Thursday, March 31, 2005

Be Relevant

Everyone seeems to be obsessed with ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. There's something magical about seeing a cluttered, outdated, unattractive and unsafe home get a completely new image. The homeowner, along with the viewing audience, waits eagerly for the grand finale, and the unveiling always exceed everyone's expectations.

The designers have incredible vision; and, of course, they seem to have keen intuition when it comes to style. But if you listen closely to the dialogue of the show, especially the questions the experts ask, you'll make a discovery. Every designer has a sacred commitment to one principle. Anyone who is serious about interior design knows that the number-one question you ask is this: "What is the function of this room?" Until that question is answered, no one cares about style. If, in the end, the makeover of the room doesn't serve the purpose of the room, then all the labor was in vain. Every room has to be relevant to the needs of the user, regardless of how it looks. If it's not functional, it has no value to the owner.

It's easy for churches to forget that the environments we design need to be more than engaging, more than creative, more than entertaining and -- yes -- more than stylish. It is possible to be all of these things and still be irrelevant. Occasionally, it would be healthy for churches to apply the principle of relevance to their environments, maybe before they ever attempt to apply the first coat of pain. They need to ask the same question about function that the designers who do those home makeovers ask.

You don't typically put a couch in the kitchen or a breakfast table in the living room. And just like every room in a house has a specific function, every ministry environment has a specific purpose as well. If people show up, and they don't have an experience that is relevant -- guess what: they probably won't come back. Then all of your labor was definitely in vain.

The basic function of any ministry environment is simple: Churches exist to help people grow in their relationship with Christ. Your ministry should actually function to help people get started and continue in the process of their spiritual journey. The New Testament describes it as "making disciples." So, every environment should be designed as a catalyst to assist individuals in developing a personal and practical faith.

A wise leader will investigate how people actually grow in their faith and then begin the process of reconstructing every environment to facilitate that process, even if it means tearing out some walls and throwing away some clutter. And before you start moving the furniture in, ask yourself this question: "What can we build that will help people keep moving int he right direction toward a stronger faith?"

Maybe -- at least for a while -- you should be willing to hang a sign over your church that says, "Extreme Makeover: Church Edition."