Thursday, February 13, 2014

Faith Works 2-15-14

Faith Works 2-15-14

Jeff Gill


The end of buildings



There's a common theme in recent writing, especially online writing among those involved in what's called "the emergent church."


The emergent church is an expression of a contemporary form of Christianity with classical elements contained within: chant, candles, contemplation. It tends to be young in audience and leadership, and is usually a sort of new church plant that doesn't show any interest in ending up like older churches, in any way.


Call them cool, and they won't argue, but will insist that it isn't their goal.


The common theme I'm seeing emergent folks playing off of is: who needs a building?


If you don't understand how you can be a church without a building, then you're making some of the emergent folks' point for them. "The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people." So sang Avery and Marsh in 1972, and the ideal of envisioning the church of Christ as the Body, not a building, has struggled mightily to be born since then.


Today, a "church plant" begins in rented rooms, in school auditoriums normally empty on a Sunday, or nested within an established church on a Sunday afternoon. And they may or may not aspire to having a building or property committee someday.


More and more developing church models don't assume the ownership of property or the building of a physical plant as a goal. Those of us who have such ministry tools in our care can understand why. When I go into a church building, I probably notice faster than you would where the plaster cracks are (and how deep, and which direction they run), where the roof leak stains are, the quality of the windows, etc. etc.


A building is a ministry tool, and should be used, maintained, and even set aside with that understanding in mind. But there's something in us that can make of the church building an idol, and we… well, we don't worship it, but it starts looking dangerously close to doing so.


All of us in buildings as a part of our ministry understand the attraction of doing without one: but I also have seen how the extra work it takes to be "building-free" can drain valuable ministry energy that could go to mission and outreach, but is "spent" in set-up and tear-down, or even in moving from point-to-point.


Buildings have a logic all their own. We should appreciate them, and care for them, but when they dictate the shape of our ministry it's a fair question: should we stop using this tool, and find a new one? And maybe even a tool that doesn't look like what we're used to having in our hand.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he loves the Newark Central building, but knows it is something less than the Kingdom itself! Tell him about your building issues at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Knapsack 2-13-14

Notes from my Knapsack 2-13-14

Jeff Gill


Where to put it all



One thing you have to deal with in a winter such as this one: where to put it all.


The snow not only falls, but does not melt. This is what's been so different for me about Ohio winters, or at least Licking County winters, growing up just off the tip of Lake Michigan in a snow belt. For years (and years) the snow would fall, even some substantial snows, and it would almost always melt entirely before the next one.


I've not checked out the figures, but it seemed not that there were fewer snow events (although each is less in total than you see off the Great Lakes onto your driveway, up north), but that the snow never piled up. In my northwest Indiana childhood, snow covered the ground by Christmas, and the mounds on either side of the driveway apron mounted higher and higher, until the mailbox nearly vanished.


We also had a driveway that, when my dad built an addition onto the house after two more kids, ran directly into the garage leaving most of the part to be shoveled cut into the earth. From the street to the house the snow had to be shoveled ever farther up, some three feet or more at the garage door: and with each new snowfall, that throw got higher.


So you got strategic about when to pitch your shovel load, where to throw it, and when you were actually better off to walk each carefully balanced pile a few steps back to a lower part of the drive. Wind came into this equation, and also the knowledge that it was one kind of weary to walk back and forth in each poke at the piles, and another sort of tired you felt when a flung load tumbled right back down onto the newly shoveled pavement.


That all comes back this winter, and aching back aside, it's kind of a fun memory now, and practical experience to deploy.


You also realize that you grew up from your learner's permit getting taught by parents and experience how to drive on ice and slick ridged side streets with intersections polished by start-up futility . . . and that many of your fellow local drivers today do not have that benefit. Nor do they know in their bones the many uses of kitty litter in the trunk or a few decent hunks of corrugated cardboard. And an old sleeping bag with a flashlight and backup gloves.


We're all learning or relearning these realities. Snow comes, and we deal. There's how the larger institutions deal, school systems and grocery stores and churches and sporting events. Frankly, I'm pretty impressed with how everyone has dealt with the circumstances of this winter. For Granville Schools, they've tried to protect our far flung student body (Cambria Mill, Deeds Rd., Park Trails: it's not just about the village, campers), with young drivers at GHS and parents commuting 30-45 minutes away all factors in the equation, using what I would call the right closings & two-hour delays applied in a timely (if tediously frequent!) manner.


And just as I was going to hit send on this column, the word came out about a missing Denison student, and then the search (God bless everyone who tried, especially those who found his body), and the tragic aftermath.


Winter is serious business, and we are reminded that the only way, really, to deal with it is to deal with it together.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your winter tales at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.