Tear Down and Build!

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This past November, I had the privilege of participating in the Fifth Annual Interchurch Center Conference in New York City. It was a business engagement that quickly turned into an unexpected, but huge ministry wake-up call for me.

The Interchurch Center Conference is an annual gathering of pastors and leaders of faith-based organizations for the purpose of discussing ministry strategy and business. It is held at the conference center that is part of the storied Riverside Church built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

The opening speaker and emcee for the day was an attorney, Renato Matos. The title of his opening address was Re-envisioning Mission & Ministry. But his opening remarks were the words that captured me…“It is time to tear down and build!”

At first, I thought he was referring to church buildings. Renato is part of a legal firm that focuses on educating and protecting churches and developing strategies for asset growth to help ministry efforts. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that he was talking about so much more than just property.

In my next several posts, I will be covering much of what I learned at this gathering, but those first few moments became a “God-moment” for me. As you know, I’ve written much about the problem the church has with culture. Our church buildings have become monuments that poorly represent the mission that God has put before us. Solomon was right when he declared, “…even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

Based on our best estimates, fifty-three percent of people in the United States will never attend a church. As John Maxwell stated at the Grow Conference in 2018, “Pastor, did you hear me? They will never come to your church no matter how good your church is!”

What do we do with the fifty-three percent? Are they exempt from the Great Commission? Was Jesus only calling people who are going to attend our churches? Are we ok with any of this?

What do we need to tear down? Perhaps we do need to tear down our buildings and build something different in order to reach more people for Christ. Maybe we have to tear down some abandoned property and build something to serve the poor or to serve others who need us. But I think the biggest thing we may need to tear down are the walls to our churches that keep people away from us. If over half of our US population will never attend one of our churches, why do we spend so much time and money building those walls. What if we tear down the walls and build churches without walls? Instead of building something that takes us away from more than half of our neighbors, perhaps we should consider building something that invades the neighborhood.

There’s more to come. But for now, I’m with my new friend, Renato. “It is time to tear down and build!