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THERE'S A CHURCH BUILDING in our county that’s beautiful in its simplicity. No tall spires, stained-glass windows, or other impressive features to intimidate modern tastes. Except for an identifying sign and logo, this building could easily be an implement barn or a warehouse. I’m told that it’s more “churchlike” inside.

Building designs can make statements, and this one says that the church is people who worship—not the building itself. It’s a good statement and likely attracts some who might feel uncomfortable in a traditional setting.

The land around the building also speaks. It’s almost entirely a parking lot and about five acres of immaculate lawn. A few bunkers and greens would make it a golf course. Its only apparent use right now is to feed a large lawn mower several hours a week.

Perhaps it’s reserved for future expansion or a soccer complex, but for now it has that “traditional” look of most church properties—that is, it’s all about appearance and has little or no visible function. This statement needs examination in light of scriptural stewardship.

Here are some questions we could ask regarding church property (along with properties around our homes, schools, and businesses):

  1. Do we follow or combat God’s natural laws in our use or maintenance of the property? (For example, is heavy-chemical use needed to maintain “appearance”?)
  2. Does maintaining the property require excessive time and/or expense?
  3. Does the property provide food, water, or natural shelter for God’s other creatures?
  4. Does the property grow only grass, shrubs, and trees, or are there soil-enriching or water-purifying plants that improve the land?
  5. Does the property in any way educate observers about the natural beauty, harmony, and plan of created design?

Opinions vary about “what looks nice,” but that shouldn’t be our only or even primary consideration about landscaping. Fruit trees, berry bushes, larger unmown areas, or prairie gardens, although not conventional, can do much to complement the provisional purposes of God’s creation. At the same time they can reduce wasteful or artificial practices that often detract from it.

Property use can boldly witness (in images that words cannot) how we transform rather than conform to the world’s ways. Puposeful land use has its own beauty. Now those are statements worth making.

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