As we consider Biblical principles, how should we decide what type of church to build? The next two articles will contain some overarching practical concepts that need to be considered in deciding what to design and build.
1. The Facility Should be a Tool for Ministry
A church building is first and foremost a “tool for ministry”.
“If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.” Eccl. 10:10
A poorly designed church can be compared to a dull ax. The job may get the job done, but it is much harder to accomplish the task. Good design is one of the many tools in God’s toolbox to be used in the edification of the Church. We need to ask ourselves, “How can this building help us reach the lost and edify the church?” Many church mission statements contain some form of these two goals. Design decisions can be made to achieve these goals instead of for capricious or subjective reasons. This will minimize conflicts over sticky issues like paint color, chairs vs. pews, etc.
2. It Must Align with Biblical Ministry Goals
Because a church building is a tool for ministry, we need to know what the specific goals of our ministry are.
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. Proverbs 22:3
This verse illustrates the importance of looking ahead. Which direction do you sense God taking your ministry? How is the local economy? What is happening with the demographics of your town? All of these things require observation, analysis and judgment and will affect your building project. James warns us against presumption,. He doesn’t forbid planning, only encouraging flexibility to God’s leading.
How has God directed you in your ministry? This may depend on the church’s location; the church’s emphasis; or even the personality and giftedness of the leadership. In order for a building to be of greatest use, we must know what our ministry goals are before we can plunge into a design. For example, a church may be located in an area where there is a lower income urban population and desires to reach urban youth. Such a church may decide to go with a multiple-purpose for their worship space instead of a dedicated auditorium. A multi-purpose space may be more cost effective because it can be employed for “double duty” instead of a separate auditorium and gym. The church may have a vibrant basketball outreach for inner city youth and this type of space can be extremely valuable. Chances are such a population will have no problem if there are no pews, stain glass windows or padded carpet in the worship space.
Ministry goals also should dictate and drive building design. A distressed pastor that had attended an all day workshop on ministry planning, stated after the workshop, “I’m sick. We have just completed our new facility and are now in debt over $6 million dollars—and I think we built the wrong building.” Not many problems are as dramatic as that, but it does help to illustrate the importance of paying attention to God’s leading regarding the direction of the ministry.
Next article will address how the church building can be a “witness to the community”.