Embracing the River


One of the most recommended things Ashley and I were encouraged to do while in the Windy City was to take an architectural tour on a river boat.

So we did.

The tour was great. Not only did we get to see the amazing Chicago skyline, but it also helped us get our bearings on the layout of Chicago and some of the rich history behind the development of the area. (For instance, did you know that “Chicago” means “smelly onion”?)

One segment of the river tour really got me thinking.

While we were cruising, the tour guide called our attention to Boeing’s International Headquarters. It’s an amazing work of architecture that sits beautifully on the water with landscaping, a cafe, and a river overlook. The award-winning structure was originally built for the Morton Salt Company, but became under Boeing’s control when the jet company relocated from Seattle in 2007.

Here’s why you need to know about this landmark: it was designed to work well with the river that it adjoins. In every detail, the building compliments and embraces it’s environment.

In contrast, the building on the other side of the river completely ignores the river in its design and function. There is no river access. Hardly any windows on that side. No nice cafe for employees. No eye-candy for those enjoying the river. It’s almost that they designed the structure in spite of the river.

There are other buildings in Chicago that are designed to work well with their environment – there’s even one that’s roof is designed in such a way to give a local beach fifteen extra minutes of sun each day.

Taking this principle to your church: are you designing what your congregation and ministry are doing with the surrounding environment in mind or are you doing church in spite of your area? Does your church serve who’s actually in your neighborhood or does it completely ignore those who live in it’s shadows?

Like buildings, churches are much more effective and helpful when they seem to belong, when they serve and look like the culture and environment around them.

Comments 0

  1. Stephen,

    Good post. Local churches need to realize they exist as an open system. (Think back to your biology class) Local churches if they choose to admit it or not are shaped by the environment in which they exist. When we begin to grasp this reality we are able to speak the Gospel and live it out it’s implications in very unique and powerful ways.

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