Why We Build
Let me admit it: I love the dark, brooding majesty of cathedrals, where everything human seems small and muted. But I don’t want my church to ever build a cathedral.
As a tourist, I have visited dozens of the world’s great cathedrals. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran—even Crystal—these buildings share an immensity of scale that both impresses and distresses me. Even as I admire the “flying buttresses” and vaulted ceilings, my pastor’s heart begins to count the cost of all my eyes take in.
For cathedrals—or similarly large church building projects—are statements about theology and mission as well as architecture. Church historians remind us that the age of building cathedrals coincided with the era of least missionary activity in Christian history. The building—massive, visually impressive—was supposed to attract the wayward and the lost, not seek them. And after taxing millions of laypersons to construct them, there was precious little money left to spread the gospel, and few willing to do so.
As one of the most rapidly growing Christian faiths on the planet, the Seventh-day Adventist Church builds churches—lots of them—each year. Through the genius of Maranatha International’s “One-Day Church” program, and the dedicated labor of volunteers, hundreds of new church buildings go up each year. They give us shade in summer from the unrelenting Saharan sun. They give us shelter and warmth from the piercing winds of Alberta or Ukraine. They shield us from rain in dense tropical climates, and offer a place to worship God together when snow lies deep at the door.
But churches are chiefly places where believers gather to talk a common faith, to bear each other’s burdens, to offer heartfelt adoration to Jesus, and to learn how to more effectively carry the good news—so that other churches will be built in other places, till He comes. It’s all about worship and mission.
As you read this month’s cover story, pray for the eyes to see your church building as the Lord sees it—a storehouse of faith, through faith, by faith, and for even more faith.