So asserted one late-twentieth-century Amish carpenter, expressing a sentiment quite common among the “plain people” descended from sixteenth-century Anabaptists — but quite contrary to the claims of mainstream American society.
This Amish man’s words came to mind recently while reading an article about the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which has just embarked upon “the largest church building program in modern history.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, First Baptist — already considered a megachurch — now wants “to build a 3,000-seat worship center, a religious education building and parking garage, a glass concourse, and a sky bridge.” The article also quotes the church’s pastor, Rev. Robert Jeffress, as saying, “The finest facility in this area should be one that glorifies almighty God.”
The article also brought to mind historian Carlton Wittlinger’s description of early Brethren in Christ meetinghouses:
[They] were plain brick or rectangular structures with pew dividers to separate the seating for men and women. Those who planned the buildings had no interest in architectural design or artistry to create atmosphere. For all practical purposes the house church simply moved into larger quarters.
(For more on early Brethren in Christ meetinghouses and their symbolism, see E. Morris Sider’s “The Ringgold Meeting House as Symbol.” For more on megachurches, see this piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)
Readers: What do you think about church architecture? Does “bigness ruin everything,” or do large and ornate facilities serve an important role in today’s society? Share your thoughts in the Comments section!