Modern church architecture commoditizes the Gospel
12 March 2009 1 Comment
Still slowly making my way through Mako Fujimura’s recent blog entry, where he plays off of Lewis Hyde’s idea that art is a gift, not a commodity. I’m on page nine now, and Mako is turning to how the Gospel, God’s salvation for fallen man, is also a gift and how the modern American Church treats that gift.
Instead of treating the Gospel as a gift, he suggests
. . . we have treated the gospel like a commodity, shopping it around like salesmen, or worse yet, showmen full of savvy. When our churches look like gigantic malls, or hotels or even strip malls, and when we proclaim — “salvation comes free, at no cost,” we are unintentionally tapping into the language of consumer economy. Of course, informed decision-making needs to be part of the transaction, and we must have a convenient location to meet for worship. But the context and method for sharing the Good News taps too often into the consumer mentality. Yes, you might argue, but if that method works, and the Good News is preached, what’s wrong with that?
The problem is in not spending time and effort thinking about the context of communication, as much as the content of the message. We may seek out experienced business minds to lead our church drives, but churches usually do not seek out artists who exemplify “the gift economy” to guide and direct stewardship, and communication. And if we do not consider the context, the context will define our message, as much as our preaching or singing.
I’m with Mako all the way on this. As I’ve said before on the blog, buildings speak, whether we want them to or not. And like he says the problem seems to be a lack of any forethought on the part of building committees as to how their facade may be perceived. Just as a missionary needs to contextualize the Gospel when taking it to a new culture (which, admittedly, didn’t happen as it should have in certain historical mission eras), a group of Christ-followers needs to take into account their own local culture when designing a place of assembly.