This post was originally published on December 7, 2012
Many churches get super excited about building projects. These projects are supposed to represent big changes to the church, new ideas, progress, and relevance.
Even the fundamentalist churches I’ve attended got excited about building projects, though these usually involved new gymnasiums where we could play the A.W.A.N.A “run around the circle and then go in for the beanbag” games rather than stadium seats or new stages for the worship band.
Still, the idea is the same. If we build THIS, they will come. THIS will further the gospel. THIS will change the world.
Now, sometimes building projects are just needed. Pews fill up. Roofs leak. And, you know, sometimes that 70s shag carpeting in the teen room just needs to go. But the idea that a building proejct is going to shake the foundations of the earth is usually a lie that pastors hype up in order to get in your wallet. That new building isn’t going to single-handedly bring about the kingdom of God. Let’s be real.
Though, sometimes a change made to a church building/property does make a difference. I’m going to tell you a story about one of those times.
I’m going to tell you about a church that made a drastic change to their church property–they added a tiny sticker to their church sign.
And that tiny sticker made a difference.
On one hand it infuriated some. After that little sticker went up, some protesters flocked to the scene, with pamphlets calling that little church with their little sticker on their sign “The Church of the Anti-Christ.”
On the other, the entire time I lived in the town where that church was located, I heard about that church, because of that tiny sticker.
When I talked to others about how one of the reasons I stopped going to church was the horrible way some of the LGBT people in my life had been treated by churches, I often got the response, “Have you tried the church on Church St.? They’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on their sign.”
When I talked about how exclusive and hateful churches often were, people–people who didn’t even go to church themselves, people who were atheists or pagan or just didn’t care–would say “Have you tried the church on Church St.? They’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on their sign.”
Even in counseling, when I was talking with my counselor about trying to reconcile my religious beliefs with my political beliefs, she told me, “Have you tried the church on Church St.? They’ve got a rainbow flag sticker on their sign.”
That year of my life was one in which I was really not ready to try any churches. Not even the church on Church St. with the rainbow flag sticker on their sign (though, when I move back to Bowling Green next summer, I think I’ll be ready to visit that church more often. I plan to). I only attended twice, but both times were pleasant. They were concerned about inclusion, love, and justice.
And everyone in Bowling Green knew it.
Their little “building project” made a difference.
I think Christians fall all over themselves trying to change the image of the church. People don’t think that church is relevant, so Christians panic, throw out the organs, add some stadium seating, and hope that will make everyone see church as hip and cool.
Christians don’t stop to think that maybe the fact that people are starting to see church has irrelevant has NOTHING to do with how our buildings look.
They don’t stop to think that maybe the church’s million-dollar renovations only sting like salt in the wounds of the poverty that surrounds us–the poverty that the church often perpetuates when it fights against laws that would make life better for LGBT people.
They don’t stop to think that, maybe, just maybe, if they became more like the First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, Ohio, and educated their congregations about LGBT issues, supported pro-LGBT legislation, performed commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples, openly welcomed and affirmed people of all sexual orientations and gender identifications, and donated food and money to their neighbors in poverty…
Then maybe, just maybe, the only “building project” they would need in order to make a difference would be to add a little sticker to their church sign.