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Are Emerging Churches More than just Churches with Cool Buildings?

1 March, 2004 8:19 PM

Another Emerging Church article in the mainstream media. (Excerpts Below)

It is interesting to see these articles starting to 'emerge' in the media. One of the things that I notice about this article is that it focuses very much upon describing the buildings and places of worship of these emerging churches.

I know articles like this one have to pick a focus - perhaps this is what is going on here - but perhaps its also symptomatic of our obsessions with buildings? The temptation is often to define or name a church by its buildings whether they be house churches, pub churches, cafe churches, warehouse churches....er...Livingrooms (not that we named it that because thats where we meet!)

Do 'emerging churches' run the risk of being known for and defined by their buildings? Will it be the church that can find the coolest buildings that will be the churches that are seen to be the latest cutting edge development?

I think there is so much more than meeting in a place that looks different or cool to Emerging Church. Yes some of us meet in new places to reflect our context, but hopefully we can be known for more than our buildings.

I'm not sure I have all the answers, but these are some of the questions that come to mind as I read this article. What do others think?

Here are some Excerpts from the article mentioned above.

'Some churches in South Florida are flocking to offbeat real estate like abandoned nightclubs and shopping malls as part of a movement toward more informal, intimate settings....

Resurrecting pizza parlors as places of worship may seem odd, but it's part of a movement in religious circles toward more informal, intimate settings, referred to by some religious observers as ''emerging'' or ''postmodern'' churches.

''Our intent is not to take anybody who would already be in church,'' said Guy Melton, senior pastor of the Church of Hollywood Downtown. 'We want the people displaced from church, turned off by it or the `never beens.' ''

Pastor Dan Kimball, author of Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, said younger generations are often turned off by impersonal, old-school houses of worship that hold services ``like a movie theater, where you sit down and watch a program.''

Many people are looking for a more communal, interactive, homespun feel, he said....

Some of the newer congregations meet in school lunchrooms and movie theaters or rent space from established churches, but others find an empty free-standing storefront or a forlorn shopping center and negotiate a deal.

While most of the renovated churches are of the smaller, storefront variety, there are exceptions. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and The Faith Center in Sunrise are jumbo size. Faith snapped up the Sunrise Musical Theatre at 5555 NW 95th Ave. in 2002 for an estimated $6 million. Seating capacity: 3,732.

Calvary takes big to another level entirely.

The church, one of the largest in the state, bought a former computer factory on West Cypress Creek Road for $22 million in 1996, said Mark Davis, executive pastor. The draw: a 300,000-square-foot main building -- plenty of room to house an estimated 16,000 weekend worshipers.'



This is a concern I have in a lot of the writing I see on the emerging church movement. Not so much the buildings, although thats a part of it. It is just so easy to be distracted by being cool, by being different, by creating a whole new jargon to replace the old, by whatever. Much easier to be known for and even excited about all that than to be known for your love, for your fruit.

My prayer is that people find God, that they follow him fervently, that they mature to the point of being presented complete. I think that happens more readily in a living room than a large auditorium, because we encourage each other to grow in the context of relationships. Cool has little if anything to do with it.

David » 2 March, 2004 3:33 PM

Reggie McNeal in "The Present Future" addresses well this obsession with real estate. Being a church pastor for over 20 years, I know too well how much the "stuff" can overtake ministry and relationships. But we are made of stuff, inhabit space and place. That's what incarnation is all about. The key issue for the emerging church and the traditional church is it capacity to be transformed. Transformed space can shift from idolatrous obsession into redemptive instrumentality. If we disavow our stuff, we will go the way of all heresies into gnosticism and dualism.

Don Johnson » 5 September, 2004 3:56 AM

I personally think it doesn't matter where you meet, it is why we meet...if we are meeting to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and the fact that he died to cleanse us of our sins...then anywhere we meet becomes sanctified and can be used to teach about Jesus.

Ben Snell » 12 December, 2004 1:46 PM

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