I was part of a church which decided they could be more successful if they built a bigger building
A popular movie in 80’s was “Field of Dreams”. Field of Dreams is a 1989 American sports fantasy drama film The film stars Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster in his final film role.
An Iowa farmer, Ray, (Kevin Costner) hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come,” he feels the need to act. Despite taunts of lunacy, Ray builds a baseball diamond on his land, supported by his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan). Afterward, the ghosts of great players start emerging from the crops to play ball, led by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. But, as Ray learns, this field of dreams is about much more than bringing former baseball greats out to play. Field of Dreams is sentimental, but in the best way; it’s a mix of fairy tale, baseball, and family togetherness.
The ‘motto’ later in the film, becomes, “If you build it THEY will come”. And, sure enough, word gets out and almost magically, lines of cars fill the country roads for miles, as far as they eye can see, making their way to the baseball diamond on this rural farm.
Disneyland may have been an amazingly successful forerunner of a similar idea. So, perhaps the writer and producer of “Field of Dreams” had Disney’s idea in mind when they made the movie.
It seems that the idea caught on in future years. Entrepreneurs, dreamers and business people alike, have been coming up with their own fantasy-like ideas to promote their dreams, causes or money-making schemes. Most of these ‘dream builders’, however, have not been so successful.
I was part of a church organization in the recent past, which decided they could be more successful (or, as they would say, “so we can serve the Kingdom of God better) if they built a bigger building on a busy roadway near big neighborhoods. They didn’t say the exact words, “Build it, and they will come”, but that is exactly what they were saying. Here are some examples of how they would say what they would say:
- “Our church facility is too small, and studies show that more people will come if we had more inside space per person.”
- “We are landlocked and can’t expand and grow, and studies show that if we had more parking space, more people would come”.
- “People can’t find us so we need more visibility so we can expand and grow. Studies show that if we are more visible on a heavily traveled road, more people will come”.
- “We need more land for future expansion, so we can (yep) expand and grow. More people would come if they knew we had a plan for the future.”
The difference is that the ghosts of great preachers will not start emerging from any of the nearby crops, like in the movie.
The similarity between the movie and this real life event are that a pastor instead of a farmer heard a mysterious voice saying, “If you build it they will come.” The ideas are sentimental, but in the best way; it’s a mix of hopeful thinking, church growth, and family togetherness.
Do I sound to harsh? Listen to the reasons they listed and excuses offered for not growing:
- The reason we can’t grow is because of our small building. It’s the fault of our small building.
- It’s the fault of our location and lack of parking space.
- It’s the fault of lack of visibility.
- It’s the fault of our lack of excess land and acreage.
Now, listen to what God says:
- John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself.
- Matthew 28:18 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9 “Now as to the love of the brothers and sisters, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you practice it toward all the brothers and sisters who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to excel even more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we instructed you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
- Acts 2:37 “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what are we to do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on urging them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- Acts 2:43 “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all the believers were together and had all things in common; 45 and they would sell their property and possessions and share them with all, to the extent that anyone had need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
(I am a pickleball enthusiast. I play for fun, but, I am also a student of the game because I want to become better at the game. I guess I should say, “The better I play, the more fun I have”.
I play ‘doubles pickleball. That means I play with a partner. It seem that when my partner plays well, I play better, and vice versa. Good players always compliment their partner’s good play.
I occasionally have a partner who does not play well. I know players who don’t practice, they do not study the game, and they do not play well, but, they always blame their partners for their poor play, missed shots and failures in court strategy. I don’t criticize, but, they are just no fun, so I avoid playing with them when I can.
There is a saying that goes something like this: “Successful people correct their mistakes and give credit to others; unsuccessful people make excuses and lay blame”. Be the former, not the latter.)
Maybe I am just too old-fashioned, or perhaps my life experiences have distorted or tainted by view on these matters. But, after 11 years at this church, and seeing a repeated pattern from other churches, I think I am seeing clearly.
My prayer is that God will come though and fill this, and all the understaffed, small, isolated and cramped churches to overflowing – to the point that they, the Church, builds newer and bigger facilities to accommodate what God has already done!
Your Brother and Friend,