Church Planting: Open Space

The #1 question I have received after announcing that I am planting a new church in South Charlotte is, “Where’s it going to be?” Or this question is followed by a set of derivatives: “did they give you a building?” “Do you have a building yet?” and no-kidding “will your new building have a gym to attract families?”

I do not fault these people for immediately associating “church” with a facility or a campus. The church has long been in the real estate business, and has built elaborate facilities to attract people.  But eventually most struggle to maintain them.  Many churches in Europe are now either museums or restaurants, in fact there is a famous story about Fred Craddock visiting his boyhood church called First Church Downtown:

Fred had occasion to go back to town and discovered that old First Church was still standing. But now it was a restaurant, a fish restaurant. He walked in the big gothic doors and, sure enough, where there had once been pews, now there were tables, and waiters, and diners. He looked down the nave of the old church and where the communion table had once stood, now there was a salad bar.

So most people “get it” when I  respond that its a whole lot cheaper to rent space for a few hours per week than pay a mortgage on an empty building 6 days a week. However, most don’t get the full implication of that statement; a church facility should be empty for 6 days a week.

As Dr. Richard Halverson, formerly the chaplain of the United States Senate, famously said, when he was asked by some students, ‘Where is your church?’ Dr. Halverson looked quite perplexed and hesitated to answer. Then he glanced at his watch.

‘Well, it’s three o’clock in Washington, D.C. The church where I preach is all over the city. It’s driving buses, serving meals in restaurants, having discussions in the Pentagon, deliberating in the Congress.’ He knew exactly where his church was, and he went on and on with his lengthy listing. Then he added, ‘Periodically, we get together at a building on Fourth Street, but we don’t spend much time there. We’re mostly in the city.’

This is a lesson I have learned through F3.

F3 has given me a new perspective…that I could turn the plains of Colorado into a 45 minute heart-pounding gym without a treadmill, a weightbench, pull up bar, free weights or a soft mat for situps. When I come across a bunch of people in a gym these days, I feel sorry for them that they are trapped on those treadmills churning and turning without going anywhere. They do not have the right perspective to see that everywhere can be a gym–a place to engage one’s fitness.

Likewise our faith should also give us a new perspective influences us everywhere and not just on a church campus. Many of us just keep churning and turning at our places of worship without it seeping into our daily lives.  We become passive observers…like watching the CrossFit Games on ESPN, rather than going out and trying to do a man-maker.  I read an interesting statistics that claimed that 85% of churches are filled with passive personality types (62% of American’s have this personality type).

Perhaps we should walk onto our church, synagogue, or other faith campuses feeling sorry for these sadclowns and ferns that their faith has little impact once they leave the block.  Men are impacted not by programs but by other men.  They need the peer-to-peer workout of their faith, just like their fitness regimes.  Its out in the gloom, on the ball-field, in our cubicles and corner offices, in the coffee-shop, in the face-to-face mentoring, in small group discussions where the sparks of iron sharpening iron will truly fly.

So no, whenever this church plant ends up with a building, it will not have a gym.

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