I’ve been thinking about the church’s practice of purchasing cultural landmark buildings, such as theatres or other historically relevant structures, to house Sunday services. While theatres do make good gathering spaces, there are at least two reasons I believe the church may not want to purchase them in the future.
The first has to do with witness. Based on everything I’ve heard and read, it seems the general public doesn’t like it when the church buys cultural landmarks. We don’t need to hand more ammunition to a post-Christian culture that already has enough complaints about the church. We need to find ways to build bridges into the city, not widen the gap. While it’s true these buildings need buyers, perhaps the church shouldn’t play that role.
The second reason has to do with ecclesiology. When it comes to church, the weekly gathering of the saints isn’t the main thing. It’s about the people of God walking with our Lord, our brothers and sisters, and those we bump up against during our everyday lives. It’s about disciples meeting and making more disciples. When we do gather weekly, it’s about the people of God doing the leitourgia as we worship God with one voice. The gathering is highly participatory in nature, and everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the worship event.
By their very layout and design, theatres don’t really support or reinforce this kind of understanding of the church. As we invite others to a theatre for our worship gathering, are those people learning that church is a weekly performance of sorts? In that case, we will have to spend time and energy undoing this conception of church.
I would suggest that every city has properties of absolutely no cultural worth, where the owners may have difficulty finding buyers. If we would acquire buildings like these, we’d have an opportunity to add value to the city and transform an otherwise almost useless structure into something beautiful.
I think that would be part of a pretty cool ecclesiology and a great witness to a watching world.
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