Thursday, January 25, 2007

Big, Empty Boxes = Church Planting Opportunities

Today's Enquirer gives extensive coverage to the large number of large retail properties currently vacant in Our Fair City and its Fair Suburbs. Big-box retailers, it seems, keep getting bigger, leaving not-quite-as-big spaces behind.

Municipalities struggle to get those properties reoccupied. But we wonder whether they're looking in the wrong direction. What the big boxes may best accommodate is not more retail but more not-for-profit. Specifically, these sites are ripe for churches.

To grow in most of American culture, churches need lots of space and lots of parking. That's what the big, empty boxes provide. And it's been done successfully, as Cincinnati's current "hot" church, Crossroads Community, has amply demonstrated.

We challenge gentle readers to go into all the city and sign leases to make disciples.


Anonymous said...

Yes, just what America needs . . . more ecclesiastical wal-marts indistinguishable from neighboring strip malls. I'm sure these new churches would pander to the consumer and engage in incessant emergent church, post-modernist psycho-babble. No thanks . . . I'll stick with sacred architecture, liturgy, and sacrament.

rustypants said...

uh.. jamie smith? er, no! dr. north! hmm.. wait a minute... danny j. dyke!

i give up - who was it?

mattc said...

I agree with SWNID. These properties are inherently visible to the community (L,L,L), they are cheaper than new development (reduce, reuse, recycle), and they already have the necessary traffic signals, turn lanes, water mains and fire hydrants.

Two other examples in Cincinnati are Eastside Christian (abandoned movie theater) and Greater Bethlehem Temple Apostolic Church (vacant strip mall).

Jim Shoes said...

Sacred liturgy, yes. Sacred sacrament, yes. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels. The urgency of the gospel is such that we can't stop evangelism to build a Gothic cathedral.

Anonymous, I would no more want to impute "psycho-babble" to a church meeting in a strip mall than I would want to impute "dry, empty ritual" to a church that meets in "sacred architecture."

I thought readers of this blog were past such stereotypes. But I guess that was a stereotype.

KevinK said...

Jim Shoes,

If the churches that meet in these types of churches maintains a sense of reverence for God than I am all for them.

Unfortunately, those that recieve the most publicity don't. On recent talk show on a christian radio station the guest gave a fairly accurate assesment of one such church(Willow Creek). He discribed the building as an auditorium with little, or nothing, to indicate that it was a church. The service consisted of a pop concert/broadway musical and a professional speaker.

These types of churches stress attendance numbers more than spiritual growth and feature "celebreties" rather than ministers -- Joel Osteen and Rick Warren for example.

Jim Shoes said...

KevinK, have you been to Willow Creek or Saddleback? Do you understand their ministry philosophy (both are distinct)? Do you know the number of people whose lives have been changed by each church's ministry?

Willow and Saddleback bashing is a popular sport, but generally doesn't really deal with the reality of those churches or many others.

No church is perfect, but generalizations based on architectural style are outrageously uninformed.

LucyB said...


Neither should Rick Warren be compared to Joel Osteen. They are complete opposites. Rick Warren may not be perfect, but he preaches the gospel of Jesus. Joel Osteen seems to preach the gospel of Joel Osteen. You should read the "Time" magazine article comparing the health and wealth gospels with those diametrically opposed to health and wealth. If you did, you would never believe they had similar ministries.

carol said...

Why is it that most of us would be ok with another retailer occupying vacant space in a strip mall, but seem to have an inherently negative reaction to a church locating there? Are we wanting to win the world for Wal-Mart or Christ?
And, isn't "the church" distinct and separate from a building? The church is the church whether it meets in an abandoned Wal-Mart, under a viaduct by the interstate, in lovely suburbia, or in a Gothic cathedral.