I had a meeting with the Augusta Symphony about a website so I met with them a few weeks ago. They are housed at Sacred Heart Cultural center in downtown Augusta. Sacred Heart was a church that closed in 1971 and was renovated and restored in 1987 as a cultural center for the community to rent. It also houses several organizations. I have looked at this building a lot in my days as it is right beside Curtis Baptist Church and School, two places where I spend A LOT of time growing up. My older brothers use to sneak across the street during church into the old abandoned building and would often explore through it.
I wasn’t sure where exactly their offices were located so I slipped in through a door I saw open. Straight ahead of me I saw a sign that said “Auditorium Entrance”. I hadn’t been in Sacred Heart since shortly after it reopened in the late 80’s and just had to see it. So, I snuck in through the auditorium door and when I walked through a small corridor, there I was on the stage at Sacred Heart. If you have never been inside this building, you must see it (here’s a photographer’s site that I came across that had some great shots of the interior – Shawna Herring & here is a photo gallery on the sacred heart site). As I looked around, it literally took my breath away…I was just blown away! Just an incredible sight. The summer sun was pouring in through the stain glass windows and the architecture, paint, the craftsmanship…just unbelievable. I just stood there for a while taking it in.
As I stood there, all of the sudden this thought hit me:
This use to be a place where people came expecting God to move, expecting to worship, encountering Jesus.
My mood changed. I felt crushed as I began to think about that. I was reminded that this church was like so many others that I’ve seen and know: Churches that at one time were thriving with life and were impacting the community around them. Over time they had lost that focus on Jesus, lost what it meant to present and be the Gospel in the context of their community at that time. So many churches are just dying…just empty buildings. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that this beautiful building is being used so effectively in the community. But as I was driving back to Aiken I thought a lot about those two extremes of emotion that I had just experienced. It made me wonder about Cedar Creek, and other churches that right now are making an impact in their community and the world. Here are some questions:
- What will our church/churches look like in 40 years? In 5 years? Will these churches keep their focus on Jesus or will they cease to exist?
- Will we hold to our styles and methodologies as sacred and become culturally irrelevant?
- As the “contemporary churches” become the new traditional churches (by the way, that is happening all over in churches that were birthed out of the Saddleback and Willow Creek models), will they be willing to ask the hard questions and make the even tougher decisions that it takes to change their methods (not the message) as needed over time?