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Waking Up from the Field of Dreams Approach to Church Buildings

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By Bryan Rose

One of the best, and most misused, quotes from the wonder-years of 1980s movies comes from the classic Field of Dreams:

If you build it, he will come.

These seven words caused an Iowa farmer to plow part of his corn fields and leverage every resource his family had toward the building of a baseball field. Every bit of this effort, we learn, was to the end of having a long-missed game of catch with his Dad. Spoiler Alert: Shoeless Joe Jackson also gets to play ball again. He and Kevin Costner’s character have my personal favorite exchange in the movie: “Hey, is this Heaven? No (pause and smile) it’s Iowa”

This classic baseball movie represents all that is right about heart-string tugging storytelling for every 50-something adult male like me. Unfortunately, the “If you build it, ___ will come” thinking also represents all that is wrong about building-committee facility planning for church leaders like us.

Some combination of these seven words have caused many Christian leaders too leverage every congregational resource toward the end building of some structure for reaching long-missed segments of the population. Spoiler Alert: While new folks in the community will show up initially, without an intentional strategy for engaging and growing them as disciples, they will quickly fade away like Shoeless Joe in the outfield.

It’s time for a new approach to facilities that recognizes that church buildings are not vision, but can be great tools for accomplishing vision.

It’s time for a Great Commission-biased conviction to compel us to push all of our leadership chips into preparing people to BE THE CHURCH, not BUILD A CHURCH.

It’s time to remember this first-things-first reality: “If we go, He will bring them.”

And in time, the buildings that we do build will have lasting, intentional and everyday impact on making a difference for Christ in our communities. This is a field worth dreaming about.