It’s the question I get asked most often by young, aspiring church planters: “If you had to do it over again, what would you do—or not do—differently?” It is in answer to that question that I’ve been using my “rearview mirror” perspective. So today, here’s installment #7, with the previous six being prioritize preaching, place a premium on prayer, keep preaching, praying, and pastoring connected, embed shared authority into your DNA, avoid the tendency to copy, think systems, not situations, and structure for growth and impact beyond where you are.
8. Refuse to believe a building is your answer. No matter how much a young church may embrace its portability (assuming that’s your situation), the stark reality is that most of your people will get weary of what they perceive to be “temporary.” They will inevitably, at least here in America, begin to long for a permanent place. While that’s not sinful, it’s not a solution either. Churches don’t “get healthier” just because they own a piece of property. Brick and mortar don’t equal life and vitality. While a building may be in your future, keep reminding your people it’s just a tool, not a treasure. Our real treasure is Christ, and the place we meet is just a way to help us spread the news about the incredible value of the real treasure we have—Jesus!
Here’s a real-life reflection: We purchased an old warehouse about 3 years ago. And though it seemed like, in the days of renting, that we were setting up and tearing down for a long time, the truth is we didn’t. In fact, the average rent time for most new plants is about 8 years. Yet, we moved in after only 6.
Was it right? You bet! God provided in a supernatural way, we’re debt free currently, and our people are quite content. But what is so ironic is that our growth rate slowed once we bought. Those two things may or may not be related; correlation doesn’t always equal causation. My opinion? There is a slight connection somehow in that we probably exhaled loudly and thought to ourselves subconsciously, “Finally!” Regardless, we have to work just as hard with our building (probably even harder) as we did when we were without the building. My point? A permanent place is not a problem solver. It’s just a problem relocator.
You see, the church “machine” ramps up when you get a building. Facilities to clean, lights to keep on, schedules to manage, property to watch and maintain, pests to control, codes to follow…you get the point. Without even realizing it, non-building ministry can get lost — or clamped down on — because of what we perceive to be the mandates of the building. Watch out for the unintended consequences.
I’m not here to offer a quick solution or hassle-free fix. Managing the ministry and the machine is a weekly part of every pastor’s routine in some way. I’m simply encouraging you, faithful church planter, to find appropriate contentment in your current mobility. After all, a building is not your answer.