Abandoned church buildings

It always saddens me to see old church buildings that have been turned into restaurants, bars, concert halls, museums, or condos. See The Cultural Conversion Of Cast-Off Churches.

On “Kitchen Nightmares,” Gordon Ramsey, that chef I have been hyping who slaps failing restaurants and cooks into shape, took on an eatery that had once been a church. He, at least, for all his bleeped-out language, was strangely respectful of the once-sacred space. He used the confessionals to make the errant cooks confess their sins against their vocations (Q: “What was the worst thing you’ve ever done in the kitchen?” A: “I dropped a piece of meat on the floor and just put it back on the plate.”) After he forced the owner to clean the filthy kitchen and buy some decent equipment, he brought in local clergymen to pray and to bless the kitchen.

To be sure, new church buildings are often designed to look like shopping malls, corporate offices, or convention centers. I see no problem with using them for the purposes that their appearance suggests anyway. (But is there a problem even there?) The old buildings getting abandoned tend to have the sacred built into them: they typically follow a cruciform floor plan (expressing that worshippers gather in the Cross), are adorned with built-in Christian symbols that cannot be removed (shapes evoking the Trinity, Crosses everywhere, lines sweeping upward to evoke a sense of transcendence), the tripartite structure of the Hebrew Temple (a gathering place for all; a holy place for worship; the holy-of-holies area that is the altar). So turning all of that–or ignoring all of that–to turn the building into a night club just seems, literally, a profanation.

Wouldn’t it better to just tear these buildings down than to turn what was once “sacred space” towards “profane” uses? Or is this a wrong distinction? Do these new uses for a church building instead bring the sacred into the secular, turn everything sacred, and demonstrate God’s reign over all of life?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I have always dreamed of having a studio in an abandoned old church. I don’t think that we ought to tear them down. We have a lack of beautiful buildings in this country, we should never tear one of them down!

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I have always dreamed of having a studio in an abandoned old church. I don’t think that we ought to tear them down. We have a lack of beautiful buildings in this country, we should never tear one of them down!

  • Brian

    As water without the Word is not baptism, so a building without the people centered around the eucharist is not the church – even if it does have stained glass windows. (and the old mega-churches, let’s turn them into machine shops or shipping warehouses)

  • Brian

    As water without the Word is not baptism, so a building without the people centered around the eucharist is not the church – even if it does have stained glass windows. (and the old mega-churches, let’s turn them into machine shops or shipping warehouses)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    A small Catholic church in a twon where I used to live became a private residence when the church relocated to a large new building on the edge of town.
    I so wanted to go inside, to see stained glass windows in a living room, etc.
    Someone told me the owners had used two pews for seating at a long kitchen table. Sounded cool to me. And the loft was a study that overlooked the living room (part of the sanctuary).
    I’m with Sarah: save old buildings. After all, once the altar is gone and the use has changed, it’s still a building.
    Of course, we’re not talking about great cathedrals, full of history as well as religious symbols. And I certainly wouldn’t condone any use of a church building, just as I wouldn’t condone unworthy uses of any building (strip clubs, gambling houses, or even a bait shop, for that matter!)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    A small Catholic church in a twon where I used to live became a private residence when the church relocated to a large new building on the edge of town.
    I so wanted to go inside, to see stained glass windows in a living room, etc.
    Someone told me the owners had used two pews for seating at a long kitchen table. Sounded cool to me. And the loft was a study that overlooked the living room (part of the sanctuary).
    I’m with Sarah: save old buildings. After all, once the altar is gone and the use has changed, it’s still a building.
    Of course, we’re not talking about great cathedrals, full of history as well as religious symbols. And I certainly wouldn’t condone any use of a church building, just as I wouldn’t condone unworthy uses of any building (strip clubs, gambling houses, or even a bait shop, for that matter!)

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I have the same feeling, Dr. Veith. But all in all I’m far more concerned by churches that remain consecrated, where heresy is taught and the Scriptures flouted.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    I have the same feeling, Dr. Veith. But all in all I’m far more concerned by churches that remain consecrated, where heresy is taught and the Scriptures flouted.

  • Mary

    God-willing, maybe the old churches can be bought back by the church in time.

    I agree that nightclubs in such a situation express the profanity of the world, but, still, a church building, built by God’s servants in God’s time, regardless of the apparent function may function in other helpful ways: calling people to repentance, turning thoughts to the Lord and His Church, and maybe somehow helping those who wait on the Lord wait a little more patiently.

  • Mary

    God-willing, maybe the old churches can be bought back by the church in time.

    I agree that nightclubs in such a situation express the profanity of the world, but, still, a church building, built by God’s servants in God’s time, regardless of the apparent function may function in other helpful ways: calling people to repentance, turning thoughts to the Lord and His Church, and maybe somehow helping those who wait on the Lord wait a little more patiently.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I wonder if someday someone will convert those sacred spaces back into sanctuaries in which to commune with the living God. Maybe they should be left up.

    But on the other hand, the old and beautiful church down the street converted into a Sushi bar disturbs me a bit. I went there once and couldn’t get over feeling a bit strange as I laughed with my friends over saki. They have great food, but I sure wish I could go in and not see all those little fat buddhas. I imagine that the maintenance costs on that building must be insane and I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to have a local historical preservation group save the stained glass, respectfully tear down the building to enable new construction in city. A deep part of me also longs for dead religious spaces to all be torn down.

    All the old Christian churches converted into something else which I see as I walk around my close-to-downtown neighborhood make me extremely sad for all their children who do seem to (for the most part) have abandoned Christ for many different false gods. I mourn the evident loss of a more robust Christian faith in my city.

    “When they built these magnificent edifices, it was not on their radar screen how future generations would sustain them.”

    Well, duh, these faithful people of an age gone by were planning on their children and their children’s children being faithful and maintaining the sacred space for sacred purposes. Repent, people and turn back to Christ!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I wonder if someday someone will convert those sacred spaces back into sanctuaries in which to commune with the living God. Maybe they should be left up.

    But on the other hand, the old and beautiful church down the street converted into a Sushi bar disturbs me a bit. I went there once and couldn’t get over feeling a bit strange as I laughed with my friends over saki. They have great food, but I sure wish I could go in and not see all those little fat buddhas. I imagine that the maintenance costs on that building must be insane and I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to have a local historical preservation group save the stained glass, respectfully tear down the building to enable new construction in city. A deep part of me also longs for dead religious spaces to all be torn down.

    All the old Christian churches converted into something else which I see as I walk around my close-to-downtown neighborhood make me extremely sad for all their children who do seem to (for the most part) have abandoned Christ for many different false gods. I mourn the evident loss of a more robust Christian faith in my city.

    “When they built these magnificent edifices, it was not on their radar screen how future generations would sustain them.”

    Well, duh, these faithful people of an age gone by were planning on their children and their children’s children being faithful and maintaining the sacred space for sacred purposes. Repent, people and turn back to Christ!

  • JPW

    I agree with what Brian and Prof. Veith wrote. Once the church ceases to house the Divine Service it is no longer a church. But the problem remains that the church is treated like any other abandoned building. It might send a message that the place of worship is not particularly important and distinct from other buildings.

    The real problem, of course, is the original cause of the church being abandoned. Something drove people away and this is what should concern people.

  • JPW

    I agree with what Brian and Prof. Veith wrote. Once the church ceases to house the Divine Service it is no longer a church. But the problem remains that the church is treated like any other abandoned building. It might send a message that the place of worship is not particularly important and distinct from other buildings.

    The real problem, of course, is the original cause of the church being abandoned. Something drove people away and this is what should concern people.

  • Bror Erickson

    Better they be given somewhat of a deconsecration, and torn down. No garantee what is going to happen to it when it is no longer a Church. And we should respect those things that were at least once sacred, even if no longer used the same way. We have this problem with left over communion elements, also.
    Makes me wonder though about store front Churches which in some cases is a necessity, at least for a time. I’m sure though I could come up with a theological reason to excuse those being turned into a smoke shop though.

  • Bror Erickson

    Better they be given somewhat of a deconsecration, and torn down. No garantee what is going to happen to it when it is no longer a Church. And we should respect those things that were at least once sacred, even if no longer used the same way. We have this problem with left over communion elements, also.
    Makes me wonder though about store front Churches which in some cases is a necessity, at least for a time. I’m sure though I could come up with a theological reason to excuse those being turned into a smoke shop though.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Not necessarily, JPW. Sometimes the congregation abandons its smaller original building for a larger one, to accommodate its growth.
    But is that necessarily a good thing? What if it offers false Christianity? Yet it’s increased to the point it needs more space–more parking!
    But that’s not the subject of this conversation.
    As to my earlier post, that the old church building had become a private home: who knows how the people inside this now secular buildinge live their lives?
    Then again, who knows how the people inside it, when it was a church, worshiped?
    Yet again, as with most Christian churches, particularly older ones, there would be Gospel in the art and the architecture, if not in the preaching and teaching.
    So, it would be unsettling, to say the least, to have a window depicting the the Good Shepherd or Christ’s ascension, over a table for two at a sushi bar, let alone a blackjack table. Or even over a sofa and a big-screen TV.
    Come to think of it….
    Many of us probably hang crosses in our homes, or crucifixes or religious artwork, and are probably careful in our placement of items depicting the sacred. We’d probably not be so bold as to make our largest window out of stained glass, with a graphic depiction of Christ showing His wounded hands and feet, or the nativity.
    Maybe a church that expands to another location, deserting its former property, ought to ceremoniously dispose of that property like we ceremoniously dispose of old flags, even over offering it out as another church building for another body. After all, if one believes one’s church’s confession, by extension one ought to disbelieve another’s.
    My head is spinning….

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Not necessarily, JPW. Sometimes the congregation abandons its smaller original building for a larger one, to accommodate its growth.
    But is that necessarily a good thing? What if it offers false Christianity? Yet it’s increased to the point it needs more space–more parking!
    But that’s not the subject of this conversation.
    As to my earlier post, that the old church building had become a private home: who knows how the people inside this now secular buildinge live their lives?
    Then again, who knows how the people inside it, when it was a church, worshiped?
    Yet again, as with most Christian churches, particularly older ones, there would be Gospel in the art and the architecture, if not in the preaching and teaching.
    So, it would be unsettling, to say the least, to have a window depicting the the Good Shepherd or Christ’s ascension, over a table for two at a sushi bar, let alone a blackjack table. Or even over a sofa and a big-screen TV.
    Come to think of it….
    Many of us probably hang crosses in our homes, or crucifixes or religious artwork, and are probably careful in our placement of items depicting the sacred. We’d probably not be so bold as to make our largest window out of stained glass, with a graphic depiction of Christ showing His wounded hands and feet, or the nativity.
    Maybe a church that expands to another location, deserting its former property, ought to ceremoniously dispose of that property like we ceremoniously dispose of old flags, even over offering it out as another church building for another body. After all, if one believes one’s church’s confession, by extension one ought to disbelieve another’s.
    My head is spinning….

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Bror beat me to it.
    What Bror said.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Bror beat me to it.
    What Bror said.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I want to amend my post above more along the lines of Bror’s and Susan aka organshoes’ ideas:

    Whenever possible the original congregation when moving or disbanding or whatever should attempt to do something faithful with what may be useful for future generations, such as art windows, communion vessels, baptismal fonts, kneelers, etc. and ceremoniously tear the building down.

    I’ve seen it where a congregation moved and brought some of the sacred furniture and art and incorporated it into the new building and architecture. I like when I see at least that thoughtfulness in churches that are relocating. Too bad for those people close to the city where the old churches were though, when the faithful abandon those (who are often economically poorer) to false gods. (Rev. Wright comes to mind here)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I want to amend my post above more along the lines of Bror’s and Susan aka organshoes’ ideas:

    Whenever possible the original congregation when moving or disbanding or whatever should attempt to do something faithful with what may be useful for future generations, such as art windows, communion vessels, baptismal fonts, kneelers, etc. and ceremoniously tear the building down.

    I’ve seen it where a congregation moved and brought some of the sacred furniture and art and incorporated it into the new building and architecture. I like when I see at least that thoughtfulness in churches that are relocating. Too bad for those people close to the city where the old churches were though, when the faithful abandon those (who are often economically poorer) to false gods. (Rev. Wright comes to mind here)

  • Booklover

    Nix on the churches-into-profane-use building.

    However, I wouldn’t want to see them torn down. We need to see the beautiful old churches, not the concrete and microphone structures we have today.

    My sister-in-law visited our local high school yesterday. There is a mega-church beside it. She pointed to it and asked, “What is that???” There was absolutely nothing about the mega-church that would lead her to believe it had a sacred purpose of any sort–it’s just a huge sort of futuristic monolith. She thought it was an extension of our high school. I’m sure, however, that if she would have walked inside the mega-church and seen the climbing wall and the gymnasium, she would have known what it was. :-/ :-/

  • Booklover

    Nix on the churches-into-profane-use building.

    However, I wouldn’t want to see them torn down. We need to see the beautiful old churches, not the concrete and microphone structures we have today.

    My sister-in-law visited our local high school yesterday. There is a mega-church beside it. She pointed to it and asked, “What is that???” There was absolutely nothing about the mega-church that would lead her to believe it had a sacred purpose of any sort–it’s just a huge sort of futuristic monolith. She thought it was an extension of our high school. I’m sure, however, that if she would have walked inside the mega-church and seen the climbing wall and the gymnasium, she would have known what it was. :-/ :-/

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Let’s be clear:

    Tearing down churches is the Law.

    Preaching Christ and Him crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins is the Gospel.

    Buidling beautiful churches for that Gospel to be publicly proclaimed is a fruit of the Gospel.

    Building big box warehouse style churches complete with coffee bars and climbing walls is a fruit of something other than the Gospel.

    I think our culture needs some Law (by the Church encouraging the tearing down of dead church buildings) to prepare at least one more dead soul to live by way of Christ’s forgiveness. Maybe new Christians would think a little more about what they are building today too. Probably not, though.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Let’s be clear:

    Tearing down churches is the Law.

    Preaching Christ and Him crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins is the Gospel.

    Buidling beautiful churches for that Gospel to be publicly proclaimed is a fruit of the Gospel.

    Building big box warehouse style churches complete with coffee bars and climbing walls is a fruit of something other than the Gospel.

    I think our culture needs some Law (by the Church encouraging the tearing down of dead church buildings) to prepare at least one more dead soul to live by way of Christ’s forgiveness. Maybe new Christians would think a little more about what they are building today too. Probably not, though.

  • Bror Erickson

    Bryan,
    You take all the fun out of building a new church. Personally I wanted to do a gymn/ sanctuary, where during the week the altar could be used as a climbing wall, like Jacob’s ladder…..

  • Bror Erickson

    Bryan,
    You take all the fun out of building a new church. Personally I wanted to do a gymn/ sanctuary, where during the week the altar could be used as a climbing wall, like Jacob’s ladder…..

  • Bryan Lindemood

    The drum kit could go on top :)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    The drum kit could go on top :)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I think we should build all our churches with the building’s possible future uses in mind.
    Large clear-glass windows would be helpful from here on out.
    While it’s still a church building, parents can watch their children on the state-of-the-art playground during divine service.
    We’d all have a good view of the labyrinth and zen-like water features; something to meditate upon during particularly long sermons or those additions to the service that increase the time our behinds are stuck to the pews. You know–those lengthy confirmation exams, renewal of vows, etc.
    Then, when we sell the facility and it converts to a trendy restaurant or a bed & breakfast, it’s nearly ready on day one.
    It would increase our resale value, AND we’d be recycling and repurposing.
    After all, we’re told we not to see church like our grandfathers saw it. What did they know, anyways?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I think we should build all our churches with the building’s possible future uses in mind.
    Large clear-glass windows would be helpful from here on out.
    While it’s still a church building, parents can watch their children on the state-of-the-art playground during divine service.
    We’d all have a good view of the labyrinth and zen-like water features; something to meditate upon during particularly long sermons or those additions to the service that increase the time our behinds are stuck to the pews. You know–those lengthy confirmation exams, renewal of vows, etc.
    Then, when we sell the facility and it converts to a trendy restaurant or a bed & breakfast, it’s nearly ready on day one.
    It would increase our resale value, AND we’d be recycling and repurposing.
    After all, we’re told we not to see church like our grandfathers saw it. What did they know, anyways?

  • Bob Hunter

    What is sad is that many “modern” churches today wouldn’t be caught dead making use of these old churches. They would prefer to keep out of their places of worship anything that makes it look even remotely like a Christian church, lest they offend someone.

  • Bob Hunter

    What is sad is that many “modern” churches today wouldn’t be caught dead making use of these old churches. They would prefer to keep out of their places of worship anything that makes it look even remotely like a Christian church, lest they offend someone.

  • Ryan

    I hate to see abandoned Church Buildings (quite honestly I hate to see many of the older school, opera, cultural building decay and be replaced by boring utilitarian architecture).

    Despite this, if the the church is built like a church it will still confess God. I recommend Michael Rose’s “Ugly as Sin”, on how a Church Building confess the faith held by those inside.

    Good church architecture speaks even if the inside is hollow instead of hallowed.

    Perhaps we should be more concerned about what the newer pole construction churches confess than the older ones.

  • Ryan

    I hate to see abandoned Church Buildings (quite honestly I hate to see many of the older school, opera, cultural building decay and be replaced by boring utilitarian architecture).

    Despite this, if the the church is built like a church it will still confess God. I recommend Michael Rose’s “Ugly as Sin”, on how a Church Building confess the faith held by those inside.

    Good church architecture speaks even if the inside is hollow instead of hallowed.

    Perhaps we should be more concerned about what the newer pole construction churches confess than the older ones.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Ryan, A church building (as beautiful as its architecture may be and as sad as I may be that it no longer houses Christ Word and Sacrament) empty on the inside or filled with sushi and little buddha statues also confesses something about Christianity. A sad confession I would just as soon not have my neighbor’s equate with what I stand for every day of my life.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Ryan, A church building (as beautiful as its architecture may be and as sad as I may be that it no longer houses Christ Word and Sacrament) empty on the inside or filled with sushi and little buddha statues also confesses something about Christianity. A sad confession I would just as soon not have my neighbor’s equate with what I stand for every day of my life.

  • PeteS

    I think a congregation should do whatever they feel is right. I agree with those who say that, without the Means of Grace and the 2 or 3 or 2,000 gathered in Jesus’ name, it’s just a building. However, I also feel that it is a shame to take something that was consecrated for sacred use and turn it over, whether it be for a nightclub, sushi bar or heretical church. I think many congregations don’t feel they can afford to just “decommission” and tear down an old church if they are moving to a different property. However, this is adiaphora, which is why we all have our own thoughts on it.

    Here’s something else to consider: We have gotten to the point in this country where not only do many not appreciate the sanctity of a church building, but some don’t even seem to recognize the church as a church, i.e., they don’t know what a church is. Some 16 years ago my father, who was a pastor and even wore the clerical collar, was accosted by two young men, one with a knife and one with a gun. They asked him if the church was his house. This was a very traditional looking church, with Lannonstone exterior, a high steeple and stained glass windows. Now, my father may have misunderstood their question, but it sure sounded to him like they didn’t know that this was a church.

  • PeteS

    I think a congregation should do whatever they feel is right. I agree with those who say that, without the Means of Grace and the 2 or 3 or 2,000 gathered in Jesus’ name, it’s just a building. However, I also feel that it is a shame to take something that was consecrated for sacred use and turn it over, whether it be for a nightclub, sushi bar or heretical church. I think many congregations don’t feel they can afford to just “decommission” and tear down an old church if they are moving to a different property. However, this is adiaphora, which is why we all have our own thoughts on it.

    Here’s something else to consider: We have gotten to the point in this country where not only do many not appreciate the sanctity of a church building, but some don’t even seem to recognize the church as a church, i.e., they don’t know what a church is. Some 16 years ago my father, who was a pastor and even wore the clerical collar, was accosted by two young men, one with a knife and one with a gun. They asked him if the church was his house. This was a very traditional looking church, with Lannonstone exterior, a high steeple and stained glass windows. Now, my father may have misunderstood their question, but it sure sounded to him like they didn’t know that this was a church.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    PeteS,

    I’m not so sure I would be so quick to dismiss this topic as adiaphora for faithful Christians. God’s word certainly does speak to sacred spaces and what ought and ought not to be done in those spaces. And yes we should count the cost of what these former church buildings teach the culture about the importance of the sacred and of the state of faithful Christianity today.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    PeteS,

    I’m not so sure I would be so quick to dismiss this topic as adiaphora for faithful Christians. God’s word certainly does speak to sacred spaces and what ought and ought not to be done in those spaces. And yes we should count the cost of what these former church buildings teach the culture about the importance of the sacred and of the state of faithful Christianity today.

  • kerner

    Ordinarily, I’m not that big a fan of Contemporary Christian Music. But Steve Taylor, a very biting satirist when he wants to be, addressed the event of a New York Cathedral being converted into a night club here:

    http://www.sockheaven.net/discography/taylor/fritz/01.html#lyrics

    His music may or may not be your cup of tea, but its hard not to appreciate the man’s wit.

  • kerner

    Ordinarily, I’m not that big a fan of Contemporary Christian Music. But Steve Taylor, a very biting satirist when he wants to be, addressed the event of a New York Cathedral being converted into a night club here:

    http://www.sockheaven.net/discography/taylor/fritz/01.html#lyrics

    His music may or may not be your cup of tea, but its hard not to appreciate the man’s wit.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    You know, one one side, I have to note that the church is not the building; it is the assembly of God’s children that meets there.

    On the other hand, when I see abandoned churches in many areas, I think “that building represents a congregation that neglected its mission.”

    It might have folded, or it might have simply moved to a bigger building. The former is obviously a failure of mission; the latter is as well, though, as it represents the failure of an apparently successful pastor to disciple men who would be able to carry on the work in his place. Huge churches are not necessarily successes.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    You know, one one side, I have to note that the church is not the building; it is the assembly of God’s children that meets there.

    On the other hand, when I see abandoned churches in many areas, I think “that building represents a congregation that neglected its mission.”

    It might have folded, or it might have simply moved to a bigger building. The former is obviously a failure of mission; the latter is as well, though, as it represents the failure of an apparently successful pastor to disciple men who would be able to carry on the work in his place. Huge churches are not necessarily successes.

  • Bror Erickson

    Pete S,
    Of course your right it is somewhat in the realm of Adiaphora what a congregation does with a building it no longer uses for the purpose of worship. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
    But I would not want to get legalistic about it either, as when that happens there is a lot going on that doesn’t make for the best situation.
    Bike Bubba,
    You write: “On the other hand, when I see abandoned churches in many areas, I think “that building represents a congregation that neglected its mission.”
    That is not necessarily true. The Holy Spirit will work where and when it pleases. Some people will not hear the Gospel. (And Perhaps the church wasn’t about the Gospel, and didn’t see it as their mission, not ever knowing it in the first place.) But even if you do reach out to the surrounding community there is no garantee that you will reach that community.

  • Bror Erickson

    Pete S,
    Of course your right it is somewhat in the realm of Adiaphora what a congregation does with a building it no longer uses for the purpose of worship. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
    But I would not want to get legalistic about it either, as when that happens there is a lot going on that doesn’t make for the best situation.
    Bike Bubba,
    You write: “On the other hand, when I see abandoned churches in many areas, I think “that building represents a congregation that neglected its mission.”
    That is not necessarily true. The Holy Spirit will work where and when it pleases. Some people will not hear the Gospel. (And Perhaps the church wasn’t about the Gospel, and didn’t see it as their mission, not ever knowing it in the first place.) But even if you do reach out to the surrounding community there is no garantee that you will reach that community.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good points, Bror.

    The main concern must remain the faithful preaching of God’s Word and administration of the sacraments. You will know you are in the midst of the Kingdom when you see and hear these things going on in the midst of sinner-saints.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good points, Bror.

    The main concern must remain the faithful preaching of God’s Word and administration of the sacraments. You will know you are in the midst of the Kingdom when you see and hear these things going on in the midst of sinner-saints.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    But again, I’ve come to have a natural response of cringing when I hear that word thrown around too easily. The “A” word. Still not sure it even somewhat applies here.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    But again, I’ve come to have a natural response of cringing when I hear that word thrown around too easily. The “A” word. Still not sure it even somewhat applies here.

  • Brian

    For whatever it’s worth, I just ran across this news bit from the Christian Reformed Church that pertains to our discussion here. What is interesting is that this is a “contemporary” church that has adapted to a “traditional” church and is still using their “contemporary” form.

  • Brian

    For whatever it’s worth, I just ran across this news bit from the Christian Reformed Church that pertains to our discussion here. What is interesting is that this is a “contemporary” church that has adapted to a “traditional” church and is still using their “contemporary” form.

  • Bruce

    In discussing the co-opting of Christian spaces for secular purposes, a certain question goes begging: What appeal is there from the secularists’ side for such a space?

    The answer is something like: the craving for the sacred, which in turn has flowered into a search for what we might call the “nonspecific sacred”–that space or feng shui which allows Americans to pursue their own personal brand of spirituality. I am continually amazed at how often Christian symbolism or story is cherry-picked and then assumed into the hodgepodge of spiritualism we see expressed in the culture. This is visually expressed in these sushi restaurant, chiropractic office, yoga mat ex-church buildings, but has its expression through every aspect of art and culture. What is wanted is not the complete truth represented by a Christian symbol or space, but some vague borrowed ambience which creates a mood.

    Ugh. I don’t think we can escape this by tearing down old church buildings. It is pretty pervasive.

    On a separate note: as a child I can remember being shocked that an old church out in the country was being converted to a residence. It was just wrong.

  • Bruce

    In discussing the co-opting of Christian spaces for secular purposes, a certain question goes begging: What appeal is there from the secularists’ side for such a space?

    The answer is something like: the craving for the sacred, which in turn has flowered into a search for what we might call the “nonspecific sacred”–that space or feng shui which allows Americans to pursue their own personal brand of spirituality. I am continually amazed at how often Christian symbolism or story is cherry-picked and then assumed into the hodgepodge of spiritualism we see expressed in the culture. This is visually expressed in these sushi restaurant, chiropractic office, yoga mat ex-church buildings, but has its expression through every aspect of art and culture. What is wanted is not the complete truth represented by a Christian symbol or space, but some vague borrowed ambience which creates a mood.

    Ugh. I don’t think we can escape this by tearing down old church buildings. It is pretty pervasive.

    On a separate note: as a child I can remember being shocked that an old church out in the country was being converted to a residence. It was just wrong.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Well, there’s certainly that appeal, Bruce. But there’s also a perverse appeal, of having a chance to profane a sacred space, and to profane the reverence others have for the space and the activity it engenders.
    Never underestimate the appeal of mocking God, faith, and the faithful.
    You’re right: tearing down an old church building is no guarantee over what’s in people’s hearts.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Well, there’s certainly that appeal, Bruce. But there’s also a perverse appeal, of having a chance to profane a sacred space, and to profane the reverence others have for the space and the activity it engenders.
    Never underestimate the appeal of mocking God, faith, and the faithful.
    You’re right: tearing down an old church building is no guarantee over what’s in people’s hearts.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Of course you are right, Susan and Bruce, people’s hearts will remain naturally sinful and opposed to Christ no matter what we do. That’s why the main thing needs to remain the solid proclamation of the Word in every opportunity that we have. We can do almost nothing with regards to the many, many abandoned old church buildings which are scattered throughout the country because someone else owns these properties. So we are very limited in terms of what we can do about what these buildings speak to our culture about our Christian faith. But when we do encounter a Christian church that is in the process of closing, moving, or being deconsecrated, I think the considerations expressed in this post could form into some very solid suggestions to help inform the people making the decisions of what they might want to do with the old building.

    And of course tearing down a church building certainly says something to the neighbors too (and it is the last thing we want to do), but at least in counseling these sad situations in this direction of salvage and demolition the church could prevent further confusion of witness for future generations. Plus Christian congregations might think and work just that tiny bit harder to keep their faithful Christian proclamation of the forgiveness of sins going within these buildings which were designed for that very purpose.

    Finally, if there is an old beautiful church building people are concerned about or like particularly because of its Christian Aesthetic which is not being used for Word and Sacrament Ministry (and that work is not happening in a congregation in that neighborhood), is it not possible that the property could be redeemed, reconsecrated, and a group of Lutherans or wanna-be-Lutherans could begin to grow in the Word together again there? I believe in miracles.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Of course you are right, Susan and Bruce, people’s hearts will remain naturally sinful and opposed to Christ no matter what we do. That’s why the main thing needs to remain the solid proclamation of the Word in every opportunity that we have. We can do almost nothing with regards to the many, many abandoned old church buildings which are scattered throughout the country because someone else owns these properties. So we are very limited in terms of what we can do about what these buildings speak to our culture about our Christian faith. But when we do encounter a Christian church that is in the process of closing, moving, or being deconsecrated, I think the considerations expressed in this post could form into some very solid suggestions to help inform the people making the decisions of what they might want to do with the old building.

    And of course tearing down a church building certainly says something to the neighbors too (and it is the last thing we want to do), but at least in counseling these sad situations in this direction of salvage and demolition the church could prevent further confusion of witness for future generations. Plus Christian congregations might think and work just that tiny bit harder to keep their faithful Christian proclamation of the forgiveness of sins going within these buildings which were designed for that very purpose.

    Finally, if there is an old beautiful church building people are concerned about or like particularly because of its Christian Aesthetic which is not being used for Word and Sacrament Ministry (and that work is not happening in a congregation in that neighborhood), is it not possible that the property could be redeemed, reconsecrated, and a group of Lutherans or wanna-be-Lutherans could begin to grow in the Word together again there? I believe in miracles.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Bror, it’s not always that an abandoned church represents failure to preach Christ, but usually it is, sad to say. You can have a few cases where people built a building before a congregation, but apart from that, I think it’s usually in the “neglected to preach Christ” (or never tried) category.

    (and even premature building of a building is….a neglect of the important things, isn’t it?)

    Maybe some rural churches where the farm size went from 160 to 1000 acres, while family size went from 7 to 3, but …..

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Bror, it’s not always that an abandoned church represents failure to preach Christ, but usually it is, sad to say. You can have a few cases where people built a building before a congregation, but apart from that, I think it’s usually in the “neglected to preach Christ” (or never tried) category.

    (and even premature building of a building is….a neglect of the important things, isn’t it?)

    Maybe some rural churches where the farm size went from 160 to 1000 acres, while family size went from 7 to 3, but …..

  • Susan aka organshoes

    We have an oddity in our county in northeaster Mississippi.
    There’s a one-room church (no rest rooms, no study, no vestibule) out in the country, with an old, well-kept cemetery on its lovely grounds.
    But services are held there only once a month (and led, I think, by others than a pastor).
    It’s a sort of semi-vacant sister-church to a congregation that expanded and had to move elsewhere, into a larger building.
    They still have what the South calls Decoration Day (up North they call it Memorial Day) services, with Allday Singing and Dinner On the Grounds and a solemn beflowering of the graves.
    If nothing else, it’s a charming view into our past in this area in the South, when churches, like the people, were mostly poor, humble, and rural.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    We have an oddity in our county in northeaster Mississippi.
    There’s a one-room church (no rest rooms, no study, no vestibule) out in the country, with an old, well-kept cemetery on its lovely grounds.
    But services are held there only once a month (and led, I think, by others than a pastor).
    It’s a sort of semi-vacant sister-church to a congregation that expanded and had to move elsewhere, into a larger building.
    They still have what the South calls Decoration Day (up North they call it Memorial Day) services, with Allday Singing and Dinner On the Grounds and a solemn beflowering of the graves.
    If nothing else, it’s a charming view into our past in this area in the South, when churches, like the people, were mostly poor, humble, and rural.

  • PeteS

    Bryan,

    I can understand your uneasiness regarding this as adiaphora, and we could certainly talk about specific situations where sin may easily occur. However, we also need to be careful, as Bror said, that we don’t become legalistic. Conscience is definitely involved in this as well. My conscience may not allow me to OK the sale of a church for a secular use. On the other hand, if a faithful Christian buys a small old church and converts it into a home, as early posts suggested, why would that be wrong? There are certainly uses that may not profane: a historical landmark, a Christian bookstore.
    Having said all that, your cautions are good ones. Christians must think of the bigger picture when their current worship space no longer is needed or wanted. How they deal with it can speak volumes to their fellow Christians as well as to the community. I like your idea of a list of “solid suggestions” for those in such situations.
    A congregation near where I live had a tornado move their building every so slightly. It needed to either be fixed or torn down. The opted to buy land and build a new sanctuary and facilities. In the process they brought over all of the significant stained glass, as well as the church furniture (altar, lectern, baptismal font, some pews) and made a smaller chapel space adjacent to their new sanctuary. This also helped the older members feel better about leaving their old building behind.

  • PeteS

    Bryan,

    I can understand your uneasiness regarding this as adiaphora, and we could certainly talk about specific situations where sin may easily occur. However, we also need to be careful, as Bror said, that we don’t become legalistic. Conscience is definitely involved in this as well. My conscience may not allow me to OK the sale of a church for a secular use. On the other hand, if a faithful Christian buys a small old church and converts it into a home, as early posts suggested, why would that be wrong? There are certainly uses that may not profane: a historical landmark, a Christian bookstore.
    Having said all that, your cautions are good ones. Christians must think of the bigger picture when their current worship space no longer is needed or wanted. How they deal with it can speak volumes to their fellow Christians as well as to the community. I like your idea of a list of “solid suggestions” for those in such situations.
    A congregation near where I live had a tornado move their building every so slightly. It needed to either be fixed or torn down. The opted to buy land and build a new sanctuary and facilities. In the process they brought over all of the significant stained glass, as well as the church furniture (altar, lectern, baptismal font, some pews) and made a smaller chapel space adjacent to their new sanctuary. This also helped the older members feel better about leaving their old building behind.

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  • Benny

    Over time the members just die off, the new generations hardly believe in God anymore and even if they do they dont like attending church. Its sad but its a sign of the times. People have a choice as to what they want to believe and many are choosing to live a life outside of God and there is no one to blame but themselves. In the end when we stand in judgement we cant say Lord I didnt follow you because of all the hypocrates and bad witnesses, I didnt follow you because the church did a bad job…. God want by that, they will still held acountable as they still choose the world over Him

  • Benny

    Over time the members just die off, the new generations hardly believe in God anymore and even if they do they dont like attending church. Its sad but its a sign of the times. People have a choice as to what they want to believe and many are choosing to live a life outside of God and there is no one to blame but themselves. In the end when we stand in judgement we cant say Lord I didnt follow you because of all the hypocrates and bad witnesses, I didnt follow you because the church did a bad job…. God want by that, they will still held acountable as they still choose the world over Him

  • Vicky Silvers

    I am an editor for Christian.com which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I’m sure our Christian reformed audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

    Vicky Silvers
    vicky.silvers@gmail.com

  • Vicky Silvers

    I am an editor for Christian.com which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I’m sure our Christian reformed audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

    Vicky Silvers
    vicky.silvers@gmail.com


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