(It’s guest post Friday! Today’s post is from Robert Bruce. Robert is a writer for the Dave Ramsey team, a blogger and a marathon runner. His blog about reading through the Time Magazine’s 100 greatest novels is brilliant. You can also find him on Twitter. If you want to write a guest post for SCL, here’s how.)
Grocery Store Makeovers – By Robert Bruce
Rob Bell started it. Or maybe it was Andy Stanley.
Twenty years ago, the abandoned Krogers and Kmarts of the world were a community eyesore—a harsh reminder of once-thriving businesses that served fresh zucchini, abundant nutmeg, and a wide variety of colorful, sugar-laden cereal.
But one day some ingenious pastor was walking down the deodorant aisle and said, “Hmmm. I wonder what a set of drums and a bass guitar would sound like about right here,” as he eyeballed a veritable potpourri of ocean-scented fragrances. (My Old Spice says it smells like “Freedom!”) Or maybe he glanced over to the paper products aisle and envisioned a pack of three-year-olds sitting in a circle and singing “Father Abraham.” Do the kids still sing that? They should, because that dude had many, many sons.
Whoever started it and however it happened, churches everywhere have taken notice and large retail stores are now prime real estate for many congregations. In the last six years, I’ve been a member of two churches—one met in a renovated Harris Teeter and my current church meets in what used to be a Circuit City.
As much as I love my church, I’ve got to admit that sometimes it’s a little odd taking communion in the same spot that I once purchased a couple of two-foot USB cords, some overpriced printer cartridges, and a copy of Elf. Or at my old church in Atlanta, I might have proofread my bulletin in the same spot that I once sampled a Swedish meatball on a toothpick from a friendly, elderly woman.
There’s something mysterious about these types of church spaces, like an old house that was built in the late 19th century and housed dozens of families over the years. What stories could it tell?
And what stories could that Kroger, that Circuit City, pass on to the churchgoers who wander the aisles these days? Like the Great Spinach Scare of 2006, the mad cow hysteria of 2004, or Black Friday in 2007 when 14 middle-aged parents were arrested for brawling over a couple of Nintendo Wiis. If only those walls could talk.
But these days, instead of generic Michael Bolton songs on lame, whispery speakers, this one-time retail mecca now blasts the melodic praise and worship tunes of Chris Tomlin and David Crowder. Instead of hearing “Clean up. Aisle 9” on those same speakers, you might see “Child 14”—which is code for “Clean Up. Nursery. Bring the scented wipes.”—in digital numbers next to the video screen.
Some people might not like this fairly new phenomenon, but it’s grown on me, despite my initial feelings of weirdness. These renovated giant retail stores have some personality, some spunk, some Jello pudding stains, that the traditional, formal churches can’t match—at least in this guy’s meager opinion.
Sure, in the end, the church really isn’t about the building, but maybe these renovated retail behemoths-turned-churches communicate that we’re moving past our self-created Christian fortresses and taking the church out there—out where the asparagus gets a little funky and the peaches ends up smelling like stale cheese.
Now that’s what I call the fruit of the spirit.
Have you ever attended church in a building that wasn’t originally designed to be a church?
(For more great stuff from Robert, check out his blog, 101 Books!)