Christian apologists often say that their purpose is not to reason a person to faith, but simply to help clear the forest of some questions so that people can get a clear view of Jesus.
The fourth principle of Encounter with God—Construct Inviting Facilities—does much the same thing.
It is true that the church is formed of people not buildings. Likewise there are certainly cases where the focus on church buildings becomes more about increasing the comforts of the saints than equipping them for ministry. Nevertheless, facilities can be vital tools to enhance evangelism, corporate worship, training and discipleship.
This is definitely true in Latin America where the physical presence of the traditional church is a central theme in Latin culture. Visit any plaza in Latin America and you will find the traditional church at the center of town. Deep in the psyche of most Latin Americans, even among the nominally religious, a physical building is an important indicator of legitimacy.
This is especially true in the urban professional levels of society where evangelicalism is often regarded as the religion of the poor and ignorant. For much of its history the physical presence of the evangelical church contributed to this misperception.
Most evangelical churches were located in poorer communities with extremely humble facilities. Praise God for these churches. Yet, the almost exclusive focus on this segment of society to the neglect of others helped foster this stereotype. Moreover, though the churches in lower income areas often contained fervent and faithful believers, they had a difficult time reaching demographic segments beyond their own.
The Encounter with God approach of developing simple, but nice centers for worship and discipleship helps break down such stereotypes and bridge barriers between social classes.
The presence of an inviting facility forces reevaluations of long held misperceptions. Many times the building enhances curiosity and openness to the gospel message.
Moreover, the right facility can help foster a greater mix of social classes. Encounter churches seek balance between providing a place inviting to urban professionals, but not so ornate as to intimidate others. Encounter churches are unique in their diversity. Lower, middle and even upper income people worship together in many churches.
In a world prone to stringent social and economic stratification, this can be a tremendous testimony to the unity in Christ.
The Church is not a building, but a building can help a church better be the church– uniting people of every social level to bear witness to the power of the gospel to change lives and transform nations.