"A Beautiful Church Building Is a Wordless Sermon"

Church president in South America explains why Adventist buildings and mission intersect.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review

“Seventh-day Adventist churches should be beautiful,” says South American church region (SAD) president Erton Köhler. “In fact, every Adventist church should be the most beautiful building on its street.”

In an exchange with Adventist Review on the sidelines of the Spring business meetings at the world church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States earlier this week, Köhler shared his “philosophy of church aesthetics,” so to speak. And like everything else in the South American church, according to Köhler, it is something that connects seamlessly to the mission of the church.

“It is not about pride or hubris,” he explains, “but about better supporting the mission of the church.”

How so?

Köhler says there are two major reasons church members should keep mowing, cleaning, repairing, and painting their church facilities. “Every time I speak at a church building inauguration, I tell members, ‘Let me share why it is your Christian duty to take care of this building,’” he said.

Köhler’s two main reasons are shared below.

For the Best, the Best

“God deserves the best of us,” says Köhler. It is something that, according to him, should be enough to motivate church leaders and members to do their best when considering building a new church or improving existing facilities.

“When I see members working on the blueprint for a new building, I always tell them, ‘Before you start, walk down the street [where the land plot is on] and look for the most beautiful building around,’” says Köhler. “Then, go and plan a church even more beautiful.”

Our motivation should be that other people know that God has a front seat in our lives, he explains.

“Let others know that Seventh-day Adventists give the best to the best,” he emphasizes.

A Wordless Sermon

According to Köhler, Seventh-day Adventist churches should also be well-kept as part of an intentional mission-driven agenda.

“A bad upkeep of your church building — a dimly lit, trashy, dilapidated temple— chases people away, and presents a bad report about Christians in your neighborhood,” says Köhler.

For him, it is clear that the most important thing Seventh-day Adventists have to share is their biblical-based message, not church buildings. But an appealing building, he explains, can be used by God to attract new interests into the church, and speak loudly about the values we hold dear.

“Imagine people walking down the street see a well-lit, well-painted church, with a trimmed hedge and a neat lawn,” Köhler says excitedly. “It is something, believe me, that won’t go unnoticed. Sooner or later, they may start wondering, ‘Who are these orderly people? I should go in and find out!’”

In South America, this is not just wishful thinking but a reality. Recently, the SAD News Agency reported on the story of Silvia Grajeda, owner of a special events venue in a Bolivian city. Not far from her business, Adventists were building a new church.

“Every time I walked by, I would tell myself, ‘This [church] is going to be beautiful—I would love to visit once it is finished,” said Grajeda. And then, just as she was going through a rough patch and looking for hope, she found out that the new church’s name would be “Hope Church.”

“At that moment, I sensed it was the answer to my search,” she said. Before construction was finished, Grajeda began to attend, and at the inauguration ceremony last month, she shared her testimony. Now a daughter has already been baptized, and she hopes to do it soon.

Köhler believes stories like these prove his point. Because “a beautiful church building is a wordless sermon,” he says.

Jessica Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Marcos Paseggi, Adventist Review