building or no building…is that the question?

It appears that my family is going to be out of our house for a bit with some needed repairs due to water damage. In fact, every wall that touches the outside will need to be gutted and replaced. Awesome stuff. We practically live in a piece of poop house. Funny thing is we really like that piece of poop. Hopefully it will be fully repaired and bootified. I mean beautified. Did I really write that? Yep. That just happened.

Seriously, the home thing is a big deal in our lives these days. Not just with our family, but with our church family, too. We have a pretty big mtg tomorrow night where what we call the COLLIDE team will continue to kick around the why and what and when of facility for WestpointChurch.org

Within our church family, we stress “being the church” as opposed to going to church. Two reasons:

1. among the 140-plus times the New Testament of the Bible refers to “church,” not one time is a place or an event. It seems as though “going to church” might not even be a Biblical concept. Going to worship gathering to worship God together with the “church” would be, and so we call our Sunday morning gathering exactly that – a gathering, along with other various gatherings and get-togethers. Not a point of semantics or being anal. Just emphasizing the church is a who, not a what.

2. the story we want to communicate to one another and to those around us is the story of how we are together being the church in our everyday lives living sent as a letter from God with the message of His love and hope and nearness. This story has an exponential impact all 168 hours per week, versus a gathering which is typically one to two hours per week. Which one tells the real story of the life and essence of the church. Church 168. Sunday gathering is meaningful and significant, but gathering is not intended for gathering’s sake, but rather for leaving. The Sent One said that just as He was sent, “so send I you” (John 20:21). 

Therefore, the “church building” question is a rather important question among our church family. We emphasize church is not a building, so what kind of facility we have or meet in or use needs to be about “church 168” not just “church Sunday.”

People just by default ask, “so, when do you plan on building?” But also because setting up in a school every Sunday can create a weariness. Of course, Sundays are not the only thing WestpointChurch.org is about. What’s really cool is that everyone agrees with the fact that if we build a building or have a “church facility,” it cannot be a just-Sunday kind of building. Nonetheless, there is a stirring and a grappling happening among our church family. While we have all resolved that having a building in and of itself is not a bad thing and will not hinder us from living sent, I just keep wondering why we are focusing so much on this question. Is focusing on this question keeping us from living sent, even though the subject of the question would probably not?

Why do people think we need a building as a church family. Here are some of the reasons that have been communicated to me:

1. having a building would give us credibility in the community

2. having a building would allow for greater awareness in the community

3. having a building would give us legitimacy as an organization

4. you’re just supposed to have one

5. if i am going to give money to this church, i want to know what my money is going for

6. it is a necessity for growth. in fact, people will not invite people to a school. but if we had a building, more people would invite people

7. it is a great thing to have for a headquarters / ministry center

I am actually not anti-building contrary to popular belief. I have even been told I am anti-growth since I am anti-building, which makes me chuckle since we have always seen life change as well as numerical growth as a church family. Not that we are doing everything right, but I am definitely not anti-growth or anti-building. I am concerned, however, about our motivation for having a building. Why we want one is actually more important to me than whether we have one or not. Just like I actually have little preference to “worship style,” I have little preference to building style. I would rather know the heart behind the worship, and I want to really understand the heart behind having a facility to maintain. If the heart of having a building is to live sent daily, then I am all for it. 

All that to say, I am praying for several things with regard to the question that is swirling among people in our church family. First, I am praying we will not just live in default. You know, the status quo mindset of “we are a church and should have a home” kind of default thinking. That is more of a civilized thing to do, not so much a Christ-like. In fact, it can be argued that the reason the Chinese church has been exploding under communism for almost 100 years is that she was not centralized when communism came. She was still raw and defined by followers rather than gatherings. In contrast, the reason the church in Russia has been stifled and defined by vacant cathedrals since communism entered is because she was already centralized, already cathedralized. Interesting.

Next, I am praying we will really come to a point where we can clearly communicate how having a building enhances living sent. And I mean into our culture and connecting with people who don’t know how much Jesus loves them. Not just for “christians” getting together. 

Finally, I am praying we can really be of one accord. Not one accord on having a building. That is not the mission around which we should be unified. But one accord with regard to the mission of living sent. The mission that the Sender gave to the sent.

Let’s play what if. What if we stayed in Whispering Oak Elementary for Sunday mornings for another 10 years and served the socks off the families and administration of that school? What if we focused on how we are the church outside of a facility we had to maintain and figured out how to collide in our context in other ways? What if we volunteered in community events instead of creating our own and decided to be the church there? Is it possible that our community could be impacted, loved, given hope, changed, encouraged in a way that it would not otherwise? I am not sure. I AM JUST ASKING OUT LOUD. I mean, the setup thing is really not as prominent of an issue as we make it. When I talk to those who oversee setup on Sundays, they understand that even if we have a multi-purpose building or a marketplace concept to meet in on Sundays, there will still be a significant element of setup.

Maybe the real question is not “building or no building?” Maybe the real question to be grappling with is “where is the church?” And is she legitimized by the love and hope and sentness of people, rather than the gathering of people in one place. 

I’m listening. I really invite discussion. I really want us to be in one accord on living sent and growing in unity with regard to what a facility means to that.

2 thoughts on “building or no building…is that the question?

  1. I love this post!

    I am beginning to think that gatherings crave a building for up keep. It gives them a mission they can see. they can see the results. I think leadership teams that communicate more effectively and focuses on activating people, who in turn are challenged to see others activated as well, will not wrestle with having a building.

    The excuses you stated are rooted in identity and security. They are validaters for people to see they are moving in the right direction. Having a building is not a reminder of such things. What is, are when people are showcased as storytellers of a great, loving, active God. We know this.

    quick thoughts from work. this was a great post that got me thinking.

  2. Greetings from Scotland.

    We love our ‘church’ in Florida for what it is. It really represents the ministry of Jesus, who worked outwith the boundaries of buildings. His were travelling people on a permanent walk with God.

    The developed world is hung up about property, points of presence and perception. In the last 15 months just look at the financial mess that thinking has gotten us to. Our ‘church’ here in Scotland has a beatifil 100 year old sanctuary gifted by a member all those years ago. To our generation it remains beautiful, but hardly fit for purpose in the needs if today. It sucks resource, both people and money and is probably more of an opinion forming subject that anything else. I can fully understand the views expressed for a ‘building’ but would caution that the fit for purpose model should be spirutual, flexible, leisure, recreation, marketplace, childcare, family care, fellowship and a mix of everything we probably have as a church family.

    Sheena and I wish you all well in your prayerful deliberations.

    Yours aye

    Bill

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