Father Anthony is an Orthodox Priest with a Young Life background who lives in my community. He shared some interesting thoughts about church buildings with me one day when I visited his church with some of my students. He described 3 major strands of the Christian church and how their buildings tell us something about their belief in God.
1. Evangelical (Large/Contemporary)- These buildings are made to fit as many people as possible inside so that all may be “saved”. The media and music create a non-threatening and attractive environment that encourages followers to bring non-believers to church and it helps that the buildings don’t look like traditional churches.
2. Reformed/Presbyterian – John Calvin was known to preach for 2 hours. These buildings look like lecture halls, with all seats pointing forward towards the pulpit. This design makes sense for folks who put great emphasis on the study and proclamation of the Word.
3. Orthodox – For an A.D.D guy like myself, the Orthodox church has all the smells and bells. The entire worship space is covered with sacred art, telling the story of God. The priest is not the focal point in these services as there are many places for you to look and ponder the works of God. The Orthodox priest appears to facilitate the worship experience more than lead it.
These descriptions have really caused me to think about the blessings and curses of churches around the globe. Think about a few of these comments and questions below and ponder the necessity and usefulness of bricks and mortar.
1. an Episcopalian priest friend of mine was facing losing his beautiful church in denominational battles. He said “I actually pray that we lose it, because our identity is too wrapped up in the building.” Erwin McManus, a pastor at Mosaic in LA, said that God led them to sell their building which caused ministry to flourish across Southern California.
2. Of the three models above, is one more conducive to youth ministry than the others?
3. One argument for huge elaborate churches is that they draw in more people who then can pool their resources to be a larger collective blessing to the world. True?
What does your church building look like and what are the strengths and weaknesses of its design?