The Mall is Gone, the Church Has Closed, Long Live Amazon

In Articles, Articles: Kansas City Office, Articles: Salt Lake City Office by Scott Dougan

I read an article the other day about a small town in Italy that’s selling homes for $1, with the caveat that you must fix up the home within a few year period of time. While it was voted one of the most beautiful places in the world, the town still struggles with abandonment and an economy that seems to have moved on. In an unrelated seizure of curiosity, I searched online for church buildings for sale nearby. It turns out that there are a lot of them for sale.

While these two topics may seem unrelated, I can’t help but think there’s a thread that connects them. Communities have changed quite dramatically in recent decades. While the church used to be the town center, the gathering place where much of the community connected regularly, that has largely shifted. As a result, you can now buy a church building and move your family or business in there, on the cheap. The beautiful Italian town that boasts incredible vistas and charming architecture now wonders where all the people have gone. It too has much to offer but few people are taking up the offer.

The shift in culture and physical infrastructure is in many ways a reflection of how we spend and invest our money. The holidays used to have us all headed to the mall to complete our shopping, but now we simply open our laptop or swipe to unlock our phone in order to buy online. In fact, an employee at the UPS Store near here shared with me that 80% of its biggest week of package traffic ever was Amazon business. That’s right, 80%. Like the town in Italy and the church down the street, the local mall wonders where we’ve gone.

This likely doesn’t shock you; you know it’s happening and are participating to some degree. I suppose we ultimately get what we want from our economy. If we prefer to shop in our pajamas, somebody will figure that out and fill that need. So I guess what I’m getting at is this: we’d better be clear with ourselves in order to ensure we’re getting that which we want. If we’re sad to see the local church close its doors, we’d better start attending there regularly before it does and filling the offering plate or basket or online giving kiosk. If we’d like the vibrant historic downtown to remain vibrant, we’d better direct some of our money there when completing our shopping lists. Because eventually we’ll get what we ask for and we’d better be deliberate about what we really want from our community and economy.

When I saw the article that suggests I can buy a home in Italy for a dollar, I texted my wife to talk me out of it. It didn’t take long for her to do so, but I admit to daydreaming about it anyway, long after she made a logical case against it. Can you imagine relaxing in Italy, with a drink in hand, while watching the sunset over the mountains? I sure can. And with a laptop, we can still buy from Amazon, even set our thermostat in our home here, and watch church services online. And maybe that is what we want. I’m not suggesting I know what you want from life or what that lady over there wants. I’m only raising the questions and encouraging us to reflect, then be deliberate with our actions. Because once the mall is gone and once the church has closed, they’re not likely coming back anytime soon.

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