Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) couldn’t shake the voice in his head. There was something he needed to do, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what that was. In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, with a little help from Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) and some others along the way, Ray took a leap of faith and built the baseball field of his dreams right there in the middle of his Iowa cornfield. The 1919 Chicago White Sox—baseball legends—would come back from the grave to play. They would laugh and jest. They would jump, shout, run and play. They would live again. If Ray would just build it, the field of his and their dreams, they would come.
Good movie. Terrible theology. Sadly, many of today’s church members and pastoral staff have embraced a “Field of Dreams” ecclesiology. If we can just build the field of our/their dreams, they’ll come. Who are “they?” The lost and unchurched people within driving distance of our church’s physical address. If we would just build the best children’s facilities. If we would just build the most professional worship experience. If we would just build the best staff team and the most visually appealing welcome center. If we would just build it, they would come.
But the Bible portrays much more of a go-and-tell ecclesiology than a come-and-see one. Certainly God is worthy of excellence in all of our endeavors. Certainly places of worship should be constructed with care and attention to detail. But if our plan is to build something and attract “them,” we will be sorely disappointed. Church God’s way is not about building a field of dreams on your church property. It’s about engaging the field ripe unto harvest outside your walls. Ultimately, nothing you build on your own will endure with eternal significance. It’s the church that Jesus builds which prevails against the gates of Hell and carries the timeless truth of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Building churches God’s way is about reaching lost, broken and hurting people where they are, on their turf, then plugging them into the body-life of the church family. It’s about building relationships with them, speaking the truth of the gospel to them and giving them an opportunity to respond. It’s about discipleship, and a shared life. It’s not about counting numbers and painting walls. It’s about living the Christ-life and inviting others to live it with you.
So what are you building?
- With your hands and feet: The energy that you pour into kingdom work—is it invested more in physical structures on the church property than in connecting with lost and unchurched people on their turf? It is a good thing to have a beautiful church building and excellent programming that honors God and connects with guests. But the field we are to actively engage (the one that is ripe unto harvest) is around the corner and across the globe, not just on your church’s purchased patch of dirt.
- With your words: When you talk to someone about spiritual things, are you talking mostly about Jesus or mostly about your church programs? Church programming is great when it lifts up the name of Jesus and builds up the body with excellence. But people who don’t know Jesus can enjoy excellent church programming their whole life and still spend eternity separated from God in Hell. Your words build things. Use them to build an excitement about faith in Christ Jesus, not just excitement about your church’s programs.
- With your dreams: What do you dream about for your church family? Do your dreams consist mostly of large numbers: square footage, dollar signs and attendance rolls? If your dreams were to come true, let that truth be reflected in lives and families eternally changed by the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Let those dreams be those that would begin revival and renewal in your community and around the world.
- With your relationships: Christians are not called to be social recluses. God has placed around you a circle of influence for which you are to take responsibility, to his glory. In every relationship at work, at home, among friends and online, the good news of Jesus Christ should overflow from the deep waters of a soul that has been transformed by it. What are you building with your relationships? Are you building a business? A reputation? Personal admirers? Or are you intentionally building people up toward Christ Jesus?
The field of your dreams may be a spectacular sight to see. And if you were to build it, it may in fact be the greatest accomplishment your church family has ever seen. But unless it is the church Jesus builds, it will also leave your surrounding community in a spiritual wasteland, marveling at the glory of temporal beauty while condemned to an eternal death because they have completely missed the glory of God. Jesus’s church is not about the field of your dreams on your church property. It’s about the fields that are white unto harvest around the corner and across the globe. Trade your dreams for God’s dreams, and let Jesus build through you something that will last for all of eternity.
Grace and Peace,