Lots of paradigms are shifting these days as our world comes to terms with a new world unfolding before us, a world of increased sickness and death, but also of increased simplicity and community–forced as it may be by our present circumstances. I’ve heard it said recently that God is making us to lie down in green pastures, that God is compelling a ‘Martha’ world to become a ‘Mary’ world.
In this world of changing paradigms, perhaps it’s time that we look anew at our bricks and mortar church buildings and consider whether there is a new and better purpose for which they can be repurposed. Many are understandably eager to return to their buildings while others are marveling at the deeper and wider connections happening through technology platforms (Zoom, in particular).
First, it’s worth noting that the Church had no buildings for the first two centuries of its existence and did quite well meeting in believers’ homes. By all accounts, the first church building didn’t appear until sometime between 233 & 256 A.D. (in Dura-Europos, Syria). Church buildings didn’t appear in any significant number until the reign of Constantine in the early 4th century A.D., and, yet, somehow, the Church experienced a period of growth rivaling any in it’s 2000 year history…in the century before all the buildings arrived! The 3rd century A.D. is a wonder of Christian expansion–no political power, no buildings, and yet increasing from a population of 200,000 (200 A.D.) to 6 million (300 A.D.) in the Roman Empire. How did they do this? They loved well and courageously and they proclaimed the Gospel unapologetically.
Now, back to the buildings…here’s a proposal: the Church goes back to it’s roots and begins to meet again in the homes of it’s members, 10-15 at a gathering (when the time is right, of course, and socially distanced, if necessary…we can figure this out…in the backyards, whatever). Further, many of our gatherings continue to meet on Zoom and by way of other technologies. And, lastly, and most magnificently, our buildings are converted to mission centers…they become shelters for those without shelter, they become food pantries and job training sites…they become beehives of love and courage in action. I imagine a proposal such as this might face a few hurdles, but we’ve got a big God.