Well Diggers vs. Temple Builders

We are well diggers instead of temple builders” is a phrase I heard for the first time from Mel McGowan, president of Visioneering Studios.  The first time I heard it, I needed to have it explained….but once it was, it really resonated with me.

The concept is fairly simple and yet profound.  It is based on the John 4 passage about the Samaritan woman at the well. Most of us that have been around “church” for any length of time, know this story.  We know that Jesus goes to a well in the middle of the day and meets a women with a sorted past and shares life with her by getting a drink of H2O….physical water, and then offers and provides living water…a relationship with Jesus.  I have heard dozens of sermon applications about this story and I am sure you have as well. So how does it apply to church facility development?  This is where it really gets cool.

The concept is that we need to look for opportunities to develop “wells” on our campuses and within our communities and not just temples.  The well is representative of several attributes that I believe the church, as a whole, has not done a great job in providing to our communities.  We have been notorious in building temples…you know, buildings that are used one or two days a week.  Places that people in our community believe you have to act, look and smell a certain way to enter. A place with too many “thou shalt not”  rules, whether  they are real or perceived.

A well on the other hand is a part of the community.  It represents a place that was/is a vital part of  that culture.  People came there 7 days a week to get water…but also to see their neighbor, get caught up on what was going on in each others lives, share concerns and sometimes just hang.  They would do life together.  Not just on the weekend…but every day.

The well was “common place”. It was not a top-of-mind place that the community folk would think of when contemplating a place to “meet God.”  And yet, that is exactly what happened.  This common place become a destination were God meet a women in need of a savior…even though that is not what she was looking for that morning as she heading out to gather water.  They shared conversation.  Shared a drink of water.  Talked about the past, the present and what the future could be.  All of this happened in an environment that felt “common” to the women…just the normal place she went every day…but this was an intentional encounter by Jesus.  He knew he was going to have this encounter.  He used the common place for the extraordinary. Verse 4 of this passage tells us that Jesus “had to go through Samaria”. The fact is, from a physical perspective, there were other routes he could have taken to get to Galilee. But he was intentional about going to Samaria…to have this encounter…to change a life.

But the story of the well did not end there. In vs. 28  it says, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” The story continued…and the well was a drawing point for other people to come and hear from Jesus.  The women went and hold her neighbors that there was something cool happening at the well and that they needed to come check it out…and they did.  Do you not get excited to see how one “common place” experience…over a glass of water…in a non-temple setting, lead to life change for not only a woman, but for others in her community.

As you think about your church facilities and campus, think about what “wells” you are providing your community for these kinds of encounters and then be intentional to open yourself up to meet people to do life and start a conversation that could change the world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Cool

Tim Cool

Tim Cool is the Founder and Chief Solutions Officer of Cool Solutions Group, a company leading organizations to be intentional with the planning, development and life cycle management of the facilities God has entrusted them. Tim has assisted nearly 400 churches over the past 28 years, throughout the United States, with their facility’s needs. Tim has been married to his best friend, Lisa, for 29 years and resides in Charlotte, NC with their 17-year-old triplets. They are active members at Elevation Church.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Tony — 01/24/13 3:55 pm

Fascinating perspective. I like putting this metaphor to use. More and more I am talking to churches in the midst of campus development and they really want to build something that can be used by the community, like sports fields, meeting places, CrossFit workout areas, etc. I think this really sums up the concept well (pun intended).

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

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