Aaarrgh! Those green cups and saucers….
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!…Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…
Thus says the Lord of hosts,”Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple,that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord.
Honouring God in our church culture
THERE is a ‘poverty spirit’ that is afflicting God’s church, holding us back from becoming what He wants us to become. We count the cost, allow for contingency and reserve, always feel we don’t have enough and consider our spending to be a balance sheet cost – when it’s gone, it’s gone.
We might see our spending in ways which bring glory to God to be an investment, a use of His resources which He will honour.
I am not talking about US-style opulence here. We have all seen church facilities which are just bit over-designed and over-specified. if some of that money had been given to mission, we think…
True, some of that money given to overseas mission would have gone a long way. It’s part of the balance in spending decisions that needs to be taken into account. But in our culture a genuinely welcoming and comfortable and contemporary building IS our mission, or a significant part of it.
First point of contact
Even if we have moved beyond trying to drag the unwilling unbelieving into our building, it is still the point of contact, our shop frontage and part of our brand. We are not playing to consumerism is we recognise that people see and assess and make their judgments in a fraction of a second. When you go to the shopping centre, or even high street, you look for the signs and the brands that you like and trust. Whether we agree with this culture or not, that’s what the world does to us.
If I had a choice between smiley, genuinely friendly people or a welcoming building environment, I would choose the people with heart every time. But a building that seems to have heart comes a close second. Regrettably, most of the people we want to connect with will see the externals and make their vote BEFORE they get close enough to meet us. So we’d better make it fit for purpose.
You have all sat in draughty church halls, drinking insipid tea from those standard-issue seafoam green cups and saucers and wondered at the fading warning notices in the kitchen as you take them back. You have looked around at the dim pendant lighting with its quaint nightshades and marvelled at the longevity (if not comfort) of a High Wycombe craftsman’s beechwood church chair, pulled your scarf a little tighter as the draught licks you and done the penance of trying to rest your arms on one of those folding tables with a ridge around the top. The drab look may be what we know and find familiar – but it is not what makes guests feel loved.
What does the building say?
The Scripture verse doesn’t say much about appearance or comfort but it majors on what does or does not honour God. How do we portray Him? What does the building say?
- A bit outdated and quaint?
- Stingy, austerity-loving?
- About rules and warnings?
- Oblivious of our comfort or discomfort?
- Calling us for interview rather than calling us into friendship with Him?
- A school-like environment for a headmaster-like God?
I’m not saying that we honour God in opulence. Maybe in Texas. But I don’t think so. Honouring God, surely, is to reflect His heart of excellence in design and creation and attitude. To reflect his heart of inviting and welcoming. To reflect His heart of loving the lost and confused and alienated.
Can a building or interior be loving? And isn’t that to do with whoever is humanising the building?
An interior can feel unloving and often the people you find there seem to have the same spirit. Where you find people who are flowing with compassion and unconditional love, often the building, even if old, will have decor and touches which soften the hard edges – and there will be pressure to improve on the ‘waiting room’ image. For God’s sake.