1 Chronicles 28:11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plan of the vestibule of the temple, and of its houses, its treasuries, its upper rooms, and its inner chambers, and of the room for the mercy seat; 12 and the plan of all that he had in mind:
This section of 1 Chronicles describes the process by which King David prepared for the building of a permanent site for God – the temple in Jerusalem. Up to that point God had gone with the Israelites in an elaborate tent called the “tabernacle”, but that was when the people wandered in the wilderness. Since that time God had secured for Israel a land of their own, so the wandering stopped. In some ways a temple would signify a new season for Israel and for God. However, to be clear, the idea of a temple was not that of God, but of David. Two generations later, this spectacular temple would be destroyed and all the valuable materials with which to build it hauled off to Babylon. All that planning, work, and utilization of resources – gone.
I get the attraction of buildings. They can be a great asset, no question. They are also very expensive to build and to maintain. One of our collective responses to coronavirus has been to do many things remotely via video-conference, which has meant using our buildings much less than usual. Some very bright people suggest this shift may have long-term implications for the use of buildings. Some organizations are planning to jettison the use of buildings entirely. It’s an interesting conversation.
The church I lead in suburban Dallas has a building which has served us well for years. And I expect will continue to do so into the future, but some questions emerge for me. Given that our staff has learned how to function remotely, should we come back into the building when practicable? When the building was constructed 25 years ago you mostly had to be at the church in order to do church work. The church’s landline phones were there (mobile phones and mobile phone service were very expensive). The church files were there (no Dropbox). The church computers were there (mobile computing was very limited). The other staff members were there (conference calls were expensive and Zoom didn’t exist). So we built offices and work rooms and such to meet the reality of the 1990s.
But that’s not the world we live in anymore.
If we built the building today, with current and future realities in mind, how would we design it? What would remain the same? What would be different? Seems to me Covid time is providing an opportunity to revisit our utilization of this important resource.
Gracious Lord thank you for buildings. They are wonderful things, even if they are temporary. As we lean into the future help us to appropriate our buildings in ways that maximize our mission. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.