Tim Keller once tweeted, “If you & your church were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, would anyone in the community around you notice you were gone?” I am sure every pastor would want to say, “Of course people would notice.” And there is some truth in that for every church. Of course, the people who attend the church would notice. A few neighbors would notice. But, would the community notice? Would you be missed by those you were supposed to be reaching with the message of the gospel of Christ? Would the 53-60% of the people who will never go to a church miss you?
This blog is the first of several I will be writing in which I will attempt to address the potential of an embedded church…the kind of church that is part of the fabric of the community. Let’s start with the building…a subject of great interest and concern in today’s environment.
I have been around long enough to see several iterations of church buildings as it relates to the community. Many years ago, churches were built in the center of towns all over our country, and then the community was built around the church building. We can still see many examples of that approach throughout the US today. Then as more churches were being built, the neighborhood church appeared, a unique and easily identifiable space with seating for 200-500 parishioners. These buildings were used almost exclusively on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings. Other than small office exposure, there was very little activity in the building.
More recent we have seen the arrival of the mega-church, typically a very large facility with seating for thousands. These buildings get much more weekday use, but the auditoriums, simply because of their size still have use that is primarily restricted to only a couple times per week. These facilities are not necessarily community friendly and many times not mission friendly. Here are some of the bigger concerns:
- Traffic problems at peak hours
- Large swaths of land and property taken out of the tax base of communities
- Tens of millions of dollars spent on brick and mortar while mission and ministry are taking a back seat
- The emerging millennial generation who refuse to fund such projects
Based on current trends and rising concerns, we are beginning to see the wane of this mega approach to churches and buildings. And truthfully, this approach in terms of ministry and building has had little to no effect on the fact that only 4% of people across America are Christ followers. It appears that we are simply collecting saints in our buildings.
But it is not just the mega-church that struggles. It can become the problem of every church unless intentionality on the Great Commission overrides our focus on Christian consumerism.
I have some ideas that I will share over the next few weeks that may offer a better plan, but for now I would like for you to think through what it might look like for the church to become so embedded within the community that the community would be deeply ill-affected should the church disappear.