doesn’t mean they’ve got their neighborhood “covered.”

    Simple house churches don’t cost a thing, and provide a valid expression of the Body that many bigger and congregational churches can’t offer.

    You’ve got me thinking now. This should be another post…

  4. stepchild,

    Thank you for this post. You have said some things that need to be said. We do not need more church buildings. We do not need more church plants in schools waiting for their chance to build church buildings. We need more followers of Jesus Christ willing to walk across the street to serve their neighbor in love. We need more followers of Jesus Christ willing to walk downtown to feed and clothe the homeless. We need more followers of Jesus Christ willing to travel around the world to be salt and light. Church buildings cannot hold these kinds of followers.

    -Alan

  5. Stepchild,
    You’re right, we do need more church plants but enough of the great coffee, excellent childcare and “relevant” teaching places. House churches are more condusive to true relationships and connections and MUCH more economical. Much more money can go to ministry opportunities. We need house churches that truly engage each other and their society.

    The other question is what will it take for house churches to make it in the states? I’ve worked with guys trying to make it happen and the question always pops up….So if we start in a house when are we going to look for something permanent (a building)?

    The other issue comes with sponsoring or alignment. If you try to work with NAMB or the SBC you have to be a plant of a SBC church and then they ask… so you’re going to meet in a home, when do you come to church?

    So what does it take to see house churches in the states?

  6. Hey – why not plant churches in the abandoned Wal-Mart buildings?? The building can be subdivided into various congregations (mini-churches, if you will) that will feature worship and sermon styles taylored to the worshippers. The Garden section can have a granola-flavored service complete with organic coffee and organic-cotton bean bags. The Automotive section can be the grunge church with heavy metal music and a biker-preacher. The Sports section will feature flavored water and aerobics-tempo music.

    Well, you get the idea…

  7. Stepchild,

    Great post. I agree that we need more church plants but not in the way it has been done before. The vision God gave me is for my wife and I to move back into the trailer court here in town, and eventually encourage four or five other families to do the same. We would hold “service” in the trailers and give radically to those around us. Its just in the vision phase and we are praying about how to proceed.

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