My Mom was always renovating her house. She was never satisfied with it, always seeing another reality and moving toward it with seeming abandon. It always seemed chaotic because I never understood her vision for her farm, that is, until her passing into glory. As the oldest child I then starting thinking about how I would pull the family together, how I could no longer just defer to her.
Thanksgiving, July 4th, or a summer BBQ were seminal events in the lives of our family. My Mom always seemed to have thought of everything-sleeping places, eating places, gathering places inside, gathering places outside, adrenaline places, work places, and relaxing places. One of my suburbia-reared kids was recently reminiscing about growing up in the country, on the farm. When I reminded her that she was raised in Cary she seemed confused, for she really thought of herself as a farm-raised, country kid. Those times were precious, so much so that although only a small amount of time was spent on the farm the lessons and joys of that place had been indelibly imprinted on her. My Mom had vision, instinctively knowing that she needed compelling, adventurous spaces that would galvanize the hearts and minds of her grandchildren.
Places have a profound effect on us. Winston Churchill captured this when he said that “We shape our buildings; they thereafter shape us.” Buildings and outside places can range from distracting, discordant, and unsightly to serene, beautiful and awe-inspiring. God created us and placed us in a garden that was “pleasant to the sight” (Gen 2:8). Thus, from the very beginning of Creation, beauty-the aesthetics of our surroundings-would be important to man, one unique aspect of being made in God’s image.
It didn’t end there. When Solomon built God’s temple, it took him seven years and many craftsmen and laborers (1 Kings 6). He overlaid ornate beauty with gold and made sure there was no compromising on materials or workmanship. There were even parts of the temple that had no obvious function-like golden pomegranates and bells, embroidered sashes, and more, all made “for glory and beauty” (Ex. 28:39). Beauty alone was enough. Solomon’s temple was known throughout the world for its beauty and drew many men to Jerusalem to inquire about Solomon’s God.
We have a strategically-placed house of God in Cary. We have built on six of our 12 acres a place of beauty and serenity that serves many uses. Peace hosts over 800 events or meetings every year. Many of these involve more than 100 people. Peace’s scouting program is the most complete in the state, hosting American Heritage Girls, Cub and Boy Scouts, Adventure Scouts, and Sea Scouts. Several home school groups have been started at Peace and continue to use Peace on a regular basis. Cary Christian School started here and so have at least five other existing churches, not counting our own church plants. Over 140 children attend Sunday school and children’s church every week, 400-500 people attend worship services, and over 60 kids are enrolled in the preschool.
Yet the blessing of heavy use over the many years also has its costs, and at Peace Church we haven’t always invested in our place. In fact, until the recent replacement, the 25-year old original flooring in our main sanctuary entryway was showing every bit of its age. Our place has been used heavily for a quarter century and is in real need of restoration and renovation.
Our recent renovations include bathrooms, hallways, the narthex, the middle school and high school rooms, and the secretary’s office. These changes have affected the way we perform ministry here and have generated some excitement and energy that Peace is positioning for the future.
One of the reasons we do this is to be more welcoming. We have lots of visitors but very few stay. As a church welcome consultant said recently, “The only thing that should be offensive at the Church is the Gospel,” the message that “everyone is a sinner and needs a savior.” Everything else should be easy and pleasant and even encouraging. This includes how we navigate our parking lot to how we check in our kids at the nursery. One recent female visitor said that the bathrooms were “so pretty and clean, like someone cares!” Isn’t that the impression we want to give?
As I get older I like change less and less. There is comfort in the familiar. Be encouraged if you struggle with why we are changing the way Peace Church looks. It is neither random nor unthoughtful nor just change for the sake of change. We are keeping our eyes on the prize: indelibly impacting the next generations for Jesus, the much deeper spiritual renovation and restoration that endures when our places are long gone. Since we only spend a small percentage of our time at Peace, shouldn’t the experience be positive for both young and old alike? We live in Cary, one of the most affluent towns in all of NC. The expectations for what buildings and grounds should look like are very high. While we need not meet all those expectations, peeling wallpaper, sagging ceiling tiles, and cracked floor tiles don’t help us win an audience with those who don’t yet know us. If nonbelievers and weak saints come but are turned off by how confusing it is to navigate our place or how unkempt it is, we may not have another opportunity to share the Gospel from the pulpit.
So, as we increase our renovation budget in the next couple of years, be assured that we are not building more comfortable offices for the pastors, planning a staff workout facility, or building parking garages for the staff’s 15-year old vehicles. We are building and improving a beautiful place that will help draw his current and future children to Him-a place that, along with good doctrine, impassioned teaching, and warm hospitality will lead many sinners to repent and cause the angels in heaven to rejoice. And when our journey is done in this world the support you have given to Peace Church will be one way in which you can claim “I invested in drawing the hearts and minds of God’s kids to him.” Amen?