“Build it and they will come” whispers the ethereal voice to Kevin Kostner in the movie Field of Dreams. For as long as I can remember we have had this same attitude in our churches, and I will admit that it seemed to work. We built bigger education wings, bigger fellowship halls, bigger sanctuaries, and people seemed to come. However, the world we now live in doesn’t whisper “Build it and they will come” but “build it and… you’re still stuck with the mortgage.”
We live in a world where church members don’t just appear in our churches anymore. Unlike Field of Dreams church members don’t just magically appear out of the corn fields
In fact, our experience in churches today seems to be the opposite. We constantly hear statistics about how the “nones” are rising, church attendance is declining, and church budgets are shrinking. Frankly, I doubt any of us in the church need official studies to tell us these things. Like James Earl Jones’ character, our members seem to be disappearing into thin air.
The thing is we in the church have been conditioned to believe that we must always grow. We must always get bigger. I really only know of two types of creatures that really have that mentality. The first is a shark. A shark has to keep moving and eating to survive.
The second type of creature that has that mentality is the capitalist. Our economy always has to grow, GDP always should be up, we always need more jobs. Everything must be better! However, haven’t we seen what that kind of mentality has done to the Earth, our sense of community, and perhaps our common sense?
For so long we have focused on Matthew 28, where Jesus says to make disciples of all nations, and accounts in Acts that say thousands were added to the Church. I’m willing to admit those are important verses, but have we ever noticed that when Jesus talks about the Church he most often uses small things? Douglas John Hall in his article “An Awkward Church” points out that Bible uses metaphors like salt, light, mustard seeds, and yeast. All these things are small things.
Perhaps the Field of Dreams theory of the church isn’t right. Honestly, churches are going to get smaller, get leaner, and it will be painful. But I think it will be good thing in the end.
And here is the Douglas John Hall article: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=415&C=227