09 October 2006

It's not about facilities, or is it?

Last weekend, I went with my family to another church with a friend of ours. The main reason was so that Alla and our friend could spy out the Sunday School program to get some ideas for out church. While they were with the kids, I went and did some recognisance at the main service. This is a larger church than we go to, with bigger facilities. Their old church building was now the main meeting room where all the kids meet for some singing before they split into their groups. This room is the same size as our present church sanctuary. Their new facilities are much larger. The sound system was not bad at all. If it was up to me, I may have set it up a little differently, but it wasn't mine to choose. They had a great set-up with three video projectors and running a program that was new to me. It's like running a PowerPoint™, but instead of static backgrounds, you can run video or animations. Very nice eye candy.

After the service, I was walking out to meet the others to go home, and got to thinking. There's this saying that's been going around evangelical circles, and I had bought into it for quite a while already. But my faith in the idea just got shaken to the core. The saying is that it's never about the facilities. It's about ministry, about what God want's to do? Right?

But what I realized that day is that facilities facilitate. Ironic ain't it? We want to do our part, but in the name of some "higher principle" (which isn't even Biblical, although we try to treat it that way) we then refuse to facilitate. We settle for mediocrity, instead of taking the resources we have been trusted with and facilitating all that we can.

Think about it, what are the most effective facilitators that we know of? Stadiums facilitate pro sports. Without a stadium, it's not the same thing. What is going out to the pub without the pub? Just some guys sitting on a curb getting drunk. But add the facilities, and it's something totally different. Want to go the church? Why go to something that isn't a church, like a school gym or a community centre? Why is the Catholic church so good at filling the pews? Is it maybe that they have the pews, the cathedrals, the altars, the prayer candles? All of these things facilitate something. Evangelicals have left most of those things up to the individual believer to flesh out. Most of them are not fleshed out at all.

What do we do to facilitate prayer? Most evangelical churches are closed for prayer, the offices are open, but to go in and pray... most places are too afraid of someone stealing something. So we can't pray in church because someone might steal something. Yeah...

What do we do to facilitate worship? Most churches shy away from the arts and expressing our worship of our God. Where are the paintings, the stained glass windows, the statues, the poetry? We only facilitate a very narrow understanding of worship, mostly limited to a specific style of music.

What do we do to facilitate spiritual discipline? Most of the time, we wait until something goes wrong and then offer the answer of "this is something we need to pray through".

What about justice? We focus in on forgiveness so much, we forget about restitution (4 fold wasn't it?). How much effort do we put into doing what is right, and fixing what is wrong?

Ok, too many questions. But this has certainly got me thinking.