Christian Architecture

This week as I began thinking about church architecture, I mentioned architect Daniel Lee. He observed, “What I sense and see in my own involvement in the religious community, and in my reading, is that most Christians cannot begin a conversation on architecture.” At the risk of sounding cynical he notices that,

“The architecture that churches are building today is as confused as the tastes, and faith, of building committee members. Building committees, or other deciding powers, want inexpensive construction that solves basic functional needs. As they select their architect, they are often most concerned with how many churches he has designed, or whether he is well known. It would be nice if he is a believer but they are looking, first, for a safe choice. They feel inadequate to assess philosophical or artistic aspects inherent in their task and simply hope for the best. The results we are seeing are disappointing, and the church is missing important opportunities to create significant new architecture.”

As Lakeshore Baptist Church plans to build all new buildings, I want to think about how the structure we erect can reflect our chief end, which is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Some may argue that the house exists as nothing more than a material necessary evil, but Lee explains,

“Church architecture serves to frame and enhance our worship, in a way that honors the One we worship. Churches are buildings shaped, crafted, and set aside for the very special purpose of our corporate communion with our covenant God. But as works of art, they also speak to the larger culture around them. This is because architecture symbolizes, within the fabric of a community, the social hierarchy and aspiration–or the actual position–of the institution housed within it. It reveals, through artistic means, the relationship between larger transcendent constants and the immanent issues we confront in daily life. And, it provides a meaningful setting for our daily social and spiritual interactions.”

When Katrina took our church buildings, we realized something we had always halfheartedly affirmed – “the church is not the building.” We also learned, on the other hand, that buildings do come in handy. 🙂 Focusing on the preached word becomes difficult while sweltering in 100+ degree temperatures, standing in ankle deep mud, or swatting a cloud of biting gnats. We will rebuild. As we do so, I pray that our theological confessions will shape our progress. Let us reflect the glory of God through our relief efforts in the community, our proclamation of the gospel of grace, and even through our building plans.

Daniel Lee reminds us,

“To be made in the image of God means to be creative and artistic. Our places of worship should be beautiful works of architecture. It is possible to worship God in a gymnasium or lecture hall, because if people are truly seeking him, God will meet them there. But to worship in such architecture is to suggest that our purpose is either recreational or cerebral. We should build spaces crafted specially for a human-divine encounter with God. Our churches should help us focus our spirits on God in worship. Let our worship be a spiritual love feast, and may our banquet hall be appropriate to a King.”

Read the full interview: Is There A Christian Architecture?

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