“If you build it, they will come.” For decades, this quote from Field of Dreams has also seemed to apply to many churches. The era of the mega-church has tried to teach us that if we build the biggest, prettiest, shiniest building, then people will come to us. There’s no need to go out into the communities, neighborhoods, and slums. If we have light shining through the stained glass windows of our city on a hill, then the people who need it will see it and come to us for the word, truth, and life. Right?
I can’t help but compare this style of ministry to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus walked, ate, and slept with the people who needed him. Not the wealthy, educated, or best-dressed, but the poor, downtrodden, sick, and outcast. There are several stories of Jesus going out to the people who needed him. When nobody else would dare get close to the leper or prostitute that was hurting from years of neglect and abuse, He touched them and showed them mercy.
Sometimes I think that large, pretentious church buildings scare off the people who need to hear the message of Jesus the most. Rather than the light on the hill that waits for the needy to come to it and receive sight, the church has to learn to be the feet of Jesus that go out into the hard, unpopular places of this world. I wonder sometimes about what would happen if churches took even a portion of the money, time, and resources that they put into buildings, maintenance, and other areas to keep up appearances and put it into missions and community outreach programs that meet people where they are. We might start looking more like Jesus– the Lord who came to earth to wash feet, eat with sinners, and touch the untouchables.