October 24, 2020

Riffs: 08:12:09: Architecture for the Glory of God

5UPDATE: This has been a great conversation, but we’re starting to get some drive-by comments with little substance. Keep the tone and content to a high standard please.

WATCH: This short video- 8 minutes- of the building of a Gothic worship center for Covenant Presbyterian (PCA) church in Nashville. Don’t comment without watching, please.

Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville is a new church (1990) with an incredible worship center.

Jesus didn’t build cathedrals – or impressive temples- on earth. The New Covenant is explicit: the old temple worship and ALL its externals- are gone.

I don’t believe God wants most churches to build cathedrals to worship in. Most churches, as I see the cross cultural church planting task, should consider whether they even need a building, at least for a very long time. There’s a lot of reasons not to do this.

The resources spent on a Gothic Cathedral like this are mind-boggling. The economics of Jesus seem plain enough. the commitment to upkeep is massive. Such expenditures could fund missionary church planting efforts of monumental significance, print millions of Bibles, eradicate vast hordes of poverty and revolutionize the mission of the church in many places. (I have no idea what CPC’s resulting commitment to missions is, by the way, and I’d like to know.)

But I have changed my mind a bit on this subject, so stand by and take notes if you are tracking my inconsistencies.

I think some churches- and CPC Nashville seems to be one of them- should build beautiful gothic cathedrals if they can.

You see, God gifts us creatively and artistically. He gives some people the means and the gifts to express art to the glory of God in ways few others can.

In music. In stained glass. In architecture. In construction. In design and in the resulting worship and liturgy.

Some churches need to release those gifts into the culture, so that a city can see a gothic cathedral and experience worship sacramentally (aha!) in the glory of a physical worship center and all that can happen there. Some churches. Not all.

I know some will disagree, and to a large extent I am with you. I have to admit, the Planetshakers version of evangelicalism as a rock concert/stadium event with no real emphasis on preaching, the sacraments or beauty has made me appreciate what I’m seeing here, and particularly…

1. The presence of young adults
2. The sense of relating the building to the legacy of Christ in the community (But many great churches stand empty. Some are even Mosques. That can be naive.)
3. The desire for many other ministries to be spun off and resourced from this.

The upkeep, etc is a concern. I don’t know if I could ever be part of a church that did this. I’m uneasy at the whole business.

But I am really glad…really, really glad, that some churches can and do turn their gifts to this kind of tangible, visible, sensual sermon on the Glory of God.

God’s hand and peace on Covenant Presbyterian in Nashville.

NOTE: Would love to know from any CPC members if there was a theological process of presenting this kind of massive expenditure.

Comments

  1. First what a beautiful church. Is it wrong to have church architecture envy?

    Second here’s an interesting article that talks about church architecture.

    http://www.cune.edu/resources/docs/Issues/fall2006/5article1.pdf

    The author was on Issue etc June 15. If anyone is interested

  2. I have mild architecture envy also – though for some reason the music used made me think of the William Golding book “The Spire”.

  3. There was a very interesting architectural documentary on the BBC about 2 years ago which examined the building style of various different christian movements. What the architect discovered, in how the thoeology of the variuous groups was reflected in its architecture. I only wish I had some web-video of it. The analysis was very interesting, and it changed by previously skeptical view of high-church architecture.

  4. Rob Grayson says

    Hi Michael,

    Great to read a post that’s on such a different subject yet so closely related to central issues (mission, sacraments, etc.).

    I guess my view kind of echoes yours: this kind of project throws up some big questions and isn’t for everyone, but then again, every lasting, serious artistic or creative endeavour requires a major investment in time, effort and finance that could arguably be poured into something more obviously “worthwhile” (be it social action, missions, etc.). (One slightly tangential but not unrelated thought: what about the millions spent by TV ministries? Does that “investment” bring more or less glory to God than building a neo-Gothic cathedral?)

    We’re part of a small, struggling church in France whose struggles have been made much worse by the fact that it bought a building a few years back that required major renovation and ongoing maintenance. I honestly think that not being burdened with this could have made a big difference to the church’s effectiveness in recent years. Ironically, an investment that was seen as equipping the church to be more effective has, in my opinion, contributed to its decline.

    On the other hand, even though I’ve always belonged to contemporary churches that meet in contemporary buildings, I’m a sucker for traditional church architecture. I cannot fail to be filled with awe every time I go into a magnificent building like Notre Dame cathedral in Paris; it undeniably awakens in me a sense of divine wonder and mystery. I remind myself that, whatever the faults often associated with that kind of church, in order for a building like that to exist, and to have stood for the best part of a thousand years, somebody had to have been seriously committed to building the biggest, best, most incredible structure they could as a pointer to the glory and mystery of God, the ultimate architect and creator.

  5. Well, it’s off to confession for me – I am so jealous of that church, even my hair is turning green. I admit I have always been deeply affected by good architecture, so see such a beautiful structure – well designed, meticulously crafted and dedicated to the Lord – is a complete inspiration to me.

    I worship in a ’60s-style Catholic church whose architecture is bland and uninspiring, to say the least. I’m committed to the people and priests in my parish, and wouldn’t leave them, but I do love attending the random mass at the older church across town, because it is such a beautiful and uplifting worship space.

    Maybe this is just a Catholic thing, but I notice that when the architecture of a church is cathedral-like, people are quieter and more reflective in the pews before mass. When the architecture is more modern, people seem to chat more and appear less reverent. I would be curious to see if this is true with the congregation at this church.

    The dedication of the cross on top of the steeple? Brought a tear to my eye.

    And the woman who said, “Aren’t we the most fortunate people?” Amen!

    • ..i think you’ve made an interesting observation……Architecture affects perception and thus mood…architecture can project “atmosphere” and enhance or deminish ones experience…a combination of cathedral like architecture AND SMELL can together greatly influence ambiance and mood…..we are sensual beings by nature and our surroundings do influence our experience.

      • Amen! The allure of cathedrals and the sensual glory they convey is one of the things that drew me to the Catholic Church. I think sigmund makes the point really well – we are sensual beings. There’s no denying that what we experience with our physical senses can change us spiritually.

        I think it’s important to seek that inward change, and let it reciprocate outwardly in our lives. Like a ‘virtuous cycle’ the spirals us, internally and externally, towards God and His Gospel.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I believe there’s an IMonk essay on “MAO Inhibitors”, the MAO in question being “Mystery, Awe, and Otherness” of old liturgical churches and today’s Evangelical lack of same. You don’t get that kind of MAO in what looks like a refitted Home Depot or Wal-Mart.

  6. Blame Constantine the Great. I posted on something similar yesterday here

  7. My 20 year career in architecture has been exclusively residential housing. But, I’d like to be part of the design team on something like this. Architecture and building are part of life. We complain about many of the isms in our culture, materialism, consumerism, etc, but we also complain about things being cheap and disposable. This church doesn’t look disposable. If it lasts for a hundred years, or more, would it be worth it?

    More important, I think, is if this building is done with heart, pride and a joy for God, instead of merely to have a big building.

  8. As a Brit, surrounded by old buildings, I’m afraid this looks something of a pastiche to me. Only in America could you get away with this kind of thing!

    • I must confess I too, had to smile at the construction scenes with huge pre-fabbed hunks of stone being lifted into place within moments by a modern machine, and thinking of the gothic cathedrals I here in Europe and what I know about how they were built.

      But I think we need to guard against the patronizing attitude that calls this pastiche: Only in America could you get away with this, but only in America would they even think of doing this, in Europe we have largely lost our appreciation for this kind of architecture and what it says about God.

      After all, the point of this building is not to make it simply look old, but to use the language of the old gothic cathedrals to make the same statement about the same God, pointing to the same heaven.

      • Yes, but if you are going to spend that many bucks on a building I’d rather see an example of the best of 21st century architecture than a derivative of 18th – but perhaps I’m just jaundiced by being surrounded by endless examples of Victorian gothic that look just like this.

        • Can you give me some examples of good 21st century architecture, Matthew? And I don’t mean the Gherkin 😉

          I suppose I’m burned because of , for example, the Wood Quay development in Dublin. The Sam Stephenson-designed Phase 1 offices for Dublin Corporation in 1976 were, if you will pardon the expression (and if I’m not risking moderation for offensive language!), bloody awful.

          People called them “the Bunkers” because of their appearance. To me, they looked exactly like eggboxes stacked up one on another. Protests were mounted, but the attitude was “Stop being so ignorant and backwards-looking and stop getting in the way of progress.” The architect (who has since gone to his reward) was very vocal about modernism and looking backwards to the past and blamed the Corpo for the fact that the buildings looked so ugly – apparently, they ran out of money before the landscaping or further building or whatever could be done to hide these, which (seemingly) were meant to be underground. Here’s a Wikipedia link to see the full glory(!) of what was put up:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_Quay

          The irony is that he subsequently went to England and became a Lutyens groupie. He discovered neo-Classicism and worked quite happily in that idiom – o tempora, o mores!

          So yes, I would like to see good modern architecture if you can recommend any.

  9. There is an old issue of Credenda on the subject:

    http://www.credenda.org/issues/11-3.php

  10. Michael, as you may know, I’m an artist, and I have to look at this with an artist’s perspective. God, the Creator, gives all of us the desire to create something truly beautiful to honor God and His gifts to us. As you said, not everyone is able to do something like this, and God gives us each different facets of the creative gift. Some create healing, some create full bellies, and some create worship spaces that point us to God. All are valid expressions of the gift.

    As to the money being spent on “better things”, I believe Jesus had something to say about that:

    “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” ~Matthew 26:6-13

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      John does Matthew one better; he specifies which of the Twelve first raised that question:
      Judas.

  11. Northeasterner says

    I think this is a worthwhile project. As for maintenance costs, they will always be lower on a new building, despite the architectural style. Not every church should be this large, but we can recover a sense of traditional church architecture in smaller churches as well.

    At the other extreme, I think the profusion of storefront churches has had a bad effect on the theology practiced inside. In our community, we have many who act like church entrepreneurs; self-ordained pastors who frequently lead their flocks into serious error and are accountable to no one (on Earth, anyway).

    You can’t tell a book by its cover, but if you want to see if greed and luxury is a problem, look at the parsonage, not the church!

  12. It’s great that the congregation is so happy with their new church building. I love the stained glass. I don’t like the way the steeple looks on it, though. It doesn’t seem to match the rest of it.

    The Catholic Church building where I go to Mass is a small, white building that looks like a lot of Baptist churches in Maine. It’s the Congregational church in town that is the huge, brick structure with outstanding stained glass, dark beautiful wood inside. I love them both. If I had to have a choice, though, between a beautiful exterior or beautiful interior, I would say let’s go with the interior and have beautiful paintings, statues, textiles, lighting. And on the outside, have an impressive steeple! There is an interesting smell in the Catholic church I attend. Whenever I walk in there, the smell alone helps me to relax. And it’s not an incense. I don’t know what it is. It’s a “gentle” smell that I can’t define.

  13. Eric Jacobsen’s book Sidewalks in the Kingdom is worth reading on this topic (and others).

    http://www.amazon.com/Sidewalks-Kingdom-Urbanism-Christian-Practice/dp/1587430576

    He draws heavily from Jane Jacob’s Death and Life of Great American Cities, which should be required reading for anyone living and ministering in an urban setting.

    http://www.amazon.com/Death-American-Cities-Modern-Library/dp/0679600477/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1250077567&sr=8-1

    While working on his doctorate Jacobsen taught a class at Fuller Theological on the Theology of the Built Environment–that stitched a lot of these themes together-how our cities, neighborhoods and buildings are not merely passive backdrops to our lives but play integral roles in how we interact, gather, and connect (or don’t) and therefore their design and development should be matters of kingdom concern as they can either facilitate or hinder kingdom connections – he’s pastoring in Washington state now I believe.

  14. As a former RC I had the experience of spending all my childhood and into adulthood in the same parish building. I was very involved there and therefore had an emotional attachment to the building. It felt like home to me. My relatives also had an emotional attachment to this building as my ancestors had immigrated from the French-Canadian part of Canada to the US. So, generations of the same family pour their resources both financial and human into the parish life of the community. Then, it happened…….the powers that be sell off the property merging parishes because they can not sustain the upkeep of all the parish buildings due to lawsuit settlements, declining revenues, etc., etc. The people cry. The people protest (those rebellious RCs). The leadership attempts to voice compassion for their pain but the final answer is always “submit or get out.”

    I would recommend that Christians not become attached to any building. The pain of separation , when it happens, is simply not worth it.

  15. #Debi and Northeasterner … what they said.

  16. The Spirit leads some to build cathedrals, some, like me, to preach in a converted bar room. What will remain are the saved souls, the buildings will burn like chaff. Would that every city would build something like that to the glory of God. that might stimulate the economy. They certainly employed a lot of people for quite a while.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Beware of “It’s All Gonna Burn”, Willoh.

      Not only does that lead to a Gnosticism where “Spiritual Good, Physical Baaaaaaaaaad”, but it breeds smugness and indifference.

  17. Todd Erickson says

    Since this building is made from concrete and rebar instead of stone, how long can it actually be expected to last?

    • Perhaps as long as ancient Roman buildings made with concrete – like the Colosseum!

      • Roman buildings were built assuming they were NOT weather tight. Ours are. So when modern building develop leaks they tend to fall apart rather quickly. And all buildings leak. Especially if maintenance is not done continuously.

        And as the other post alluded, we use rebar and steel inside most buildings like this. Eventually the steel will rust. And it will have thermal expansion rates different from the stone. Stacked stone was much more resilient in this respect.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Depends on the mix used and whether the contractor cut corners or not. Concrete is basically a castable synthetic limestone; once it sets, it literally becomes stone itself.

      The main problem would be cracking, either from thermal expansion and contraction or from earthquake or foundation settling. Water entering the concrete and flaking off the surface or rusting the rebar might also be a long-term problem. But if all that’s guarded against, no reason the concrete could last as long as natural stone.

  18. Memphis Aggie says

    Bravo for outlining a reasonable middle ground.

  19. I’ve done a 180 on this in recent years myself. I think that we are made to respond to beauty. Having a totally utilitarian ethic seems to deny this aspect of being human. So while not all can afford such facilities and it may not be the best goal for some situations, I think we should strive to make our worship spaces as beautiful as we possibly can. I also think creating a space that looks like what it actually is makes a lot of sense as well. There’s nothing holy or better about being unable to distinguish a house of worship from a high school auditorium or hotel ballroom.

    When I walk into an older, traditional style church, there is something that is felt in my attitude…I’ve stepped out of the regular world for a short time and entered into a sacred space; a place set apart for a holy and specific purpose. I think that’s something we should use to enhance the experience of worship, not fight against and deny.

    • Ragamuffin (and Michael)
      I too have changed my tune (as it were). I stood briefly inside the Anglican Cathedral in Lincoln (UK) a year ago – they were about to close – with one of the finest missional church planters I know – and thought of how wonderful it would be to gather all the believers in Lincolnshire together to worship God in this place of beauty – built to honour God. The parish gathering together to celebrate our Risen Lord.

  20. LIke some of the other folks who have commented, I’m kind of a sucker for Gothic archetecture in churches. I just finished re-reading Robert Webber’s Worship is a Verb today. One of thing last things he talks about is using space, time, art, etc as part of our worship. I think this sort of thing is a great use of space and art in worship. That said, I look at such a huge choir and a full orchestra and find myself wondering if there is a danger of becoming a different “flavor” of the megachurch rock concert kinda thing. Only instead of a rock concert, it’s a symphonic concert. One of Webber’s earliest points is that we need to return worship to the people. Can that be done with such a huge production? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way. I’m very interested in how a large church would ride that balance. CPC seems to have a great attitude and philosophy of worship, so I’m very curious about how they’d do that.

    • I don’t know this for certain, but I’d be willing to bet that the orchestra was there especially for the inaugural worship service.

      I don’t have a problem with a large choir, especially in a large congregation providing music for a large space.

      • I was wondering if might be the case. I went to an All Saints Day service at a local Episcopal Church a couple years ago. They had hired a chamber orchestra to do one of Mozart’s masses for the service. It was really neat, but I wouldn’t want it as a regular feature. As a special occasion thing, it was very appropriate. My main concern is that the music (whatever form it may be in) doesn’t take worship from the people.

  21. My wife and I traveled through Great Britain a couple of years ago. I was profoundly influenced, affected, and changed, by the great, massive cathedrals they are blessed with. Many of them took 300 and more years to build. In spite of starts and stops, changing builders, architects, and Kings, they possess a unity of vision and beauty that is truly mind boggling. The scriptures and meaty theology can be read in every nuance of their architecture. The life, passion, and faith of endless numbers of craftsman are visible for all to see. I found them to sing of God’s magnificence and beauty in the same way mountains, oceans, and untamed nature do. I was awed and humbled in their presence.

    I have a hard time seeing this as a bad thing. Undoubtedly, there were huge egos, manipulative posturing, and much shedding of blood involved in their conception and building. In spite of all the ugly drama of man, God is glorified.

    I was less impressed by some of the old churches we saw in Eastern Europe more recently. They were far more spangled and gaudy. I found them to be Elvis-i-fied, Las Vegas style versions of what we had seen in England. So I can’t argue that all old and costly church architecture is of equal value. Nonetheless, I wonder what someone from another planet would surmise about our God if they were to find nothing but our metal shoe-box church structures when they came to earth?

    • MDS,

      I’m not a professional historian, but my understanding is that in fact there wasn’t shedding of blood or really much negative at all to be said about the process of cathedral-building in Europe. They seem to have basically been multi-generational WPA projects, providing steady and long-term employment for a large area. Even the myth that they were build for the aggrandizement of the Church by the pennies of the poor doesn’t seem to be the case: my understanding is that wealthy donors covered most of the costs.

      • The problem is most of the history of the time was written by the elite. The workers and typical citizens could not read or write so we really don’t know how their life was.

        It’s mostly delusional to impose our western democratic common man thought process on the typical person of the middle ages. The local bishops had more power over the lives of the typical person than the President of the United States has over a private in the army.

        • But that’s just not true. Historians don’t look primarily for some “History of My Life in London by Duke Nabob” to understand an era; they look at court records, wills, church documents (births and deaths), merchants’ records and written accounts, etc., etc. There is a wealth of information about workers and typical citizens of the middle ages–particularly those who lived in the cities, where the cathedrals were built–that doesn’t rely on the point of view of “the elite.”

          Further, the degree of literacy among the laity in the middle ages varied widely by time and place, and is much disputed; you are wildly out at sea to make a blanket claim such as “the workers and typical citizens could not read or write.” And again, it’s just nonsense to suggest that we don’t have useful historical information about the lives of people who didn’t write their own histories.

          • “I’m not a professional historian…”
            Nor am I. But I follow history (is that a valid phrase) way more than most folks.

            A agree with your first paragraph.

            But most people of the time did not live in cities. And they were the ones that provided the labor to keep the cities alive. In terms of food production 1/2 of the year and other labor the rest of the time. And these folks were mostly considered to not be literate.

            Was the literacy rate above .01%. Likely.

            Was it above 10%? Less likely.

            Above 50%? I doubt it.

            Just look at the rituals of the “church” that have come down through time. Plus the architecture of the church buildings. It’s all set up as memory aids to learn and remember the Gospel message. No reading required.

  22. Michael, I think you have captured the tension that many of us feel. Living in the inner city and pastoring a small church in our home (20-35 people), the kind of time, cost and commitment these cathedrals require can seem lavish and indulgent. When I’ve fed good, honest, hard working people out of my cupboards because they just can’t seem to get by, it is difficult to see these investments. However, when I was a teen visiting Europe for the first time I was impacted by the beauty of these cathedrals which helped root my faith in history, humble me in respect to the greatness of God and introduce me to a sacramental view of worship.

    So, like yourself, I’m torn at times. As Scripture makes clear, what is right is not always what is most cost-effective, but that can also become a quick excuse. Something to wrestle with.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  23. I-monk,
    I don’t know. I’ve been all over the board on this. I left a church a few years ago (for other reasons) but it was around the time they were committing to build a new 1500 seat sanctuary. The architect showed the designs, and several times he emphasized how great it was that it didn’t “look like a church” That kind of bothered me. They use the word campus to describe the property. It’s sad to see old churches in some neighborhoods converted to businesses.
    I understand the beauty aspect of the building, and they are great to look at, but at what cost? The church is the people not the building. Wouldn’t it be better to plant another church than to expand your own? I lean more to planting now than expanding. Expanding encourages consumer christians–it’s easier to hide and do nothing.
    My 2 cents

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Expanding encourages consumer christians–it’s easier to hide and do nothing.

      And a church that looks like a tilt-up warehouse or Wal-Mart doesn’t help. Too easy to become a spiritual Wal-Mart, selling just another product. Or a Disneyland, keeping the attendees constantly amused.

      Really hard to do either in a St Peters, Notre Dame, or Hagia Sophia.

    • That’s exactly the attitude that kills me, Mrk. What is so great about “It doesn’t look like a church”? Would the architect tell other clients “And the great thing about this is that it doesn’t look like a bank/library/office block/warehouse”?

      I think someone might say “Well, seeing as how we are indeed a bank and not a toystore, it might be nice if we looked like a bank and not a toystore or a furniture warehouse or a drive-through restaurant.”

      You don’t need to build a huge expensive building, but what is this mania for avoiding all resemblance to function?

  24. A good book on why Gothic, or churchly architecture, looks good is “Ugly as Sin” by Michael Rose. It is from a Roman Catholic perspective. The author attempts to explain why it is so hard to pray in the modern churches of the 60s on forward and why the old architecture, like Gothic, seems so conducive to prayer and worship. He comes up with three “natural laws” of church architecture based off of Notre Dame Cathedral. Verticality, Permanence, Iconography. I found it a good read.

    • A book I enjoyed was Philip Ball’s “A Universe of Stone,” which describes the building of Chartres.
      While I don’t think it’s the case here, I wonder to what extent such buildings are misguided attempts to recapture a sense of Euro-centric Christendom.

  25. great post and comments. I have worked professionally in architecture, stained glass and construction for 25 years, initially for firms and now on my own. I live in a poor neighborhood the locals call the ghetto, and have struggled to fulfill my calling to be part of kingdom building here. I love art, architecture, design, beauty and all the rest, a lot. But having been part of, and continuing to be part of church project, I usually end up heartbroken & conflicted. I need & like the work and appreciate the intent of the clients, but the huge expenditure of money, often equated as evidence of Gods’ favor , is the domain of wealthy communities. I didn’t see one black, Hispanic or Asian person in the video, and doubt many are there. Everyone was dressed well, probably have nice cars and houses, and I bet that within a 10 minute drive, just like my part of the country, there is abject poverty & a enormous need for the incarnational gospel. One church I’m doing is contemplating a +/- $100,000 addition mostly because its inconvenient & embarrassing for some people to walk towards the front of the sanctuary during service. Buildings often become cruel masters, and even more so in poor communities where many small churches compete and can barely maintain the utilities. That said, I love the building and can see the other viewpoints.

  26. I always appreciate your Irenic and generous spirit . I’ve found over the years that God easily accomplishes his purposes through and in spite of people and circumstances I thought would have completely negated this possibility. Remarkable though it is, he doesn’t seem to need or depend whatsoever on your or my opinions, wisdom, and thoughtful foresight. Thank God!

    My earlier comment on the metal box church sounds denigrating. I don’t intend it to be as mean as it sounds. I do wish to communicate through what I wrote that God is nearly always greater than we imagine, and it does our spirit well to listen to how others have expressed their faith.

  27. Evangelicals, and most Protestants in general, have abandoned beauty as a theological reality and need. I think it came in part from the iconoclasm and anti-sacramentalism of the Reformation. This, to me, is a part of the regaining of that theology of beauty among Protestants, and I think it’s marvelous. God created the universe and turned around and said it was very good. In part, was that not because of the beauty of it? Does not the beauty of creation reflect the beauty of God? Is not God himself beautiful? Surely He is the origin and definition of beauty, and that which is beautiful should direct us to God in an instinctual way and perhaps in a conscious, intentional way as well.

    This sort of space calls the worshipper to God in a way that a multi-purpose room or auditorium simply cannot. You’re right in that not every church should build a cathedral like this because not every congregation has the resources to do so, and God may be calling them towards something different, and that, too, is good. But what a gift that this church can do so – that they can create a space that can reflect this part of who God is and draw the heart to Him that way.

    • I think Jesus would want us to be beautiful people first before we go to such great lengths and expense to build beautiful buildings. I do not mean beautiful people as in magazine cover material, I mean people who are beautiful because they reflect the truth and beauty and goodness of Christ. The indwelt Body is His temple now.

      When we become that kind of people, I believe God might then bless us with the talent and skill to once again create church buildings that have truth and beauty and goodness. And once again they will not look like anything that has been done before or since. Church architects should NOT be replicating the past, but join God in making new creations.

  28. The Church should sponsor great performances. Everything doesn’t have to be participation. Sometimes we should just come and listen.

    And who said this was “consumer church?” Yeah, I see that possibility for some people, but is the risk any less with, as someone said, “theater church” or “box store church?”

    • charlie.hr says

      Well put… “sometimes” not every time.

    • The Church should sponsor great performances. Everything doesn’t have to be participation. Sometimes we should just come and listen.

      I’d agree with that. That’s why many Anglicans don’t bring their bibles to chuch: you go to listen to the word in their tradition. I just put a very high value on congregational singing. Whether it’s blaring amplifiers or a symphonic orchestra and choir, if the musicians always drown out the congregation, I see it as a problem. From what I understand, one of the reasons for the high ceilings in a cathedral is to create a better acoustical atmosphere for singing, both from the choir and the congregation. On the other hand, there’s defnititely a place for great performances, even in a normal Sunday service. I just think there needs to be a balance.

  29. I can’t really complain about a church building a modern cathedral. so to speak. It’s kind of like asking yourself what kind of car you should drive. Is it a sin to drive a luxury vehicle? No, as long as the vehicle doesn’t become an idol in and of itself. If you can afford the vehicle and still support the church and do the will of God, the vehicle is just a tool, regardless of what it costs.

    That said, I also believe that money should be spent carefully. Would I build a big, gothic-style church? Perhaps, as the church itself serves a mission of glorifying God. But at the same time, don’t build more than you need, don’t let the building become what the church is about, and don’t spend $3 where $2 gets the same impact. (Aesthetics do have an impact, so the classic styling may be worth it.)

  30. Beautiful and inspiring, which is exactly what is needed to draw us into worship and a life of faithfulness. I have no issue with some churches like this being built as they give us do help convey the message and unique beauty of the gospel. It also seems fromt he video as though the motivation of the congregation was on the mark in that it was not self-serving but gospel and Christ-serving.

    The problem I have, and one that seems prevalent in our area, is the scores of congregations fleeing to the suburbs and spending millions on a warehouse-type structure that blends almost seamlessly with the business park next door or the rec center down the street. Ugh.

    Part of the calling of Christ is to be distinctive, and this should be reflected in our church architecture in those instances when the choice is made to build a substantial structure.

  31. Count me as clearly in the minority here, much more in line with your former views than with this one. Caveat: the dear Christians at Covenant Presbyterian answer to God, and not to me, and I’m not about to judge them on this call. That said, at the risk of sounding like some cretin, this strikes me as excessive, financially-irresponsible (quite possibly; be interesting to know what kind of $ went into this), and the type of thing that fosters all sorts of wrong concepts about what a “church” is supposed to be. Just to a comment or two from readers, the idea that it’s “hard to pray” in modern churches–because of architecture???–strikes me as, well, ridiculous. And to use Matthew 26 to justify this extravagance…well, that doesn’t wash with me, not at all. I’m much, much more impressed with churches that plant other churches (and sure, maybe Covenant does), spend their money on significant ministry, missions, etc. Again, Covenant probably does a good deal of that–though again, it’d be interesting to know how much they’ve invested in building, as opposed to ministry).

    Even note in the video the mixed messages that are sent about the true nature of the church. They SAY, toward the end as I remember, that “the church is the people”–hey, we’re all supposed to SAY that, aren’t we?–but on more than one occasion, the word “church” is used to referred to the structure (I’m pretty sure I remember that; if I’m wrong, I’ll stand corrected). It’s a building…a great big, expensive, beautiful Gothic building…but that’s all; it’s NOT a church, and I fear that continuing to build these things perpetuates that myth. That not to mention the fact that if Michael’s predictions about evangelicalism are right–not that I fully agree with them–we’re going to find, increasingly, that the landscape is dotted with massive, expensive church buildings (some, probably not even fully paid for) and either congregations of 75 “filling” them, or sitting like so many old Wal-Marts vacant and useless.

    Finally, I have a problem in general with building massive auditoriums that encourage the all-too-entrenched concept that the congregation is the “audience”, that everything “important” takes place on the “stage” (and you KNOW that’s what most folks call it, don’t you?), that the congregation is generally (not completely, but generally) passive, etc. Building Gothic cathedrals reinforces this pagan concept that most of us have uncritically imported into our Christianity. Church is the time to dress up in “Sunday finest”, listen to the perfectly-tuned choir (or, in the contemporary version, dress grungy and listen to 120-decibel rock-for-Jesus show), listen to a message, and go home–with the other people “in church” only incidental to our experience of God. Could a kid run down the aisle of this place without being shushed and told “we don’t run in church” (wonder what Paul woulda said about that one?)? I’m just sayin’…and, at this point, ramblin’…sorry.

    Look, I appreciate beauty like everyone else; I’m sure that it’s a gorgeous building. I’m not arguing that every church building ought to be built the most cheaply it can be. But there is no greater beauty than that of Christ, and on this earth, nothing more beautiful than a life being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I just have this nagging feeling that a lot of folks are going to find themselves being asked by Jesus, in Heaven, “so, what did you do for me?”

    And the answer will be, “look at the nice big building we built!”

  32. Though I am a firm believer that whatever we build for God should be high quality, beautiful, and dripping with craftsmanship, I take the other side on this for the reasons I’ll outline here.

    The age of the stone temple is past. God does not dwell in temples built by human hands. We have His treasure in vessels made of flesh. What is suitable for one dispensation is not for another. The age of Solomon’s temple passed when Christ was born in a manger into a world of piss and blood.

    I am not an expert on large-scale buildings, though I did build homes at one point. I would not be surprised if this church cost $25-40 million to build, though. Knowing the actual figure would be helpful—and perhaps frightening.

    Francis Chan was recently confronted with this issue of spending millions on a bigger church and his church decided it was better to invest money into people not buildings. I believe that is God’s true heart.

    How many Bibles for Christians who do not have them in Asia and Africa can be purchased for the cost of this massive church building?

    How many new converts to Christ who live in poverty in the Third World could be taught a trade and given a shot at a better life with the money it cost to build this church?

    How many poor people in Nashville who were losing their simple homes to foreclosure through no fault of their own could have benefited from these Presbyterians offering to pay for their homes with the money it cost to build this massive church?

    How many people in Nashville unable to pay for medical care or who are facing bankruptcy due to hospitalizations or chronic illness could have had their bills paid off by the cost of what it took to build this multimillion dollar church?

    What kind of witness do those acts I just mentioned have within them that trump the “witness” of just another massive church building? The fact that the pastoral staff deems their church building a witness is sad, especially when so many other, more life-changing witnessing opportunities exist, especially those fundable by the staggering amount of cash this church cost. I can tell you that lost people are not driving by this church and having on-the-spot conversion experiences because of the architecture.

    Cities across the United States are filled with empty churches that look just like this one. And they are empty because the white people who built them fled the neighborhood once the surrounding demographic changed. I searched in vain in that video for a non-white face and found none. Having been to Nashville in the past, I can tell you that real “minorities” live there, though you would not know it from this video. (This seems to be a problem with every PCA church I have visited.) The issue of “those people” haunts wealthy Presbyterians, especially those who are worried that the beautiful thing they have built will somehow no longer be beautiful when the poor Hispanics and blacks want to come for a visit.

    The pastor talks about looking to the past for inspiration for the church design. Why? If this were a truly creative vision, why not build something beautiful that reflects contemporary architecture? By building gothic, the church only solidifies the impression of lost people that the Church of Jesus Christ holds nothing that speaks to the issues of today. (And honestly, if the pastor were that interested in building like the early Church, they could have constructed an entire subdivision of simple homes and met in them.)

    This church also needs a rethink of what constitutes beauty. A group of poor Mexican Christians who truly live by “give us this day our daily bread” will surely hold a church meeting seen as beautiful by God Himself, even if their church building only costs $500. (In truth, I would rather worship with them, if given the opportunity.) Given the cost of this PCA church, I would also think that it may have the reverse result, proving itself ugly because the people who built it invested in concrete and rebar instead of using all that cash to bring beauty to the uglier side of life in Nashville in Jesus’ name.

    There is also a large amount of hubris in the comment in the video about this costly church being here hundreds of years from now. Not only because of the issues of neighborhood demographic change, but also from the simple fact that the times are growing to resemble those of Matt 24:14-22. Unless the people who built this church are hardcore preterists, are they that unable to read the signs of times? Instead of being rooted in one locality, the Church of Jesus Christ needs to grow more nimble and less dependent on structures and systems that may turn around and bite them. Or keep them from fulfilling the mission of Christ even as the darkness gathers. There is an insular thinking in building such a massive, costly church now that calls into question the vision of its leadership for dealing with the realities of the age we live in.

    I could write more, but I’ve already said enough. In short, a lovely building that is all wrong for the times we live in.

    • How about “Because humans need beauty”? How about because man does not live by bread alone? How about the old “Bread and roses” slogan?

      For a lot of people, the only colour and beauty they found in their lives was in their place of worship. The schools, homes and places of employment were dull, grey, functional, miserable places. There were no museums, art galleries, theatres, orchestras. But churches had beautiful sights, beautiful spaces, beautiful sounds.

      A lot of them were built by the poor because this was a way of expressing themselves, of expressing their pride, their dignity, their human impulses for art and creativity.

      Sure, this money could go a lot of places. “The poor you have with you always.” And there are always the better-placed so willing to criticise the poor and tell them off and tell them how to improve themselves, live frugally, save, be temperate – and then look down their noses at the pleasures of the poor which tend to be loud, vulgar, cheap and flashy. I am not saying you are one of the modern day Lady Bountifuls who like to do improving things for the deserving poor; I’m just saying that as one of the not-so-deserving at-times-working-poor, I am fed up to the back teeth of being a “case” not a person 🙂

      Want to criticise wasteful building? Then think of Dubai, and the insane projects going on there – attempts to create luxury tourist attractions that can have no possible way of making the money back when the oil revenues run out, all catering to tempting the rich to come and spend money.

      What about the crazy competitions between various cities to build the “world’s tallest building”? Can you, off the top of your head, name which is the current title-holder? Yet fortunes of money go on these follies.

      I hope that the poor go and get the benefit of this building. I think it much more likely they will be able to get something out of it, rather than out of the world’s tallest building or the Dubai islands in the shape of the continents.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Matthew 24:14-22 as in “The Obamanation of Desolation sitting on his throne”? As in the End Time Prophecy that ate 10-15 years of my life? Back then Christians KNEW The Time Was Short and The End Was Nigh — “We might not have a 1978! Or even a 1977!”

      If you and those others “who are Able to read the signs of the times” back then acted like the “hardcore preterists” you disdain, their works and achievements would have been ongoing and inspiring others for some thirty years instead of having never been done because The End Is Nigh So Why Bother It’s All Gonna Burn. When the world ends tomorrow, you’re not going to dare great things that last. Like this PCA church.

  33. Louis Bouyer’s critique of Protestantism stands: Eventually, because God is disassociated from the world and is totally invested in the Word, NOTHING matters but God.

    The more I listen to evangelicals, the more this critique knocks me over.

    Lord, I almost felt Catholic there for a moment. Where’s 911?

    • Which book is that? Sounds like one I’d be interested in reading.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Eventually, because God is disassociated from the world and is totally invested in the Word, NOTHING matters but God.

      The Wahabi and Taliban would agree —
      Al’lah’u Akbar Al’lah’u Akbar Al’lah’u Akbar…

  34. I think John 12:1-8 has something to say to this discussion. Sometimes extravagant displays of worship (building this beautiful structure) are appropriate for the context of the community.

    pax domini,
    mike

  35. Gary Foster says

    I think you have some valid points about this Michael. I would ask the question, cannot such buildings with such architecture serve a sacramental purpose in helping lift our minds and spirits towards more lofty and noble realms? I think they can. I also hearken to Lyle Schallers thinking on these things and consider church buildings “signs” that tell the public something about who inhabits these things. “Butler buildings” (metal buildings similar to barns) may speak to Michaels ideas as frugal stewardship in right thinking prioritization of resources. To the public at large it might be saying to them that this church puts a lower value on the effort of doing church than the Catholic church down the street with the marble and granite cathedral.
    Another consideration. When your down on your luck and you need to find a place to pray, (as has happened to me when I was a Pastor with a church blg of my “own”, I picked an old Presby. Ch with magnificent architecture and not the Baptistized in the Fire Pentecostal Holiness Church in the old storefront.

  36. charlie.hr says

    Sometimes an awesome building can be the problem for the very thing we want them to cause… Worship to God!

    You see, for some it will keep them focused on the building distracting them from whatever is happening in the program. For the people who can really appreciate the architecture, in our days will probably will cause to praise the architect and not to give them a sense of awe before God (in the middle age that was the purpose of this type of building) but then that makes you wonder if the sense of spirituality in the service comes from an intimate communion with the Spirit of the Lord or is just a delusion produced by the environment (the sound, the lights, the music and the building). For the members of the denomination it will be a great deal of temptation not to show pride (in a sinful way) of their infrastructure. And it this hard economic times, I don’t want to know what a burden the maintenance bills are gonna be for that denomination.

    To much cons and so little pros… why the trouble?

    Don’t get me wrong, I like fine arts (including architecture). When I visited Vatican city I was amazed of what can MEN create (build). MEN not God. Some of those men were not devoted christians that were even thinking in giving glory to God with their work, but certainly to leave a name to history (besides being well paid).

    If this is building is the result of obedience to God’s will and eternal purpose, then… praise the Lord!
    But pardon me if I’m skeptical… only time will tell. I think most of the buildings in Europe are silent witnesses of void religiosity that seems to be starting to happen in America.

    It certainly will attract a lot of christian tourists! and maybe some will consider abandoning their little (megachurch) ’cause a sudden feeling that God wants them to transfer their membership to this church.

    I don’t know if I can do this but may I suggest Frank Viola’s and George Barna Pagan Christianity? (the book explains pretty much the hi and lows of church buildings).

    And I don’t want to forget to mention that the money can be used for… (place whatever you want). Yes I know Judas said something like that, but Jesus rebuke him for a jar of alabaster that was used once to recognize him and worship him; not for a multimillion dollar building that demanded a huge chunk of money to be built and an unreasonable amount of money that will be wasted…errrr, sorry I mean used for maintenance.

    Peace & Love.

    • “…for some it will keep them focused on the building distracting them from whatever is happening in the program.”

      No offense, but, um, program?

      • charlie.hr says

        sorry… service, liturgy, etc. (but you have to admit that in some places it’s a program)

        Peace & Love

  37. …i think we need all the help we can get to cut through the “noise” and truly experience God…i know personally that when i enter a richly ornate Cathedral i immediately experience a difference in my perceptions of God and i must say it “feels” right…i feel secure..im more in a solemn respectful mood…it’s a definate sense of Awe as if God were actually present THROUGH the beautiful architecture……sounds and smells become an enhancing part of this experience..even lighting makes a significant contribution to this orchestra of the senses that proclaim Gods presence.

    • …on the other hand i can feel the same presence of God in the woods when the setting is just right….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Not many woods where the setting is just right where I am, two miles north of Disneyland in the middle of OC suburban sprawl. Go out late at night and you can hear the sound of car alarms howling in the distance.

        And even when you drive beyond the built-up areas, it’s still not woods — just scrub-covered hills with burn scars from the big fire three years ago. Or inland deserts (the Mohave around Barstow or Hesperia) where late at night you can hear the echoes of exploding meth labs instead of car alarms.

  38. That’s rather amazing! We don’t build them like that anymore. As someone working in the Indiana Limestone industry and familiar with many large stone-clad building projects, it is nice to see a church select building materials which look more permanent than a warehouse or a Walmart. I once worked as draftsman on a similar church project, the Cathedral of the Rockies, in Boise, Idaho, and greatly enjoyed it.

    I agree with your opinion on the matter. Not all, but some should build such churches! I would also urge that if a church is going to build at all, they should carefully consider how and what they are going to build, both so far as the Kingdom concerns you mentioned, and what their choice of architecture says about the Church and the God that the Church claims to believe in.

    Thanks for posting on this!

  39. charlie.hr says

    The early church life was characterized with simplicity…

    Thank you dear Constantine for ruining that for the future generations of christians.

  40. Couple of things to note.

    1. According to a Russian chronicle when the ruler, a pagan, was considering converting to another religion he sent out emissaries to the Jews, the Muslims, the Catholics, and finally the Orthodox. The emissaries to Constantinople visited the Hagia Sophia and reported back

    “we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men.”

    The Hagia Sophia still stands though now a museum not a church (or a mosque which it was for many centuries) and stripped of much of the ornamentation it would have had. Istanbul is also filled with spectacular mosques.

    2. My cousins play in an English cathedral orchestra. The arrangement is more or less a barter. The cathedral gets the amateur (but good) orchestra to play at a certain number of services in return the orchestra can use the cathedral for a certain number of paying concerts.

  41. I’ll jump in with my two cents.

    I can’t explain it, but churches of all types, with the exceptions of store fronts etc, ispire me.

    Be they small country rural chapels, or large downtown churhces.

    I would echo Gary Foster above and say when I am looking for a place to pray I pop into the downtown ECUSA church on the way home. I guess I’m just shallow or something according to some folks on this post, but the glass, the wood, the smell, the needlepoint, the kneelers even all really move me in some sense.

    I don’t mind large ornate churches at all, but what I do mind is that most churches stay shut up during the week. I was shocked when I found out the ECUSA church where I pray has the door open every day all day. It’s a shame too many churches just sit there empty.

    If I ever do pastor full time, I hope to be able to keep the doors open for prayer.

    One more thought. Sometimes looks can be deceiving.

    I went to a very quaint looking stone ECUSA church in a neighboring town and got inside to realize they had tottaly moderned the place up with carpet, drywall, etc. Ick.

    Then I went to visit a local continuing Anglican group that was using a chapel in the basement of a local UMC church. I got inside and they had taken a block concrete room and transformed it into a really special place.

    • Austin, I am very happy that the little Catholic Church building where I attend Mass stays open during daylight hours. I pop in there at times to sit, pray, meditate. I noticed a few others do, as well, from time to time. I think years ago it stayed open 24 hours a day but theft became a problem, sadly. I don’t think most of the churches around here are open for anyone to just come in and pray, unfortunately. I can pray right in my office, if I want, as I am the only one here much of the time, but the !@#&*! phone rings and I have to answer it. Only way is to get away from it.

  42. Sigh. That’s one of the most extraordinary new Christian clubhouses I’ve seen in a while.

    As a pastor currently of an old (1950’s) church building (I pastor people, but I’m stuck with maintaining their old building, too) I am encumbered with the responsibility of making continually increasing expenditures and spending much time just overseeing up-keep of the house—replacing heating & air, installing more energy efficient windows, painting, cleaning, waxing, mowing, etc.[note: Even while writing this at the church I am interrupted by a plumbing contractor!] I think I heard Rick Warren say one time, “If you build the Crystal Cathedral somebody has to buy the Windex.”

    And constantly we here deal with the facility driving ministry instead of facilitating ministry. The design of ‘50’s SBC architecture worked okay in 1950 but doesn’t allow for much change to adapt to 21st century needs and ministry.

    I have been in great cathedrals and other great structures all over the world, and though impressive, frankly I just don’t get it. It’s a building.. I watched the entire video and it was depressing. Would it not be better, more effective, more influential, more Christ, to invest that kind of money, energy, dedication, and commitment more directly into people?

    I acknowledge that in our current culture we need to have some kind of central meeting place for church but how much is gained for Christ by spending $50-100 million on a structure? Okay, it’s art. Fair enough. But that’s some mighty expensive art for pigeons to roost on. How many artists in that congregation, I wonder. Would the community be better served on Christ’s behalf if the church facilitated and developed 600 (or whatever the membership) artists communicating Christ beautifully throughout the city rather than uniting to contract the construction of one edifice on one hill?

    I could not help but wonder if some of these church members were in large part substituting their affection for Christ with a structure. Let’s see…wasn’t there also a religious structure in the first century that Jesus was accused of not adequately revering? “They said…prove Your authority to do all this….”(driving out the temple commercial vendors) and He(Christ) said, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days…” Now there’s a building program!

  43. Henry Adams’s reflections on the Norman-Gothic abbey at Mont Saint-Michel have changed my view of what church architecture is capable of communicating:

    The whole Mount still kept the grand style; it expressed the unity
    of Church and State, God and Man, Peace and War, Life and Death,
    Good and Bad; it solved the whole problem of the universe. The
    priest and the soldier were both at home here, in 1215 as in 1115 or
    in 1058; the politician was not outside of it; the sinner was
    welcome; the poet was made happy in his own spirit, with a sympathy,
    almost an affection, that suggests a habit of verse in the Abbot as
    well as in the architect. God reconciles all. The world is an
    evident, obvious, sacred harmony. Even the discord of war is a
    detail on which the Abbey refuses to insist. Not till two centuries
    afterwards did the Mount take on the modern expression of war as a
    discord in God’s providence. Then, in the early years of the
    fifteenth century, Abbot Pierre le Roy plastered the gate of the
    chatelet, as you now see it, over the sunny thirteenth-century
    entrance called Belle Chaise, which had treated mere military
    construction with a sort of quiet contempt. You will know what a
    chatelet is when you meet another; it frowns in a spirit quite alien
    to the twelfth century; it jars on the religion of the place; it
    forebodes wars of religion; dissolution of society; loss of unity;
    the end of a world. Nothing is sadder than the catastrophe of Gothic
    art, religion, and hope.

    One looks back on it all as a picture; a symbol of unity; an
    assertion of God and Man in a bolder, stronger, closer union than
    ever was expressed by other art; and when the idea is absorbed,
    accepted, and perhaps partially understood, one may move on.

  44. Sacredness doesn’t have to be grandios or expensive. It could be down-right plain.

    I don’t know. Yes, the puritans worshipped in barns and preached from water troughs; and, yes, Jesus was there. Jesus is present in a strip mall store-front church. If there is a criteria for Jesus’ presence, I think it is only, “where two or more are gathered in My name…”. How we gather in “His Name” might be an interesting discussion. There are a lot of motivations which look like gathering in His name which are something completely different.

    If religious art becomes a necessity to draw the presence of God, it has ceased to be Christian. If Pietism and asceticism banishes religious art, architecture, and symbols because the material world is evil and temporal, and all that matters is the internal, bodiless soul, it, too has ceased to be Christian.

    I think religious art and architecture is a question of anthropology. I think there is something about being created in the image of the Creator which compells us to create sacred objects. For DaVinci, it was sculpture, painting, and invention. For Bach, it was music; for the Shakers, it was furniture. To call such activities idolatrous is like taking a knife and cutting a vital organ out of the human body. To make things for mere consumption is equally defacing to the human creature.

    • Additional comment: I would never want to see any form of architecture or religious art to become the mark of a true or successful church, such as what stadium seating, dazzling lighting systems, projection systems, sound systems, and the kickin’ worship band have become. These are burdens which most churches simply can’t bear. There are older churches which can no longer afford the upkeep on their pipe organs and are being forced to dismantle or sell them; but that was the mark of a successful church back in the day.

  45. Waltizing Matilda says

    I wonder how much it cost to build Solomon’s Temple, and couldn’t that money have been better used for other things…..?

  46. I’m identical to you, Michael. I’m of a low-church persuasion, but I am extremely aware of the importance (and necessity!) of these types of expressions of the church in architecture.

    As created and embodied beings, we should be aware of the existential ways we are affected into worship. Grand cathedrals instill a sense of awe and transcendence that is important for Christian worship.

  47. Bill McReynolds says

    I think you could have stopped with “Most churches, as I see the cross cultural church planting task, should consider whether they even need a building, at least for a very long time.” The immigrant and ethnic ministries with which I work here in So. Cal. will be unable to afford “their own” bldg. for decades, if ever. Even the Anglo suburban new church plants are caught up in the need to build, and cannot afford to.

    So, now that CPC has this sanctuary, will it become a place for worship or an object of worship and the only place where “ministry” happens. In our current North Am. context, I am increasingly convinced that younger people will run from the opportunity to expend their energies and their wherewithal to maintain a building of this size. The city of Los Angeles, and every other city in the country I am sure, is chock full of buildings just this large and just this grand, and they are empty and falling down.

  48. Apparently some of you aren’t reluctant at all to see far into the motives and sins of a church like CPC. I’d counsel a couple of things:

    1) Don’t let your missionalism turn into a cover for fanaticism. Zealotry never looks like Jesus. Remember the radicals who tried to turn the Lutheran reformation into anarchy. If we say that we have the plan for every church’s contribution to the Kingdom, we go well beyond what any of us know.

    2) I wrestle with this a lot. Here in Southeastern Ky, building a $20 million structure would be obscene, but we’ll have churches within an hour of me build a $10 million I’m sure, and people will come out of the hollers and hills to fill it. Some will be offended. Some will be attracted. I can’t say how a church’s decision affects their place in the mission. Like Dan E, I can see some things clearly, but every seminary, every utility bill, every nickle spent on itunes is no different. We do have Kingdom economics here don’t we? Then sell your computers and give to the poor.

    3) I think there is some hubris and some whiteness, but I think there is some undeniable beauty and God-centeredness. Wouldn’t it be great if everything were easy to sort through and no balance was necessary?

    🙂

    • It’s a beautiful church with a lot to admire.

      But I was repeatedly taken aback by the church’s comment that this was a witness. What would be a witness would be to offer to pay the medical bills of area people who are facing foreclosure on their homes due to crushing medical expenses. By all counts, 60% of foreclosures fall into this category, and they affect “normal” people, not ones who bought homes they could not afford.

      “When I was at my most desperate, ready to lose my house, unable to face my kids just because I got cancer and the medical bills mounted, the people at that church helped me in the name of Jesus. It made me want to know why they would help someone who didn’t go to their church. I am a Christian now because of their kindness and mercy to me.” Can’t you hear someone saying that? What kind of eternal value does something like that carry?

      It would not only be the people immediately impacted by this largesse by the entire community. That is a witness, not a building. That speaks to God-centeredness, not a building. That says that we as a Church are more interested in God’s heart for others, which is what truly blesses Him, than saying, “Look at the pretty stone cathedral we built in God’s name that sits amid a community of hurting people who will probably never grace the doorway of this magnificent edifice.”

      Honestly, what is worship? Isn’t it to set our desires down, to put away what immediately benefits us or makes our lives more comfortable so that we may bring that comfort to someone else. Isn’t that also what dying to self means? Or have Evangelicals completely forgotten what it means to die to self?

      I see massive churches that cost millions at this time in Church history and I think, No, we don’t understand at all what it means to die to self. And that pretty much explains why the Church of Jesus in America borders on being completely ineffective for the Kingdom of God.

  49. Christiane/L's says

    As a Catholic, I am often reminded that God visits the humble places of the Earth: a stable with a dirt floor in Nazareth long ago, or a ‘cathedral for the poor’ with a tin roof and a dirt floor far away in South America.
    A friend of mine gave most of his money to build such a church in South America.
    When he returned to work as a young deacon in a Protestant Church, he was asked to pray so that they could raise enough money to change the color of the sanctuary carpet from blue to red.

    He got up to pray.
    He couldn’t say anything.
    He stood before the congregation and wept.