Theologian N. T. Wright says that even when you are in the Promised Land you are never far from the wilderness. I’m not the only preacher who has pondered how our nation has gone so quickly from the promised land of abundance to a wilderness of economic uncertainty. This recession is a new place for most of us.
I remember a man at a congregation I once served who was an accomplished
house painter and a member of the choir. He was also a man of few
words, but when he spoke I listened. One day he said in passing, "You
know, Ken, on big services like Christmas and Easter, you don't need to
try so hard.
Architect Lewis Mumford argued that the beauty of a particular house
comes from building it on the most challenging feature of the land. If
there is a depression in the land, says Mumford, use it. If a big
boulder lies in the middle of the spot where the kitchen should go, put
the boulder in the kitchen.
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).