The other day, I made a quick and dirty case for turflessness: “The easiest way to get outside of the ‘four walls’ of the church is to not have ‘four walls’ to begin with.”
One interlocutor suggested that moving into a 7-day-a-week, bricks-and-mortar “church” building helped members feel like they are “firmly planted”. I suggest that this version of “plantedness” is an essentially middle-class felt need. Stability, predictability, this-thing-ain’t-going-anywhere—these and other sentiments aren’t necessarily wrong. But they mustn’t be the aim of a gospel-planting church.
This morning, serial entrepreneur and start-up mentor Steve Blank offered WSJ readers a series of sharp observations about the ways building envy can wreck a culture. Want to kill a scrappy, can-do environment? Convince yourselves that your hard work has earned you a little luxury.
The new building telegraphed to our employees, “We’ve arrived. We’re no longer a small struggling startup. You can stop working like a startup and start working like a big company.”
We started to believe that the new building was a reflection of the company’s (and our own) success. We took our eye off the business. We thought that since we were in such a fine building, we were geniuses, and the business would take care of itself.
and most bracing of all was his summary of lessons learned from “The Curse of the New Building”:
Don’t let it happen to you. Stay hungry, stay lean. New buildings are a distraction. You should avoid them at all costs. Building upgrades can destroy a culture.
Many established church pastors cite a church building campaign as the worst experience they’ve ever had in ministry. Why would a startup church, then, even entertain such an idea? It seems to me to be a recipe for premature institutionalization, the clogging of missional arteries in the body of Christ, and a great way to advertise that your values are in closer alignment with the 20th-Century middle class than with the 1st-Century spontaneous expansion of the church.
Building “upgrades”? Count me out.
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