Years ago, I was having a weekly breakfast with a group of pastors who led downtown churches in my city (that is what pastors do, right? Eat!). One of them I became exceptionally fond of. He was nearing retirement and I found his insights particularly insightful. On one occasion, I asked him if he had any wisdom he’d like to pass on to me (I was one of the young ones then). He said if he were to do it all over again he’d sell the church buildings. Firm, resolute...unflinching...sell em all! He felt like they stole focus from the “main thing” he was trying to accomplish.
That was years ago now and in my nearly 30 years of pastoring I have heard his words echo in the back of my mind at many crossroads. In those years, I have rarely pastored a community with a “church building.” We’ve rented a few, but to truly occupy, none…until now. God has graciously seen fit to loan us one. I say graciously because it was not what we were looking for. We simply were seeking to embed our community in a specific location. For us, it was the north central part of Spokane. We all sensed this was where we were to put down roots.
Some people in the missional conversation eschew the idea of having a building. It conjures up the "evil" word: Attractional. In some circles, it is viewed with the same derison as the name "Voldemort." However, for us having a building (or being loaned one) gives us a taproot into a particular geographical area. In a word, it contextualizes this for us. It gives us a parish. I was talking with a friend of mine who has a small building in a very cool “niche” community here in our city. He was commenting about how helpful it is for them to have a building because it moves them into a “participant relationship” in the commercial area where they are. They’re looked upon as a group that is stable and permanent rather then remote and transient. They are seen as vested members of the community, rather than outsiders or intruders.
A quick aside – a building doesn’t provide success or failure per say. The last church I pastored grew quite large, all while being in rented spaces. It really depends on what God is doing in your community.
We will guard against having our focus captured by having space (I know, you are thinking that is what everyone says), but for us at this time and place, a building gives an element of stability in a world of “rent the box” churches…and we are grateful.