By DANNY MINTON
I arrived at Abilene Christian College as a sophomore in the fall of 1967. I signed up to be in Edwards dorm, which at the time was the newest and nicest of the men’s facilities. I was a little late signing up, so I was put on the waiting list, while in the meantime, I was assigned to “Barracks 13.”
The men’s barracks were leftover WWII buildings down the street from the college. As best I can remember, there were four of them. At the end of my sophomore year, there were three due to a fire in Number 14 during the holidays.
They were pretty depressing when I first arrived. Paint on the walls looked repainted, but with army surplus “Shamrock Service Station Restroom Green.” However, they were air-conditioned in the winter and heated in the summer due to the gaps around the window. The one nice thing was that even though we had bunk beds, there was only one person to a room. Best of all, it was only $70 per semester.
Within the first week, I had made several friends and was settled in comfortably. During the second week of school, I received a call from the housing office, letting me know there was a room available in Edwards. I had a decision to make. I could stay in the green, aerated war surplus barracks with climate-controlled windows or move to the newer air-conditioned state of the art, at the time, Edwards dorm. After about 10 seconds, I told them I’d stay in “Barracks 13.”
The reason for staying wasn’t the plush accommodations; Edwards was much nicer. It wasn’t the proximity to campus; Edwards was on campus, and the barracks were several blocks away. It wasn’t the room environment; Edwards had air conditioning and newer facilities.
The reason for staying was I had gotten to know the guys in the barracks, had already formed friendships, and the outward things had become less important. The reason for staying was the people.
Unfortunately, the outward appearance does make a huge difference in whether people will come and visit a congregation or not. If it does not have “curb appeal,” then most will take one look and pass on by, without ever walking through the doors.
However, what makes people stay someplace after their visit is the bond that is formed with people. It’s that personal relationship that makes the biggest difference. An unfriendly, uncaring congregation will turn people away no matter how nice the building looks. On the other hand, a loving, caring congregation that gets into the lives of people will flourish even when the building is old and outdated.
I was in an unfortunate church split early in my ministry. About 150 people left and started a new congregation on the south side of town, while others remained at a landlocked northside location. It wasn’t the best of splits. Splits are rarely congenial. However, the 150 that left were of great spirit and desire to grow for the kingdom.
We met in a shopping center, packing the adults into a small room for worship, while I led a children’s worship in another room for fifth grade and down. Classes were split in a couple of small rooms with one children’s class meeting in the hallway. The class used the bathroom wall as a projector screen from the hall as long as it wasn’t in use, of course. I don’t remember anyone complaining; in fact, it was one of the closest groups of which I have ever been a part. We ended up growing together both in the shopping center and as we built a small building in which to meet.
Jesus warned us not to be so concerned about the “outside of the cup” that we ignore the most important part, the “inside of the cup.” We must always be developing a spirit of love, caring, and service within the hearts of members. When the world sees that, they will want to be a part of it. Of course, you want the outside, the building, programs and special events to be attractive and a drawing card, but more importantly, are we making sure we are nurturing people to be like Jesus with his love, his compassion and his heart?
For a congregation to be this way, it starts with each individual member. How we act, how we talk, how we serve, and how we spread it to others is what will keep people coming and what will impact their lives. If we sow negativism and criticism, it will kill a congregation. On the other hand, if we sow a positive attitude filled with hope and a bright future for the church, it will rub off on those that follow. We should always keep in mind that we may be the only impression people see of our congregation and of Jesus.
I have fond memories of “Barracks 13” and that small “Shopping Center Church.” Barracks 13 is no longer, and the little congregation has moved on and done great works for the Lord, but the memories of those who I lived and worked with those many years ago will remain.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB) Philippians 4:8