No Church Buildings (Part 2)

I seemed to have struck a chord with folks last week. As it turns out there are many people who have had a similar thought about doing ministry beyond the church walls. Go figure. It also turns out that the idea of ministering without buildings (or at least outside the church walls) is not a new concept. It’s been going on for a couple thousand years. As you well know, Jesus was the ultimate example of going into the messy places of peoples lives. That’s not to say he didn’t go to the synagogues. Yet so often his “sermons” were about ministering to the people on the streets.  He often had some choice words to share with the scribes and Pharisees as well and also questioned people’s behavior.

Let’s just say, Jesus rarely asked us to sit still and wait for people to come to us.80aES

Last week I said something the I didn’t realize I had said until I re-read the blog. “The church is a living, breathing thing and we need to trust it to be that rather than trying to box it in to an hour a week.” I wonder sometimes if we try to control the Spirit? I mean, aren’t we really all control freaks? We spend a lot of time trying to manage our lives. It’s not a bad thing to try to keep a balance and manage things but I wonder if we sometimes try to do that with God? We place God into one of the compartments of our lives and then visit it when we need something or want to do religious things.

If the church is meant to be a living, breathing thing then God is at the center of it. God must be at the center. Because if God is not at the center, then that means we are putting ourselves at the center. And that’s when we get into trouble. We focus on meeting the needs of our members (including their desire to build bigger structures) and forget that ministry is about people, Christ-centered relationships. What if we truly trusted God to do amazing things through us?

Several years ago I worked at a church that suffered a devastating fire. Half of the structure was destroyed and the rest could not be used. I’ll never forget what our lead pastor said when being interviewed by a reporter. “The building is gone, but the church is still here.” It became our rally cry and it helped us focus on what was truly important.

There’s plenty you can do, here’s a few things to start:

1. Take an inventory of the programs you offer in here and see what you can let go of to make room for ministry out there.

2. Listen to your community. Listen for the needs, the hurts and the cries for love. Then go to those places.

3. Know your community. Know where young people hang out and what they are doing. Get to know your neighbors. Know what families do to fill their time and what their values are.

4. Empower people to do ministry, not just organize programs. Find out what people are passionate about ministering to in the community and give them the tools to do it.

5. Teach parents, grandparents and everyone how to be the church in their homes.

6. Trust God to be the center of all you do. All ministry is God’s ministry and we are the people God has chosen to bring hope to the world.

See you out there!

Tom Schwolert ~ Tom Schwolert

No Church Buildings

Look deeply into this question.

What would the church look like if we had no buildings?

And by church, I mean you and me, the body of Christ. Think long and hard about this. We have invested a ton of money, technology, planning, time and energy into building and maintaining church buildings. I can drive in a few mile radius and pass all kinds of churches and some really big ones (I live in Texas). I’m amazed sometimes at how much we put into these structures. We have gyms, conference rooms, classrooms and worship centers set up to hosChurch-Construction-Framet all kinds of events. Not only do we put lots of energy into building them but we also put lots of energy into filling them. We constantly push out publicity in hopes that people will show up to fill these structures so that we can captivate their attention, if just for an hour, in hopes that they will become deeply connected with Christ.

But what if we didn’t use buildings like these? What would we do and where would community happen? Could we still be the church without these buildings? Don’t worry, I enjoy going to worship in a beautiful sanctuary but I often wonder if we invest way too much in them. The reality is that much, if not most, of
ministry happens outside the church walls. Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes the Spirit blows randomly.

When we experienced the devastating loss of a child, the church showed up at our doorstep. When I saw my neighbor (whom I hardly know) in his yard yesterday I walked over and talked to him. We talked about life and faith, God was present. A group of high schoolers after spending a week at camp recently spent each day texting encouragements and Bible verses to each other. A mom takes her two young children to the park and reads Bible stories to them as they lay on a picnic blanket in the sun. A man consoles a friend in the parking lot of the grocery store after hearing of the loss of his mother. A group of parents get together on a Friday night for dinner to talk about the challenges of parenting and pray together. Neighbors get together for a backyard worship. The list goes on (or should go on).

The church is a living, breathing thing and we need to trust it to be that rather than trying to box it in to an hour a week. What if more of our time were spent seeking out ways to bring God into our daily conversations? What if more of our time was spent building circles of faith nurturing relationships around people? So take some time to wrestle with the question, deeply and long. Look for places outside the church walls where God is mentioned and questions of faith are asked. Intentionally seek ways that the arms of Christ can reach out into the community.

Perhaps the walls will grow thin and God’s unending grace will pour out into the community.

Tom Schwolert  ~ Tom Schwolert