Back in 1989 a quote from a film was inserted into our culture that is still used today, “If you build it, they will come.” That of course is from the movie, Field of Dreams. This is the voice that Ray, Kevin Costner, hears and it compels him to act. As people looked at him for being crazy – kind of like Noah – he built a baseball field in a cornfield in Iowa. The field brings former greats back to play the game and ultimately Ray’s dad.
This phrase has probably been used to convince people to build some not-so-practical structures in the past 30+ years. I can’t help but wonder if someone has built a baseball field in Iowa only to be disappointed when ghosts don’t take the field. This slogan has been used by churches as well – if you build this building, people will come! While I understand the sentiment, I’m not sure God was the originator of the phrase. Often this comes under the guise of faith – “let’s go into debt and that will show our faith!” Here at Liberty, we have a slightly different approach.
What is it that really changes a person’s life? Is it a building? A worship center? Contemporary architecture? Of course not. I have never heard someone say, “I am a new person because of the beauty of this auditorium!” We all know the only thing that changes someone at the heart level is Christ and a surrender to Him. On the flip side, building and architecture then can’t ruin a person’s spiritual life either! Pew, altars, hymnals, and other physical items may hold nostalgia in our hearts for a time that has passed, but if only Christ can change someone, only Christ can change someone.
So what do we do? At Liberty we have upgraded a few rooms with a few more on the horizon. What is the purpose of that? Should we just let things go and value function over form? But then the Temple in the Old Testament was insanely expensive – is that the model we should follow? To clarify a bit more, maybe it would be good to outline some value when it come to the building. We are currently working on a nursery. Some may ask, “Why?” Let’s find out by looking at 3 values of our physical property.
Our building communicates what we value
This goes beyond the religious symbolism of crosses and steeples; this communicates how much we are really invested in what we say we believe and to what extent we really value it. Think of it like this. Let’s say you are a parent of a 10-year-old. You aren’t rich, you aren’t poor, but you as a person value looking as good as you can. It’s not over the top but you wear clean clothes, you iron them, they aren’t falling apart, in general you look good. Now let’s say someone visits you and you have your 10-year-old with you. You look good, but your 10-year-old looks awful. Clothes are too small and ripped. Hair is all over the place. The kid doesn’t look, or smell bathed for weeks. He or she is skinny and looks really hungry. But you keep saying how much your love your kid! You can say whatever you want but the way we treat something or someone says differently.
In the same manner, our building is a physical entity that carries with it the ability to say to our community how we really feel about God – like it or not. Should God’s house not be the most cared for and revered pieces of property around?
Our building builds bridges with the community
As a kid we used to travel here and there – always road trips. On those rare occasions when we would stop at a hotel, usually it was at some motor lodge. But every so often we would go high brow and stay at a Howard Johnsons. In the 1970’s I thought we were living like kings – and maybe we were back then. I remember the pools and the rooms that we so stylish.
In the day rooms like this communicated comfort, style, and the fact that the hotel understood the needs of the guest. It was great. But what about now? Some of you may be driven by the wonder of nostalgia, but there is a reason you can’t find rooms like this anymore – what said one thing years ago says another thing today. At one point it may have said – we value you but 40 years later it says – we don’t value you. And even if you are a nostalgia lover, there are certain changes that have taken place that I am sure you would be missing today.
Our property communicates whether we are worth listening to. Remember, Jesus changes live, but we can really turn people off by not recognizing how to speak to them. It doesn’t mean that what we did 40 years ago was wrong, but it wasn’t necessarily right in that it could not change and be improved. And isn’t God’s house more important that Howard Johnson? When was the last time you spent the night in one?
Our building should not drown us
Up this point you might think – let’s just take out a loan and build everything we want! We could do that but then there is this little pesky thing called debt. I have seen numerous churches go this route – wanting the best – only to be house poor and more importantly ministry poor. Missions giving goes down. Ministry efforts go down. But the banks are making a great profit! It really doesn’t make much sense does it? Remember the building doesn’t change people, Christ does. The building communicates and we don’t want it communicating we are in debt!
One of the best practices of Liberty has been carrying zero debt. That means everything goes towards ministry practices. It also means we do things either as we can or by raising funds for projects. It also means we are very frugal – not cheap – in what we spend. Because even this says something. Ultimately this is all about balance. Right now, we are working on upgrading some rooms because it is important what they communicate. It’s a slow process but we are getting there. Will we ever take a loan? Hard to answer that right now. But for where we are, our level of excellence is based on how well we steward that building God has given us. Check back for more specific updates on room and building initiatives.
You know, it’s not really build it and they will come, it’s more like live it and they will come. That’s what we want to do with the building God has given us.