La Sagrada Familia Bascilica ("the holy family"): Barcelona, Spain
picture from website below
La Sagrada Familia (as you can see from the picture) is a church under construction. However, unlike most basilicas that we saw during our tour of italy that were under renovation, this church is still being built. The interesting thing is, it's construction was started in 1882.
La Sagrada Familia, is the artistic vision of Antoni Gaudí, who died in Barcelona in 1926, obviously never seeing his architectural/artist dream come to it's fruition. Adorned within it's architecture are beautiful scenes representing the story of Christ from all 4 gospels. When finally complete in 2026 it will hopefully be all that the architect dreamed it would be, although from other people's hands.
This brings up something that I have been thinking about lately about the Church; specifically the American protestant church. It has been mentioned in conversation to me, that especially in the south, the Church is at LEAST 40 years behind what's really going on in the world today. So far behind, that the modern Church can't even dialogue with the world because they are not speaking the same language (the language of a POSTmodern world)! They are too caught up defending their fort (the same old issues that the rest of civilization moved on from a while back), and in doing things "the way they've always been done"!
now I know that isn't a new argument, and younger people in the Church have heard it for more than one generation. I'm sure it wouldn't take me long to go back through my blog posts to find more than one occasion where I talk about how much I hate that sentence!
The Church needs to change in order to stay relevant in the world today, and on into the future. More people are finally seeing that and struggling with what the next "model" of doing church will be. They look to the Mega-church movement, and try to apply templates. They look at things that Emergent is doing and try to faddishly use an approach or two to bring in more people so that they feel like they are not dying!
But here's the new perspective for me on this "way we've always done it". There NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN A "WAY WE'VE ALWAYS DONE IT"! Yes, there are models that served us well in the 50's, but has lost it's effectiveness every year. Yet the Church will cling desperately to those "programs" long after they've died. No wonder the Church is so far behind in it's dialogue with the world; it's too busy trying to remain relevant to those who have always been in their halls.
So this brings us back to La Sagrada Familia. I think that this amazing and beautiful structure, still under construction, can teach us something. The Architect had a grand vision. He didn't live long enough to see it through, so it is continued by his "disciples". Have things changed from his original vision? I'm sure they have. I'm sure that the designers and workers now do their best to keep with his original vision, but it will probably not end up exactly like Antoni Gaudí imagined. More concretely, technological ingenuity has changed the way that the structure is being built. Advances in architecture, technology, and art since the late 1800's and early 1900's have CHANGED the way we build structures! The designers have remained in dialogue with the scientific advances over time and instead of rejecting them and not moving forward, they have utilized what they could in constructing this church.
A model of ministry, a technique, an idea is only effective for so long. One thing the Church has been horrific in doing, is evaluating their approaches and letting go of those things that are no longer relative in today's world. In essence, they are clinging firmly to their sacred cows, although their cows were never really sacred and died a long time back. In fact they've been clung to for so long, that the rotting meat isn't even salvageable. By that, I mean that whatever could have been salvaged from the dying program and reused in a NEW vision, has been clung to and forced upon people so much that they aren't even receptive to even those good things any more.
Ok, so you have my beef (no pun intended), now what is my proposal? Well, first, we need to do away with templates. THERE ARE NO TEMPLATES OF HOW TO DO CHURCH IN A POSTMODERN WORLD! It is all about a) who are you trying to reach, b) what are their needs c) what are your strengths and weaknesses, and d) what can you do with a,b, and c to be effective?
Second, while we're throwing away the idea of template ministry, we also should chuck the idea of "the way we've always done it." The church's architect (Christ) had a vision for his bridegroom. However, I think he knew it was always going to be in flux. That's perhaps one reason that he never spelled out what the perfect church looks like! This is the revolutionary idea (and I'm sure I'm not the first to think of it, but as of right now the first I've heard say it), that even when we catch up to the world and find something that works, as soon as it starts to be ineffective, we throw it out. There will never again be a "model of ministry" that sustains us through all eternity, and I strongly believe that there was never MEANT to be one in the first place. Yes other models worked for a while, and we will find things that work again. But the Church has to look past their bunkers and learn how to be a church in flux; always changing in order to be relevant to the people they are trying to reach!
So like La Sagrada Familia, we need to be a church that is ALWAYS under construction. we need to be building up young leaders with new ideas, not shutting them out as radicals! We need to be more open to what the needs are, and what is going on in the global community with which we should be in constant dialogue! I've talked about a church in transition (see Tim Conder's book in sidebar), but the misconception of many people is that we will transition from one stable model to another stable model. I think that way of thinking should be (this time I take full responsibility for the pun) Left Behind! The Church needs to become the Church in transition, but will have to realize that it will have to always remain a Church in transition!