Businesses pivot all the time. At least the good ones do. Something isn’t working? Let’s change it up a bit. About to go bankrupt? Let’s adjust the model. Here is a perfect example: Starbucks went from selling coffee machines and the stuff to make coffee to selling the brewed beverage and it has impacted the lives of millions of people. A simple shift in the business model took Starbucks to a new level of success.
The church is in a prime position to make a pivot and become more successful. I know each setting is unique. I know every church can’t make a pivot. There are “rules” in place which keep it from happening and that’s ok. But it leaves you (and me) not room to bemoan the obvious relevancy gap which exists between the American public and the mission of the church. When you can change the “rules” and you don’t do so, there is no one to blame when your church dies but yourself.
There is no biblical mandate to build a church building. God doesn’t need your building. Make no mistake about it, a church building only exists for the people who meet in it. Acts 7:48-49 says, “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest?'”. See, God has a house and it isn’t your building.
So what should we be doing with these buildings? Keep meeting in them! I’m not saying it is bad for a church to have a building. Build a building! House your flock! Do all the things you should do in your buildings! Buildings are not the problem. What churches do with the buildings is the problem. The per square foot cost the build a new building is stupid expensive. The cost to renovate one is even worse. There is no good money solution for a building. It just costs money to do anything. All I ask is for the church to sit back and ask, “What is the best use of our space?”
I see church parking lots sit empty from Sunday afternoon until the following Sunday morning. Oh sure, they have the occasional men’s ministry group or ladies group in the building but for the majority of the week, those buildings and parking lots are EMPTY. Why? Because church isn’t relevant to most people throughout the week. It is a weekend check off item and they can’t bother with it during the week. What if churches were better stewards of their buildings during the 167 hours between services?
What if churches changed the “rules” about their buildings? What if the community actually used the building? I don’t mean Miss Margaret needs it for her family reunion (although that would be fine), I mean a local business uses the building for a corporate event they have planned. It is hard to do that with pews bolted to the floor and a 25′ Jesus nailed to the cross on the back wall. Please hear me when I say there is NOTHING wrong with pews or 25′ Jesus. Keep him. But don’t expect to have an easy go of things if you want secular businesses or even secular non-profits to use your building.
I think it is time for the church to understand it is ok to pivot their methods. Preach Jesus. Share the Gospel in all of its offensive glory. Don’t sacrifice on that. Keep all the close-handed doctrines clenched tight. Don’t waiver on the important stuff. Keep being the church. All I ask is for you to sit back and ask, “Are we being the best stewards of our space we can?”