Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Missional Church Part II: Kingdom Without Buildings

Thank God for buildings - they're very practical and useful. On Sunday's we meet in the gym of our host church, and during the week they provide us office space. We love it here. Suffice it to say, we like what buildings can do. But we don't own any. In fact, we're serial renters.

We'll be celebrating our 10th year anniversary next year as a church community, having had a nomadic existence for all of it. At the beginning, people would commonly ask, "So, when are you going to have your own building?" My answer was, "I don't think we'll ever own a building." The answer was partly philosophical (the church is not a building, but the people), and a lot of it economics. But it's an assumption I've been all right with from the start. Sure, there are some fleeting moments of wishful thinking when having our own place would seem to solve so many problems; but then I also think of all the problems a building would create too, and I stand content. But hey, if someone wanted to give us one for free...

When we started our church, not having a building was thought of something of a negative in a lot people's eyes, including some of our own members; it was considered a kind of weakness or liability to growth, or a sign that we hadn't yet arrived. To me it often felt like we were being judged, looked down as a junior church, or worse yet, a completely illegitimate church until we owned our own place.

Fast forward to this summer. Because of budget cuts to schools, a handful of churches in Fullerton were approached by the Fullerton Collaborative to provide programs for the youth in three of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Five local churches were asked to take the lead, Epic being one of them. Like most cities in SoCal, there are a good many churches in our city - a lot of them with big, beautiful buildings. But what's interesting, is that none of the five churches being asked to serve the city's youth through art, education, and sports owned their own places.

I think part of the reason these five churches are sometimes considered more "missional" in nature is precisely because we don't own our own buildings. We all rent. Mostly on Sundays. That forces us to see church not as a building to fill, but wherever the body of Christ meets, whether that's 2 or 3 people for coffee, a dozen people in an art gallery, or 50 of us on a playground. Instead of assuming the neighborhood will come to us (as churches that own buildings often do), we have to be the church in the neighborhood. At one level, we don't have any choice. But I also know, at least for Epic, that we choose to do church this way. Ironically, what was deemed a weakness just a decade ago seems to have such upside today.

I really am grateful for the buildings we get to meet in - they too are a blessings, as is the host church we partner with. We couldn't be more happy where we are. Including being happy renting.