I admit, our church isn’t that pretty of a building to look at. It’s at least sixty years old if not much, much older. The roof is dilapidated, the heating and air conditioning units are less than trustworthy, the bathrooms have seen much better days, the carpets have stains of the unremoveable sort, and the place can even smell old.
But here’s the plus side, having a building in this condition means when we say the “church isn’t the building; it’s the people,” we feel good about saying that, relieved even. It also serves as its own little obstacle and conversation-starter, like, “which one of my friends could I invite to this very visually unattractive church?”; “Should we spend money on the building or on the ministries?”; or “Why is this important to us that the sanctuary look nice?”
In some ways, having a church building that is aesthetically not up to par with some of the more successful churches we’ve been and seen and read about is liberating. It means that its beauty comes from something other than its appearance and ambience.
It’s much the same with people, I think. The more we say that “right” answers or do things that make us look good rather than just being who we are and able to be honest with each other, the more we are relying on our appearance and reputation, which might work well at your job or your school, but it’s a disadvantage at church. I think I prefer a mess, an honest-to-God incorrigible mess. Depression, heartache, pain, worries, addiction, backsliding…obviously, I don’t think these things in and of themselves are good things, but at least they draw our focus off something superficial, like your Sunday best. It brings up the reality that God needs to move in our lives in real, visceral ways – not to simply satisfy some intellectual or theological question, but to fill our lives. Here’s to the mess! Come, meet a Savior who told me everything about myself and did not look away!
So I appreciate this church building, it makes us focus on the things that make us a church. And I appreciate and invite us to be honest about what we really wrestle with on a daily basis, which is how often I would like God to move in our lives.