It was an epiphany of no small magnitude. My eyes were wide open, as they should have been since I was driving my Outback and pulling a boat, heading west on Park Avenue; but I saw the possibilities in my spirit.
As I meditated on the new idea, the clearer it became. It was something that could revolutionize the religious segment of Des Moines, Iowa. In fact, if developed and marketed correctly, the potential impact on the American society would be huge!
Before I share my “epiphany”, allow me to give you some background info first. As I mentioned, I was driving on Park Avenue. A friend and I drove past a huge warehouse/manufacturing plant that has been empty since 2001. My friend commented that it was a real shame the building just sat empty; surely someone could use it for something.
That’s when I had my epiphany!
By the way, the building is over 14.5 acres in size; 633,919 square feet, to be exact. To help you grasp the enormity of the building, if you took each square foot and put them in a single, square foot line, the line would connect Des Moines with the Missouri River, 120 miles away. Also, Des Moines’ first enclosed mall, Park Fair, is only half the size of the vacant warehouse.
Okay, now for the epiphany, the revelation. I warn you, though, some of you may not see the humor, or the validity, in this. But you know what? You might as well laugh, because many times the truth is funnier than fiction. And, unfortunately, the world is laughing at the church for some of the various reasons I’ll mention. So you might as well laugh along with them until things change. At least then they’d be able to relate to you and I.
I pictured a group of 25 churches, or so, joining their monies and leasing the whole building. Various denominations: Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Assemblies of God, Apostolic, Church of God in Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Word of Faith, Vineyard, Non-denominational (Pentecostal), Non-denominational (non-Pentecostal), Independent Baptist, Regular Baptist, Southern Baptist, Free Methodist, Federated, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Open Bible, Church of the Wildfire, Church of the No Fire, Brethren, Sprinkler churches, Dunking churches, communion every Sunday churches, communion once a year churches, fire and brimstone churches, honey and syrup churches. All gathering together under one roof and calling it, “The Church Mall”.
Yes, folks; the Church Mall! And think of the possibilities! The church shopper would finally be able to find what they’re looking for!
Each church would have approximately 21,000 square feet to utilize. All they would need to build would be their own sanctuary and classrooms. Nurseries, offices, restrooms, coffee shops and lobby areas would be shared by all. Trained, paid personnel would handle all nursery duties, office functions (to include mailings, posting and deposits of offerings, payment of bills, janitorial duties, and keeping the coffee hot. No more worry about volunteers! Besides, in today’s economy, good jobs are kind of hard to find; this would remedy that problem, at least for some.
Picture with me, please, you and your spouse walking down the middle of the mall, reading the different signs/advertisements over the church doors. It’s Saturday morning, around 10 o’clock, and you’re interested in “trying” a different church tomorrow. So, you’re doing a little “window shopping”.
You walk past one church and see the picture of a communion cup on the door. Another one proudly displays a logo with A/G on it, along with the words “All the Gospel”. Nothing strikes a chord yet, so you walk on.
Continuing down the mall, your ears are suddenly assaulted by the loud, discordant ruckus coming from inside the church called “The Lion’s Din Church”; a church where the righteous are as loud as a lion. It’s a charismatic, non-denominational church with a sound system to match even the loudest of rock bands. Apparently the church’s worship leader, D.B. Whocares, is having a last minute band rehearsal.
There are signs advertising special confession services: “Catholic”, you say to your spouse. No, just the Word of Faith church proudly displaying their logo, “Miss the mess when you confess”. Catchy, but probably not for you.
On and on you walk. Signs advertising such things as, “the church that’s alive is worth the drive”, “large enough to serve you better, small enough to care”, “King James Bible Only”, “Come, feel the heat of our altar calls”, “God’s Truth has made us great!”, “The Church for Hymns and Hers”, “The tomb is empty, who needs the cross?”, “Our communion wine is the best in town”, (by the way, that church is right next door to the church with the logo – “Happy Hour every Sunday morning”).
You finally return to the Mall’s main entrance, completely exhausted, still unsure which church to visit the next morning. But don’t fret, because in the morning all the ushers will be out and about helping you find your way to their door.
I’m sure it would be interesting, you know, deciding which church gets the spots closest to the main entrance, and which one gets the least desirable space. And imagine the discussions involved regarding what can or can’t be displayed on each church’s individual sign. Some things would just have to be taboo, don’t you think?
Do you think this “Church Mall” idea would generate any interest? If not, why not? What could possibly be wrong with it?
After all, didn’t I read somewhere that there is ONE Body? Didn’t Jesus say something about His Church being ONE? And what will Heaven be like? Probably ONE group called “the Redeemed”.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:1-6
“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:6-23
Maybe the idea won’t catch on, and probably just as well. The competition among churches is hard enough on society as it is. And I don’t believe a facility has yet been built that can weather the storms created by the masses streaming from church to church; as they hunt for the “Perfect Church.”
Perhaps someday the world will be ready for the Church Mall.
Do you suppose Heaven is?