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I have been studying innovation for years and deeply love creativity and trying new things. I also have a deep love for churches. When I say churches, I mean faith communities of all styles and sizes that share the bond of following Jesus. What I don’t mean is their buildings. Their buildings have come to hold many faith communities back from the central message and practices of the way of Jesus. For the first time in 1700 years, church buildings are becoming increasingly irrelevant to a shifting culture. However, I believe there is a way to turn this trend around.

What I mean by using the term “Irrelevant.”

Irrelevance is a word that stings when you’re an insider, as I am regarding faith, which is probably why I love innovation so much. Irrelevance is the inability of the people I am called to serve to see me as a viable solution to solve their problems. Now, some will get all eschatological (a fancy word for the set of beliefs concerning humanity’s final destination and judgment) and talk about their view that the world is going to Hell in a handbasket and that those of us who don’t adhere to their version of the truth have cast our lot in with Satan (I imagine some British voice elongating that last little bit). Maybe that is true, but the more plausible scenario is we have little empathy for people who hold any view we disagree with. Irrelevance means we can no longer empathize with the functional, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people we claim to serve. In doing so, the people we claim to serve quit seeing us as a solution to their problems. My goal is to help organizations, businesses, and faith communities to be empathetic to culture so that they can serve culture by offering solutions that the culture perceives are the answers to their problems.

Why Church Buildings Are Irrelevant

Our buildings don’t serve Jesus but insidiously serve the idolatry of our doctrinal systems, our sacred cows, and our cities feel that. It doesn’t assist in solving their problems; it protects us and makes us feel good. They are asking us to solve different problems, and we are busy telling them that we know what problems they need to have solved, and they need to come and submit, sit, listen and obey. Except, that’s not what happened. Many just quietly slipped out the back door, and decided to come less, give less, volunteer less, and invest less. Jesus knew people needed to connect to the Source of Life and realize God as the Father. While the religious elite was lifting their temple and their system, Jesus was lifting his Father and the faces of those who had been told they could not have an audience with Him.

We are in a similar situation now. Many cities see our buildings as a net negative in our cities. They see a lack of tax revenue. Many see few churches caring for the needs of the city. Our Cities hardly know a church leader or a Jesus follower who is trying to link arms with them to help alleviate their pain.

And worse, sitting in a building listening to pastors speak so often is mistaken by insiders as emotional and spiritual maturity, as if knowledge is the goal of following Jesus. Neither is true, but our buildings are designed for that paradigm. Becoming a fully integrated human whose life is saturated by the Gospel is the point; weekly or bi-weekly events are not. Rituals and practices are only as helpful as the outcomes they produce. And a building, when designed accordingly, can be beneficial to helping us facilitate that transformation.

Our Cities hardly know a church leader or a Jesus follower who is trying to link arms with them to help alleviate their pain

Church Buildings Are Irrelevant. Let’s Make It Relevant Again.

The rise of platform technology has ushered in the digital age, a new paradigm for creating, organizing, and working. This technology allows us to connect, learn, and share content in a way that has never been possible. This means preaching has been devalued to a commodity as the best teaching is now readily available by anyone anywhere at any time– any building designed around speaking as the primary function of the church will continue to lose relevance. Digital technology allows one to connect and build relationships without being in the same geographical area. Additionally, it also allows us to put effort into discipling people in the other 167 hours at scale through digital community platforms. We designed our church buildings from a bounded-set paradigm for almost 2000 years. Now technology performs most of the building’s past functions better and cheaper. We need new purposes for our building that facilitate a faith community with a centered set.
I believe those who design the building around relationships and an outpost of care to the community will be more relevant than ever. Imagine with me for a moment: what could a building reformation look like in your community? Could it look like a start-up incubator?  What about Performing Arts Center? Maybe it could become a Learning and Innovation Center. Have you thought about a Co-working space with a daycare for working moms? The possibilities are endless.

Do You Need Help Solving Challenges Caused By Digital Disruption?

The most successful faith communities of the future will harness the best of the digital and physical infrastructure to facilitate life transformation into the image of Jesus for anyone whom God leads to their community. They will rely on what digital does best for that process and what physical does best. But here is what is important: Find out what your community needs and offer your building as a part of the solution. This will preach more than weekly posts on youtube.
Because this is important for the Church, I want to help any church that is looking to solve problems like this. So, If you and your church want to explore this deeper, my friends and I would love to help. We can help you explore a new way of creating a relevant church building that creates inroads for Gospel Transformation in your city. Please reach out to me here.
As a consequence, more people will come to hear your church’s sermon.
chestly

chestly

Chestly Lunday is on the cutting edge of innovation in the religious non-profit sector, co-founding the Digital Church Network, connecting and coaching innovative church leaders all over the world. Chestly is highly regarded as an international speaker, coach, and consultant helping people defeat futility in life and the workplace. Having given over 1000 unique presentations, he has worked with Leadership Network, NewThing Network, and denominations such as the Assemblies of God, the Christian Reformed Church, The Reformed Church in America, The Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the North American Mission Board as well as multiple businesses and startups. Chestly’s insights help church leaders build a cohesive strategy around digital community and discipleship.

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