The Importance of Vision
St Joseph’s church, (name changed to protect the guilty) was an old building established many moons ago. It was showing its age. The external appearance was unimpressive. The gardens needed tender love and care. The adjacent church hall had been built in happier times and looked old and neglected. The church sign was almost entirely covered by a large shrub so that service times were almost invisible short of a forensic examiner.
I walked by the property just before one Easter to see that someone had typed out a tiny notice, about A5 size, describing the Easter service times. It had been attached to the concealed notice board in such a way that you had to prise away a branch to read it.
This church was in stark contrast to its surroundings. This was not in some decaying high crime area but in an upmarket booming suburb. The street in which it was centrally located in one of the happening streets of the city. There were an abundance of cafes, fancy boutiques, bars, as well as a well-attended hip pub and a popular cinema. The whole precinct was pumping most evenings and on weekends there were traffic jams.
Now a very interesting change happened. A developer appeared and bought the church hall, redeveloping the site for another trendy restaurant and constructing nice new offices in the rear for the church. The church building itself underwent a remarkable transformation so it was newly painted, with manicured lawns, good signage and was well kept. The church property now looks appropriate to the community in which it is situated. Maybe this facelift came because of the initiative of the church authorities but my suspicion is that it was a condition of the redevelopment process. Truly in this regard ‘the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than the children of light’. ( Luke 18:8)
Why do I mention this? Why are the external features of the property so important? Consider the visitor or the person who may feel a religious urge at Christmas or Easter, or a time of crisis and wonders whether it would be a good thing to go to a church. Such a person will often judge the ministry and vitality of your church, which they cannot see, by the externals which they can see.
Whether you like it or not, the crumbling state of the property fairly screams at outsiders that this place is on the skids.
It also makes it so much harder to raise money for ministry because the physical surrounding speak loudly to the regular parishioners too. They may like the clergy but are not going to commit their treasure if they feel it will be frittered away.
So if your property looks a little the worse for wear, announce a project. Perhaps call it a ‘Home and Away’ project where the object will be to raise resources for a church make over and simultaneously raise resources to aid a mission church or a struggling country ministry. Let the minister lead the charge. Appoint someone with managerial competence to run it. Ask boldly for support. Receive the money with integrity. Thank the congregation for their gifts. If this is a little daunting, about this process in my book Giving Generously.
As to the church I mentioned at the start, I have no knowledge about the quality of its ministry but it is my sincere hope that its preaching, fellowship and pastoral care are as good on the inside as the property now is on the outside.