God’s House must Facilitate the Mission
i3 GCCN  SEPTEMBER 25 2008

This article is taken from Paul Martin’s presentation at the 2008 Fall i3 Event in Grove City, OH.

Vision & Value: When you look at a facility, you know what is important to them; you can trace the history of a church and its leadership that gone on before you. Example: the Sanctuary and Platform are huge in comparison to the rest of the church. Therefore, someone in history was strong in a teaching and pulpit-centered ministry. Facilities say a lot about your vision and your values.

First, your mission is your vision. You are on a ship, and you see where you are going on the journey.

  1. The mission defines success for you.
    If you are on a mission, you need to understand the mission! If you complete the mission, you have succeeded.  Mission defines success for you. So, what is the mission? Matthew 28:19*, Mark 16:15*, John 20:21* and Acts. 1:8* embody our calling: We have the privilege of partnership with God to get this job done, the job to preach the gospel to the whole world, and to make disciples to all nations. But how do we know when we have completed the mission? Unfortunately, Facilities can become an end in themselves – after you have a major building program, people may sit back and say “oh isn’t this wonderful – we finally have a facility!” In a sense, the building becomes the end in itself.  Instead, lock on to the mission – Help move your mission along with your facilities!
  2. Called out, Called into, Sent out.
    “Ecclesia” means called out from the world, and “Koinonia” is calling into relationships.  “Ethnos” means sent out to the nations, not world, but nations.  We are sent out to the culture groups, defined by language, customs and context.  A healthy vision has all three components!  Let me tie these into vision: Called out, called into, and sent out.  A healthy vision has all 3 components: to call people out of the world,  to call people into life giving relationships, and to send people out to the nations.  One can tell by looking at the facility whether there is a balance between the three components – Vision needs to have equilibrium between those three things.
  3. Guided by values.
    What are the values related to the ministry that you are a part of?  Your facilities can actually provide dissonance between your slogan and reality.  If they are not done right, they give off dissonance between slogan (how you market your ministry) and reality.  One church that I was part of professed they were “family friendly”.  This means kids are important, right?  But when I looked at the 268,000 square feet of building, there was no place for children on weekends!  Anybody walking in there would think they are not really “family friendly”. Your facility can actually be a dissonance factor between what you say it is and what it is not

Your vision is the wind and the sails to help you accomplish your mission.  The rudders on the ship represent your values.

  1. Facilities are effective if they can flex for programs.
    What is the life cycle of a program?  Over the past 25 years, have you ever seen programs retire? A facility should never be designed around and exclusively for one program and one way. A permanent structure for the choir makes it difficult to use the platform for other ministries. This is Form driving Function: if the Form is driving the Function, you will be impeded by what you are able to accomplish for the Lord.   This is true of programs too!  Example: 20th century railroads were the main form of transportation.  Why don’t we have Burlington Northern airplanes? The railroads allowed the form to drive the function. They didn’t understand they were in transportation business. They understood they were in railroad business and had to maintain the tracks.  Let’s take Sunday School. I’m not opposed to Sunday School, but what I am really for is discipleship.  If we understand these things, we can build better buildings, instead of forcing the Form of the past into the Function of the future.  If chairs are bolted down, the room is going to be limited to what you do.  The Point: our facilities need to be able to flex with our programs.  A key staff position now is a Media Pastor.  You can have prayer groups, discipleship, but you must have a media pastor!  You can have a global ministry through the internet.
  2. Facilities that welcome God’s guests.
    Let’s say you have invited people over to your house for dinner.  What are you doing 30 minutes prior?  You’re not going to be in your pajamas, not going to be vacuuming, and you won’t have the front door locked.  At 5:30 you are going to be ready for your guests. God is trying to add people to the church. It is God’s agenda to add people to our churches, so why isn’t this happening?  We need to remove the impediments to God’s guests.  Get ready for them by making your facilities welcoming. Church foyer example:  I’ve seen studies or mutations on church foyers.  You would go right into the meeting room, hat and coat with you.  When Amen was said, you went outside and then to someone’s house for food and fellowship.  Once an airlock, then coat room, now we have the third space.  Our church foyers are like community spaces keeping it welcoming. Welcome God’s guest – from the structure to the furnishings, make the house a home. The house of God is a home!  If we strategize to make God’s house a Home for his family, we will go a long way to removing impediments.
  3. There is promised blessing with good management of resources.
    Take care of the little things.  One of the resources we have is facilities.  Practical example: In my home, if there is a light bulb out, before the nights out, before I go to bed, that light bulb is replaced.  It’s important in my house.  Another example: What about weeds in your flower beds?  If someone has just spent time making sure that the flowers look nice at their home and come to church to God’s house, and we haven’t taken care the weeds, that’s going to send a message to them. Take note right down to the tiny detail of maintaining God’s facilities. Don’t defer maintenance, it will kill your budget.  Take care of what God has given us to represent Him.  Make sure your facilities facilitate getting the job done, in the vision that you’ve prescribed, with the values you’ve embraced. God’s kingdom will go forward.

*Matthew 28:19 (New International Version) 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
*Mark 16:15 (New International Version) 15He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
*John 20:21 (New International Version) 21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
*Acts 1:8 (New International Version) 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”