Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Our Building

I recently completed a paper for a summer course. Here are a few thoughts concerning our building.

First Baptist Muncie, for better or worse, has a tremendous building. Built in 1929, the gothic style, ornate building is a community landmark. The dark wood interior and stone exterior communicate power, prestige, and institution. When a church is meeting in homes or temporary facilities, it is easy to develop an understanding that the church is not tied to a structure. However, when a church occupies a grand structure, it is difficult to disconnect the church (the people of God) from the building.

The institutional mindset is prevalent, yet this congregation understands that it must think beyond the building. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, in The Shaping of Things to Come, relate the danger of institutional thinking.

The heart of the problem is that we have been planting churches that are (smaller) carbon copies of the already beleaguered, failing Christendom-style church. . .The existing church, which is invariably static, rooted in one place, institutionalized, needs to recover its sent-ness in order to become the missional church.

Assisting a church–one that has such a magnificent structure–in becoming a people with a sent identity is challenging. Frost and Hirsch describe the error in the institutional and attractional mindset.

The Come-To-Us stance taken by the attractional church is unbiblical. It’s not found in the Gospels or the Epistles. Jesus, Paul, the disciples, the early church leaders all had a Go-To-Them mentality.

Learning how to deal with such a building may be difficult, yet this is the context in which we find ourselves.

How we approach our building missionally may be the first step. The building is already used to host a weekly battered-women support group, a community weight loss program, an Overcoming Poverty Together group, along with other community meetings. We are discussing ways in which our building can be used for campus ministry groups, office space for campus ministry leaders, and counseling space for independent counselors. Shifting the focus from a “pride in our building” mindset to a “this building is a gift we can give to the community” mindset is part of the process.