October 25, 2020

Pictures. Story.


The former City Methodist Church building, Gary, Indiana.


  1. man… I would give my left leg to be able to plant a church in that building through our network. Too bad Gary, Indiana is so far from portland.
    While I know that it’s not all about the buildings, I hate seeing kingdom property/resources lost or turned into offices/theaters/etc…

  2. Benjamin Nitu says

    “Despite the gloom, Meyers hopes the building may still find a new use. His suggestions: a home for not-for-profit organizations, a restaurant or nightclub, a visitors center, office space for startup businesses.”

    i hope it does not turn into a nightclub, that will be really sad.

  3. wow. what a contrast. hopefully someone will be able to save such a lovely building for ministry.

    I echo the sentiments that a church does not a building make…yet it makes the heart sad to see this sort of thing.

  4. “Despite the gloom, Meyers hopes the building may still find a new use. His suggestions: a home for not-for-profit organizations, a restaurant or nightclub, a visitors center, office space for startup businesses.”

    Repeat after Steve Taylor…

    “This Disco,
    Used to be a cute cathedral.
    Where the chosen Cha-Cha everyday of the week.

    This Disco,
    Used to be a cute cathedral.
    Where we only play the stuff you’re wantin’ to hear…”


  5. dixie belle says

    Is this on the up and up? The windows are different in the pictures. Is it really the same place?

  6. Opposite ends of the building, Dixie. There are a bunch of pics at flickr, but I liked these two.

    I’m not really concerned about the use of the building. I am fascinated by what can happen in 50 years. FIFTY from start to finish of this church in downtown Gary.

  7. joel hunter says

    Reverse views. One is looking toward the sanctuary/altar, the other is looking toward the narthex.

  8. dixie belle says

    My bad … I googled and found info. I guess one picture is of the front and one of the back of the sanctuary. So sorry. And yes, so very sad.

  9. as a recovinering United Methodist pastor, this reminds me how far the great movement that the Wesley’s helped to undergird has fallen. i believe that the United MEthodist Church should buy it back. after every ordination, the bishop of the Indiana conference should take the newly ordain clergy to this church and show them where the future is if they do not understand the Great Commission and the Great Commandment….
    btw, wouldn’t this palce make a great church for a ancient future worship service….too bad the Methodist church lacks passion for the lost and passion for the kingdom….you would think that a good Arminian would be passionate about evangelism….

    May God help us,


  10. I don’t know which is more depressing – how such a beautiful church has been allowed to fall into disrepair or the fact that most churchs from my own neck of the Christian woods (Catholic) built within the last fifty years aren’t that attractive or awe-inspiring. *sigh*

  11. Not even Catholic churches are awe inspiring anymore?
    And I thought that it was just Baptists who didn’t think that God cared about beauty anymore.

  12. How about an alternative viewpoint? Is this scenario (depressing, to say the least) not perhaps instructive to us regarding the wisdom of spending gazillions of dollars of God’s money on bricks and mortar? There’s a place for building buildings, sure, but one wonders what will become of some of today’s massive mega-church structures once the charismatic pastor has moved on to glory… If that’s the case—and common sense dictates that, in many cases, it WILL be—then are we wise, good stewards of God’s money to pour it into lavish church structures when there is a world of need out there? Build if you MUST, sure…but must we always, and so lavishly?

  13. Well said, Byron. I’ve been trying to figure out how to delicately make that point. I would actually go a step further, though, and ask what justifies building a building in the first place? You said that there’s “a place” for building buildings, but I’m curious where you draw that line.

    Sure, it’s an argument from silence, but I don’t see any church buildings mentioned in the New Testament. Considering how vital the “building” was in the Old Testament, that silence actually speaks loudly to me. It causes me to think that there might be a reason for this lack of buildings in the NT.

    I realize that’s not a very popular view, but why not? 😉

    steve 🙂

  14. You are right.

    The church doesn’t need a building.
    Or a guitar.
    Or a band.
    Or an overhead screen.
    Or singing.
    Or seminaries.
    Or Youth ministries.
    Or scholars.
    Or a baptistry.
    Or literature of any kind.
    Or printed Bibles.

    Now…..if someone says they believe God has called them to be an architect, and gifted them to design buildings that give glory to God, what should we say to them?

    The building isn’t necessary. In inner city Gary, it may be a pro. Or it may be a con.

    I believe a cathedral in the city can give glory to God. NOT like people do. We are made in God’s image. But in a way that is reflective of being co-creators.

    But you are right. We don’t NEED any of those things.

  15. Monk, I’m not sure if I’m over-reading sarcasm into your post or not, so I want to tread very carefully. Designing buildings that give glory to God does not have to mean designing buildings that we then call the “house of God” and saying that’s where we need to worship.

    Whatever we do should be to the glory of God, whether it’s architecture design, plumbing, auto mechanic, teaching, professional sports.

    The observation that Byron gave was made well. Why do we insist on spending SO much money on buildings — not just the actual building itself, but the maintenance of it, the salaries of people who manage it, etc.? And then mourn its demise? That’s the part I’m having trouble reconciling.

    Like Byron, when I look at those images you posted and read the article to which you linked, I feel a great sadness. Not that a church “failed” in managing to survive in inner-city Gary, but that so much was spent and/or given to build a great “temple” for God. This really should give us pause.

    But the comparison of an elaborate building of that stature with guitars, or a printed Bible, or any of the other things that you listed is little more than a bunch of red herrings in the debate. The question I posed was not whether we can use things that we don’t need. It was a sincere question of doing things more simply in a way that frees up resources and manpower for other things that will outlast the usefulness of a large architectural structure.

    steve 🙂

  16. >Designing buildings that give glory to God does not have to mean designing buildings that we then call the “house of God” and saying that’s where we need to worship.

    I agree.

    But why do you assume that a church with a building that shows excellence is not spending money in the community on other things?

    I think most cities would welcome not only the quality of the building, but the presence of the congregation and all that can be done in a building: Arts, music, performance…as well as Church stuff.

    If your position is anti-institutional- i.e. no meeting place, no clergy, no salary, etc- that’s fine. I’m at a ministry with less building and less money to the staff than any ministry you can name. I know the power of poverty in the cause of missions.

    But City Church had the potential- congregation AND building- to be a witness in Gary. The building shows excellence and is an artistic testimony to God. Its not an evil or an either/or between the building and ministry.

    Spending money on buildings and organs and art isn’t always right. But it isn’t always wrong either. There is a place for the small, and for the grand.

    A Christian witness in culture can be the small church in the country, and the cathedral in the city. THe point is the Gospel and the lives of the Body in those structures.

  17. Monk, very well said. Again, I find it a pleasure to tip my hat to your fine attitude and approach. I’m not fond of the label “anti-institutional”, but my own blog does outline my feelings toward simple church and does happen to include the things you stated. So, I guess I’m “guilty as charged” in that regard 😉

    For the record, I don’t assume that a church with a fine building is not spending money on other things in their community. But I do question the purpose of the building and the amount of money that is spent on it.

    Having said that, I do continue to search for ways in which I can strike a balance between my own convictions and the convictions of others. I’m not there yet, but I keep searching.

    Thanks as always for a great topic and discussion, Monk. As I’ve stated before, I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say, but I can’t deny you my respect and admiration for being so down-to-earth and respectful in your posts and comments.

    steve 🙂

  18. Oh. My.

    That could be my church.

    Literally, that could BE my church. The windows. The arches. The balconies.

    The history. The RECENT history.

    It’s like gazing into your own grave.

    Is this what Jeremiah felt when God showed him Jerusalem’s future? Oh, the anguish.

  19. About the concern of what to do with the Mega-Church buildings when their pastors move on: don’t worry, they’ll just become a high-end Costco. In California we already call Saddleback Church “The Costco Church.” They all look so secular.

    And about spending money on buildings: all buildings are expensive to build and maintain. When God was dictating how to build His temple in the OT, He was lavish. Nothing but the best for Him: finest wood, stone, gold, etc. What’s that about?

    I’m of the mind that a beautiful building for worship is not necessarily a bad thing, many times it’s wonderful.

  20. Meg: The point about the temple is correct in its context. But if you follow the thread through Scripture, you’ll see that the modern church building is not (or should not be) the correlation to the OT temple. We, the Body of Christ, are the temple of God. We are living stones, being put together into a living building of which Christ is the chief cornerstone.

    steve 🙂 (I’ve changed my linked name below to be “Steve S” so as not to be confused with another “Steve” that sometimes comments on here.)

  21. OK Steve S, point taken, but then explain to me Revelation 21. Again the great architect, God, is giving John a glimpse of a lavishly designed city. Look at everything God has designed: Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the Aurora Borealis. Look in the mirror! You are a medical marvel in design terms.

    Just because some human designers are garish does not make them ungodly, nor does austerity necessarily translate to godliness.

    We will never be as great a designer as God, nor should we try to outdo Him; but that should not keep us from striving for excellence in any endevour, including church design.

  22. Meg, I agree with the basic premise that whatever we do, we should strive for excellence! No argument there!

    But, like Monk so astutely pointed out above (and I do not try to hide from this fact), I come at this particular discussion from a perspective that doesn’t view “church buildings” as a necessity. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog, and I try not to take up too much of Monk’s space with my thoughts on that.

    But just for the record, I never said, nor meant to imply, that a building of any sort or design is ungodly. The same goes for building designers. You were kinda putting words in my mouth there.

    And with relation to your question about Revelation 21, there are two possible ways of looking at that, neither of which require us to build lavish buildings today to imitate God’s work. Without going into too much detail, one interpretation would say that God has every right to build a lavish city in the eternal kingdom (and part of this comparison would fall short anyway because we were talking about the wise use of money in the church, and in heaven, God isn’t working on a budget! I know of very few church organizations who build without taking on a mortgage or some other obligation financially. It’s very hard to see that as wise use of funds in God’s work). The other interpretation would say that the “city” that God shows John is perhaps a symbol of the Church itself — the Bride of Christ. Notice that it is referred to as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” in verse 9. Paul has used that term earlier in the NT for the Church.

    So I don’t think that we can use Revelation 21 as justification for building elaborate church buildings here in this age.

    Just more food for thought. 🙂

    steve 🙂

  23. scotch meg says

    I have always viewed churches in the light of the expensive ointment used to anoint Jesus. For those of us who are Catholics, the church building really does house the Lord… and for all, beauty draws us to the Source of beauty. Should this be to the exclusion of other worthy uses of funds? No, of course not… but there’s a place for these expenditures, too.

  24. I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth. We’re doing that all by ourselves by blogging our thoughts. But I have to try to unpack those thoughts and this “thread” about not needing a building. I think that idea is naive or just impractical. True, God does not need a building; God does not even need us to do His work. He is not so poor that He needs us to do anything. We are the ones who need Him, and WE need the building, and I think God realises this need. The church building is where we can come together on a regular basis to learn and worship. Poor and persecuted churches meet underground out of necessity. If they had the chance to build, they would. If your building is austere out of a sense of taste or lack of funds, so be it. But if you’re in a church that wants to allocate some more funds for a more ornate building, so what. Is one more holy than the other: no. But this attitude of “I’m more holy because I’m plain” is just silly. Scotch Meg reminded me of the woman in Mark 14 beginning in the 3rd verse: “wasting” a very expensive oil to annoint Jesus. Jesus didn’t think it wasteful.

    Maybe we should all sell our cars, homes, etc. and give the money to the missions. Do we really need a house? We could live in tents. Do you see where this starts to go? Why do we get stuck in this mire? Why not praise God for what we have and enjoy it, and share it when we can?

  25. Thats a very good topic being discussed upon. I have pondered upon that thought time and time again, in the past and reading the thoughts of you all, just puts me back in the spot. Thanks Steve S, Byron and Meg for your thoughts.

    I think, (please correct me if I am wrong) what Steve S is saying is that there are a lot of churches that emphasis on having a great building as their priority. I really couldn’t stop having that feeling when I saw Joel Osteen in that massive stadium, that was acquired with a mortgage that goes through the roof.

    Buldings by itself are not a bad thing. In that sense, nothing in itself is a bad thing. The problem is, when we start putting emphasis on having the best building that it becomes an investment on earthly things and ultimately a hinderance to our life, ministry and testimony.

    I have walked into some Cathedrals and have been amazed at the work of art and have stood there speechless, but I am not sure if it was the “artwork” or the presence of God that shook me.

    As Meg said, I don’t think this means we all have to sell our cars and homes and start living in tents. Well, if God has called you for that life, then He will also give you the Grace to live upto it, but that’s a whole new story.

    All that this calls for is to stop and think about how church must have been in the first century when they were led by the fishermen-turned-into-apostles full of power and Glory. Most people view the first century church as an infant church that had to evolve in time, but I don’t agree. Everything that a church needed was there, and instead of an “early church”, i think, “a model church” is a better phrase to use.

    I simply yearn for those times, when Christians were such an undeniable presence and God’s presence shone forth out of everything they said, did and acted upon.

    These are just my thoughts and my yearnings and not my intention to impose anything on anyone.

    Just a thought… that’s all it is.

    PS: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Michael. It’s been a blessing to hear someone speak out. Thank you.

  26. Vijay: you have represented my thoughts well in your analysis. Thank you! I wasn’t saying there is anything “unholy” or even “wrong” about buildings. I just was trying to speak a word of caution against holding so tightly to something just because it “seems” right without strong biblical basis for it.

    There are many churches and entire networks of churches even here in the USA that do not build buildings to meet in. Instead, they meet in believers’ homes. Contrary to what Meg said, it’s neither “naive” or “impractical”. I know because I am part of one. But I never said I was “more holy” because of it. That IS putting words in my mouth.

    steve 🙂

  27. The real question now is not how lavish to build but where to build and how much to build given population trends. How much to put into a building if it’s going to be used for only one or two generations of worship

  28. she_pondered says

    Does this point to a trend that church, in its traditional sense, may be changing for people? I read recently (can’t remember where, sorry!) that the number of people attending church isn’t increasing, it’s just that they’re moving around, i.e., more people going to the megachurches.

    It’s unfortunate that a building of such beauty might never be a place of worship for God again, but maybe the people who we would assume would worship there are finding other places, other means to do so, like in house churches.

  29. If you’ve ever been to Gary, these pictures are especially symbolic. I used to live right across the IL state line. Gary is now the filthiest, saddest, most stepped on city in the entire area. Such a beautiful building, filled with the praise of worshipers of our Holy God would be such a stark contrast… Which would be a wonderful thing, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the “average” people of Gary would be afraid/unable to set foot inside, just because it would be so different. Rather like the dirty beggars beside the gorgeous temple in Jerusalem – Jesus didn’t ever seem to expect them to come inside to him; he spoke to and healed them where they were. Even that is tricky to compare though.

    I love beautiful church buildings – I miss them so. In this situation though, I do see how this building may possibly no longer have a place in Gary, at least not in Gary’s current state. The Lord would have to bring a huge breath of wind to the city before it would be able to worship in a church building like this again…

    On an aside, referencing the discussion regarding the pros and cons of church buildings, has anyone considered how a spirit of reverence plays into this all? I think most of us would agree that awe and familiarity in a literal sense cannot really coincide. It is equally obvious that American Christians like to be comfortable above all else. Thus when deciding (even subconsciously) between a hard pew and a couch in someone’s house most people would choose…. Hmmm. All though many wouldnÂ’t agree I think thereÂ’s more too it than just saving money.

  30. joel hunter says

    Lovely thoughts, Sarah. As for what the “average” citizen of Gary would or would not do with respect to this building, I cannot say. But it used to be that the poor, the sick, the unloved would enter such a building knowing that the people who built it at least wanted to carve out a space of sanctuary in the midst of worldly activity and noise. It didn’t exclude; it invited and it welcomed. Rest here. Listen to God. Have some bread. We will be here tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…

    But we have eradicated the common touch of the cathedral. We have bought the lie of the bottom line. I pray my children will enjoy a new day when beauty is once again a vehicle for truth.