Once again I come away from a church visit with some conflicting impressions to figure out. Connexus Community Church meets on Sundays at Galaxy Cinemas in Barrie’s south end. As a newcomer, the location is obviously the first thing that strikes you. While I’m not much of a movie-goer myself, for many people this will be a very familiar environment. The church takes over most of the building on Sunday mornings, with one theatre being used for the main service, another for overflow, another for Sunday school and so on.
I like to assign a superlative to each church I visit; so Connexus is definitely the most ‘hi-tech’ church in Barrie. Video is streamed in from another church in Georgia, and streamed out to a satellite campus in Orillia. Sound and light are run from stacks of expensive audiovisual equipment, and we are treated to what amounts to a short indie-rock concert to start the service.
I have often said that architecture shapes theology. Just looking at the building a church meets in, (or indeed any communally used building) tells us something about the thinking of those who meet in it. The grandeur and floor-plan of a medieval cathedral makes some specific statements about the nature of man and God, with the entire building drawing your attention to the central altar, where Christ’s sacrifice is remembered. The layout of a Quaker meeting house conveys a different message about God, and theology, and ecclesiology; the circular layout reminds us that ministry is a shared, communal activity.
I’m not sure yet what subliminal theology we absorb from meeting in a movie theatre, but it is a question that needs to be asked. Connexus is just the epitome of a pattern that I’ve seen in many churches; a large audience watching a small group of professionals on a stage, and this is something I still feel very uncomfortable with.
Having stated my discomfort with consumer-church and piped-in video streams, I now have to admit that I actually found the sermon profound and insightful. Andy Stanley gave a fascinating look at the book of Ecclesiastes that was very timely for me. King Solomon’s search for meaning in science, wealth, relationships and philosophy was expertly outlined.
I hugely appreciated his specific call at the end of the message to various groups. He urged singles to focus on finding purpose in life, rather than the right ‘person’ or ‘thing’. He urged married individuals to cherish their wives and families and not to trade the integrity of their relationships to chase after possessions or positions that will one day belong to someone else anyway. And he urged empty nesters to not simply retreat to the golf course or the resort, but to share their wisdom and life experience with younger members of the community. And he gave specific ways that his church enables that type of connection to happen.
Connexus has a very clear vision of being a church that the unchurched will love, and a mission to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ. I heard this articulated from pretty much everyone I spoke to. They also spoke positively of the other churches in the city and the downtown homeless ministries.
One person I met this morning likened their church model to a house, with a foyer, a living room and a kitchen. The Sunday program is the foyer, where people can be invited in to an nonthreatening environment; and as they get to know the community better they can progress to the living room and kitchen.
I am aware that a Sunday morning visit only gives you a narrow snapshot of the life of a community, and maybe I need to start finding ways of connecting with churches outside their Sunday programs. What would that look like? Any suggestions would be welcome!