There is a lot of discussion in the “Missional Church” conversation around the issue of having a building for gathering and functions. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, as I think this issue must be considered within the context, mission and vision of the faith community the building will serve.
For us a building became important in order to carry on our desire to continue to serve a specific community. In 2004 we took the step to lease a building. Prior to 2004 we were renting space in the basement from a local congregation for Sunday gatherings. When we were given a year’s notice to vacate, we began to ask the hard questions regarding leasing a space. We were at the very beginning of a journey, listening and interacting with the myriad of voices discussing the times we live in. We asked question after question trying to grasp what the tectonic change in world history we (the global community) are living through meant for us to be faithful as a local faith community.
We began a Tuesday evening dinner and book study. For eight months we met at our home for dinner and discussion. We discussed chapter after chapter of “Missional Church”. We were trying to wrap our brains around the concepts in the book and understand what those concepts might mean for us.
We discussed the pros and cons, the why’s and why not’s of taking the step of leasing a space. Our biggest fear was that we would lose sight of the congregation as the church. You see when we rented a basement room for Sunday worship only, everything else we did as a faith community happened in our neighborhoods, the host community and in homes. Moving into a leased space that we would have 24/7 access to could endanger us to put the emphasis on the building as the church rather than the church being the people.
Can you feel our dilemma? We prayed for discernment and direction regarding leasing a building or not. One morning as I was reading through the Gospel of John in Eugene Peterson’s, Message, I came to John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
my heart lept as I read those words. I literally felt like something ignited inside. I knew that it was the Holy Spirit saying, “this is why you can lease a building”. I knew then that we could lease a building and it would be right for us as long as we knew that the building was to be a tool, a gift to serve a specific neighborhood. As a congregation we were to move into a neighborhood and be the presence of Christ to that place.