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Building with 500 Years in Mind, Not 50

By Mark Walz

I mentioned briefly in one of my most recent sermons that as a society and culture we don’t build cathedrals anymore. What I mean is that much of what we build is not meant to last. Things are built as quickly and as cheaply as possible in most cases. And there is great questions on how that sort of mentality has degraded our society and framed even things like our faith.

When I have traveled to other countries, especially countries in Europe or Israel, I could not help but notice how much older things were. In comparison to buildings in the States, which are more recently built, you see a real disparity in age. But it goes a bit beyond that, as well. Things now are built to be able to be removed at some point. The materials in construction are destroyed and recycled or put in a trash heap. But in older countries when looking at buildings centuries old you notice that the design and the materials people used to construct those buildings were much more resilient. They were so solidly built that even if the building was removed, the buildings materials were used elsewhere again and again. Even hewed stones and materials from the time of the Romans (and beyond) are still in use! In contrast, our stuff is junk, made of junk, with a veneer of newness. And once used, they are discarded and destroyed. I would prefer our stuff be a treasure, built with treasures, and made to be beautiful. I would prefer that things don’t come and go so quickly, and that our world be a bit more rooted to things of the past. Perhaps we would be more ably situated to handle the tumultuous season we live in.

Now, this isn’t the first time someone has talked about that. I have read and seen countless others talk about this issue and perhaps you have too. I am sure you can find way better articles or podcasts or books on it. However, I did want to relate it to our most recent series on the family and on our church plant, St Patrick’s, in particular. Many churches might be only concerned with creating something that would last a generation or so. But I think we are seeing what happens when a church has such a short view of things — they fail even more quickly than they succeed in loads of cases. And our families suffer because we do not think of things like the third and fourth generations of our children when establishing family patterns and seeking wisdom about our direction.

But I believe that in order to survive the present difficulties and to establish a better future for our family and our church family, we need to have the sort of mentality that the builders of cathedrals had. They built things together that took years to make. And they build with generations in mind. And so, they took their time, were unconcerned about the immediate return, and they used materials that were valuable and would last. And what they built was beautiful. And what they built still stands.

We, too, ought to consider how, as we seek the Lord in the establishment of our church and ponder our family dynamics, we see and embrace the long view of things. What would it look like to build into our church with not 50 years in mind but 500. For if it survives and is built with this trajectory in mind, we will affect generations upon generations, not just our own. And even if it fails, the building materials we use in the project will serve others in the kingdom for years to come. This would make our work more serious. This would make our mission as a Church more weighty.

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