The Parable About the Building (An Original Parable)

Darryl’s been doing some writing lately. He’s written a few parables and one we thought was a perfect fit to end our 8 months series on the parables at theStory. So Joe and I took his two paragraphs and turned it into 15, shook it up a bit, added some Hollywood and made it interesting and detailed (you know, like every parable is).

We read the parable all at once, and then went through it in 7 stages. Each stage representing a different month we did in the parables. We quickly overviewed the 8 months, tossing in great quotes here and there. For a complete list of those quotes and a few other things from the month, Joe has put together a compilation of the month here.

I wanted to post just the parable we did though cause I thought it was great.


The One About the Building

In an attempt to position itself for successful ministry, a certain church consulted a renown architect who hailed from outside their town to help design a building that would both meet their needs and propel their efforts forward.

All the usual types that are invited to preside over such decisions were there: The pastor; the rich guy; the general contractor; the visible minority and the token woman.

During the first consultation, the pastor began to explain to the architect what they had in mind. “We need a great building in a great location. It needs to be fresh and unprecedented. It must have landmark qualities and be a safe distance from both the sketchy part of town and the business district to avoid any sort of negative influence. Does that make sense?”

The architect began to furiously scribble down the details then took a moment to sort through his notes and said: “Sounds like you’re looking for something that will separate you from the rest. Something that will render your competitors obsolete, an edifice that unmistakably makes a statement.”

The committee inched to the edges of their seats and with giddy anticipation awaited the architect’s insight.

“Sounds like you’re looking for a skyscraper” he announced.

The committee, now shifting uncomfortably back into their seats, looked to the pastor who verbalized what he had quickly gleaned from his team’s body language.

“Uh…well…er…I’m not sure if we’ve explained ourselves very well. What we are trying to say is that we want to serve the public – clean people up and show them the error of their ways. We need to create opportunities for our members to safely and efficiently spread the gospel because after all, this is what we believe God demands.”

Feeling confident about their pastor’s re-explanation, the team was now at ease. Glancing over the top of his glasses, the architect flipped the page of his notepad and started fresh.

After an extended pause, he smiled, and presented his idea.

“What about some sort of 9-5 drive-thru facility? Your goods and services could be neatly packaged and administered in a speedy fashion. For your protection, and to avoid potentially dangerous or compromising situations, we could outfit the space with state of the art automatic sliding windows, surveillance cameras…”

Before he could finish, and totally out of turn, the rich guy blurted out “No, no. You’re not hearing us. You’ve got us all wrong.”

The meeting was not going as smoothly has the pastor had hoped. He began to nervously fiddle with cell phone, flipping it open and closed, open and closed.

“Then help me understand your clientele. Describe your target audience, then perhaps we could bring our ideas closer together” the architect suggested.

“Our community” continued the rich guy, “is primarily comprised of good people that come from good stock. On average our parishioners have a minimum 4 year undergraduate degree, they vote conservative, they’ve worked hard and earned all they have and our records indicate that the majority live on or near the beach.”

“So you want a members only country club?” smirked the architect.

An uncomfortable chuckle swept the room followed quickly by whispering and shaking heads. The pastor sensed that he may be losing control of the meeting. In hopes of re-establishing focus, he called all to attention then re-booted the discussion in a calm and peaceful manner.

“Friends, let’s not get off track here. In order for the architect to help us, we need to be very clear with our purpose, mission, vision and values. He can’t help us unless we can clearly articulate who we are.”

The conversation seemed to suddenly dry up.

Uncomfortable with the awkward moment, the architect spoke up in an effort to jumpstart the conversation and ultimately earn his keep.

“What sort of thing do you people do?” he asked.

Matter-of-factly, the general contractor attempted to paint an accurate picture of their day to day operations.

“Well,” he said, “we have staff members with various responsibilities that require rooms and offices to do their jobs. And we obviously hold a church service, so we’ll need a space that will accommodate everyone showing up all at once for about two hours once a week. In addition, we’re going to need a facility that will be able to track all of our assets to ensure that nothing ever gets misplaced or lost.”

The tension was just beginning to ease until the architect suggested that perhaps all they really needed was an office building outfitted with various sized meeting rooms and work spaces.

“We could even install a swipe card system for everything from people to props…you’ll never have to worry about losing anyone or anything ever again! We could design a perfectly controlled environment that is organized, professional and task oriented.”

The suggestion went over like a lead balloon. The team stared back blankly.

Thoughtfully, the visible minority broke the silence: “Perhaps you misunderstood. We’re not just ‘all-business’ here. It’s not about programs, or services here, what we really want is for people to go to heaven.”

Looking around for affirmation from his team, he continued: “I mean, that’s it right? Jesus is coming back soon, and we want to be ready. The scriptures say we’ll be caught up in the sky with him, so we need something help us help people get to heaven.”

The architect took that thought and ran with it. This time, instead of writing he drew up a quick sketch. Then, with best intentions and in all seriousness,
turned the sheet over and proudly offered this idea: “What you all need is a sports stadium with a retractable roof. You’ll have more than enough space to play in your Christian sport leagues, have your Christian concerts, and hold your Christian conventions, then, in the event that your saviour returns, you pull the roof back, and have easy access to the sky.”

He grimaced. But a quick scan of the room revealed that he was alone in his sense of accomplishment.

Back to the note pad.

Again he sketched.

“Well how about this?” he said touching up the drawing as he spoke. “You previously mentioned that you need something distinct yet secure. Something edgy, but respectable. Something to meet the various needs of the individual. And if I’m reading accurately between the lines you need something that is easily accessible yet keeps the right people in and the wrong people out.”

He paused to temporarily enjoy what appeared to be the verge of a breakthrough. He’d felt this vibe many times before. The chin holding nods were a dead giveaway.

This time he proudly stood and presented his thoughts and sketch: “I give to you a gated community! The walls will be high enough to keep out the riff raff, but low enough for people to be able to see the individual towers and temples that house and keep track of your people, property and programs. The moat, of course, would be optional.”

After a few seconds of silence, the token woman took one last attempt to steer things in a better direction.

“Sir, we don’t mean to waste your time, but I don’t think you understand where we’re coming from. We want to be a community that is known by our love. Grace, forgiveness, mercy are the things that help us understand our God, and we want to embody those very attributes. In essence, we are God’s temple.”

Confused and obviously disappointed, the architect collected his papers, and proceeded to snap his briefcase shut. Moving towards the pastor, he extended his right hand in closure. The shake was firm yet brief.

Stunned, the team watched as the architect headed straight for the door. Just before stepping out, he paused, turned, and addressed the room:

“I cannot help you.”


Then I wrote this prayer to end the series.

Father,

Help us understand your kingdom
That when we fall asleep, it keeps on going
That, for a time, good and evil inevitably co-exist
Where we think it’s small, it’s how you like it
When we think it’s not there, it’s everywhere
That it has more value than our eyes can see

Give us grace to understand your grace
That we receive your grace not based on who we are
but because of who you are
When we think we have arrived and have it all together
Humble us quickly, for we are sinners

Give us courage to follow in Jesus’ footsteps
Point us to the better ground to build
Help us see truth inside of ugliness
Help us see love inside of foolishness
Remind us that we are equal
No better than our fellow man
Remind us of our value as your sons and daughters
Remind us of the cost of following you fully

We can’t find ourselves
We can’t make it easier to find us
We are just lost, waiting for you to find us
When you find us, we will party
We will party because you have brought us home

Even though your net of grace gathers up everything in its path
We still want to do the sorting for you
We have our own standards in what we think is good
May we quit our book-keeping
Your scales are different, and nothing like ours
Your timing is different, we like to rush
Eventually the bad will be sorted out
Sorted by grace, not revenge

So many things get in our way
Money is the worst
We think it gives us security and hope for our future
But it doesn’t
Money is to give, not to receive
Money doesn’t have value, and the lack of it doesn’t remove value
Help us not to be controlled by what we have or don’t have
Help us love, rather than control

Thank-you for forgiving us
For our multitude of sins
Let us wear your clothing of forgiveness
Into every relationship we have
May we forgive others, as you have forgiven us

May your stories sit in our minds
Expressed through our hands
Spoken from our mouths
May we follow you to the end of the line
May we follow you to the losers
May we follow you to your death
So you can give us true and beautiful life

Amen.

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