Clear-Paned Missiology

At one of the congregations I serve, there are huge windows lining each side of the sanctuary. Without fail, every time we have guests come and speak from across the conference, they mention these windows. You see, they aren’t stained-glass. They are simply huge panes of clear glass, and they are indeed beautiful.

Out the north windows you can see the high school across the street, a small rental house, and a large wooded hill beyond. To the south, you can see the parsonage, several homes, and oftentimes people walking on the side street.

Apparently, in the past these windows were something like stained glass. They were thick, yellow, and had giant draperies hanging around them. However, when they were replaced the church bought the huge clear panes. Stained glass would have been nice, but it simply was too expensive. Little did they know, they were making a theological statement.

Far too many churches have a stained-glass missiology to go with their opulent stained glass windows. Rather than constantly looking out at the world beyond, people can only contemplate what’s on the inside. Today, in my sermon, I described the beatuy of those windows and the striking image they present of who we are called to be as a church. We gather together, worship faithfully, and listen to God’s call, ever mindful of the world outside the walls.

If we only care about what goes on inside, we’re like a sports team that only practices and never plays the game. We’re created to get in the game. We’re called to be formed in the faith and move to the other side of the glass, where we can live out the adventure of following God’s ongoing mission in the world.

8 thoughts on “Clear-Paned Missiology

  1. I could have used this today. I was preaching about “Serving God’s Mission” (last in a series about the aspects of fruitfulness in the Strategic Plan). Good illustration. You know, they say that illustrations are supposed to be like windows in the sermon. What about when windows are an illustration?

  2. This is good stuff. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the worship I design will lead into serving our world. Maybe we just need to start building giant windows.

  3. New Horizon UMC in Woodward has clear glass windows all along the south side of their church. For them it was a very clear theological statement when they built their church in 1982. They gave the architect 7 statements about what a church is and then let the architect produce the plans. Here is their one of their statements that dealt with the stained glass issue: “4. The role of worship is not to escape the evil world, but to celebrate the presence of God in the world.
    Consequently we did not build a “sanctuary.” The word “sanctuary,” outside of the Church, means “a place to protect something from evil.” Instead, we built a “Celebration Center” because we want to celebrate God’s presence in the world. The Celebration Center is designed to be an extension of the world, not an escape from it. Therefore, there are no stained glass windows, which are always designed to look best from the inside and are therefore inward looking and which keep us from seeing to real world. Instead we have lots of clear glass which let’s God’s light enter the building and allows us to see the world as it truly is, good and bad together.” A powerful statement that we should all strive to attain.

  4. John B: I should have shared it sooner! Interesting that we preached on similar topics today, eh?

    Chris: It’s a great challenge, and I look forward to hearing how you attempt it through worship.

    Amy: Thanks!

    John: Pew cushions should be as uncomfortable as possible, of course! We wouldn’t want people to think that sitting is the extent of the Christian life. 🙂

    Lesly: Thanks for sharing that. Very interesting and powerful stuff.

  5. Ah, yes. Well, for my frail and older members making it through my sermons is hard enough without skeletal pain from hard wooden benches.

    But, apparently, there was some near death experience a couple years ago when some else tried to get cushions for the pews, so now everyone is gunshy …

    Oh never mind. It isn’t even that interesting in real life.

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