May 7, 2009
Sadly, the research to which you refer was a silly forced ranking that compared some classic buildings with some bottom of the line boxes and asked: which do you like better? A more meaningful exercise was conducted about a year earlier that asked what part building appearance played in someone's interest in a particular church. The answer? Unless you grew up in a church or in a culture heavily influenced by church (Hispanic, for instance), it didn't matter. See <a href="http://churchthatmoves.wordpress.com/2007/06/25/look-and-feel/" rel="nofollow">http://churchthatmoves.wordpre...</a><br><br>There's no excuse for ugly (just as "authenticity" is no excuse for being rude), but the contemporary vs traditional debate can get just as foolish in architecture as it does in worship (or any other cultural preference masked as theology) but we should at least base it on meaningful questions.
While classic architecture may be appealing, if the inside of an old building is out of date, musty, unkempt, etc.- I can't imagine that being appealing. When I think of "old" churches, chipped linoleum floors, bulletin boards posted with outdated notices and musty (or worse) smellling nurseries come to mind. Even if the exterior building qualifies as a historical landmark, the inside has to count for something
One of my favorite churches, a Vineyard church in Albany Oregon, meets in a converted shopping mall space. They have several thousand members and people actually line up for church early before the doors open like they would a blockbuster movie, because they are excited about worshipping a living God who does book of Acts like things. (I can just hear snarky comments about our American Christian consumer culture.) But the building really doesn't matter.<br><br>And speaking about buildings, I just got an interesting report today from the Cuban Assembly of God. Cuba had about 12,000 members meeting in 89 churches until 1989 when revival broke out. Since there weren't large church buildings, the people had to meet outside. During that time thousands of people came to Christ and it drew the attention of the authorities to the meetings. Government officials actually met with church leaders to ask if the large gatherings could be held in homes. It's amazing, the communist regime bent on opposing the gospel, actually authorized home cell groups.<br><br>Today there are more than half a million Assembly of God Christians in Cuba according to the general superintendent, Hector Hunter.<br>Or you could give the example of the Chinese Christian house church revival.<br><br>Of course I like beautiful architecture but as Solomon said, God does not dwell in a house made by human hands. Most revivals begin is very humble surroundings. If it happens in a church, fine, but people will flock to barns if they know God is there.<br>
In the 1990s a study was done on what kind of music "unchurched" teenagers preferred in church. They liked hymns, and hated CCM:<br><br><a href="http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=708" rel="nofollow">http://www.lcms.org/pages/inte...</a>
"Traditional church buildings used as churches may be more attractive to the unchurched because they want to see something in the church that is different from other aspects of their life that are shaped by market forces and narrow demographic branding strategies"<br><br>this statement struck me not only with regards to church buildings but the definition of the Church as a gathering of the "called-out ones". if we sincerely live out our faith, finding full expression within the different ministries of the church, then people will really see the difference. think we have fallen into the trap of trying to compete with the world instead of just showing we are not of it. the beauty of tradition and the rich heritage of christianity is also a way to show this to those that are unfamiiar. though that too has its own set of musty smelling nurseries like many church buildings. ulitmately, all of the external trappings whether beautiful or dilapidated is nothing if the hearts of the congregation is not to the Lord of the church.<br><br>have a blessed day.
russ, <br><br>this is very interesting. thanks for the tip. <br><br>
No real mystery here. It's the "Wedding Chapel" syndrome, and has everything to do with "religion", and not much to do with Christianity (except religiouschristianity).<br><br>The Japanese have been buying up old churches (complete with stained glass and stone arches) and reassembling them in Japan so non-Christian couples can have a romantic "wedding" experience.
the moral I draw from these surveys is that you don't have to look like the rest of the culture to attract people. If people want a mall, they'll go to a mall. They want a church because they want something they can't get other places. A traditional space maybe invokes that difference better than a contemporary space, but as Rick's example demonstrates, other factors can outweigh aesthetics.
Add your comment to join the discussion!