The Concreteness of Bricks


When a ministry is starting out, it seems possible, natural, and quite common to hold its members together with words chosen for their broad appeal. Words like “cooperate”, “lead”, “outreach”, and even “agree” can mean vastly different things to different people. Their use produces a kind of agreement based on the permissiveness of the definition.

When (or if) it comes time to build a home for the organization, this lack of clarity cannot continue. When one places a line on paper or screen, much less, nails in a board, the location is unambiguous. It is here or there, and cannot be made to be at both locations by a careful choice of words.

There is nothing like bricks and mortar to make things concrete. In the process of designing a typical building, I’ve read that an architect and his client make around 17,000 separate decisions. While deciding what things will look like or cost, or how they will be used, what will be accommodated, and what will not, the organization exposes what it really believes. What are our priorities in the face of limited resources? What do we want to convey to our neighbors and passersby? What do we wish to convey to the ourselves? How will we decide? Who is in charge?

I’ve encountered more than one young church whose members made a hairshirt commitment to start a new church, but reveal a desire to settle down in “a real church” at the first opportunity. One church I know proudly announces that “bricks and mortar are our enemy “. I understand and even agree with what they mean. Even so, I wonder what they might learn if and when it’s time to pick up a brick.