Tag Archives: house church

Do churches need buildings? Do we?

Picture: Not really looking for the building above, but it would not be surprising to find it.

At our Council meeting not too long ago, a person offered a question, “Why do we have buildings anyway?” No one followed up on the question. (Maybe they didn’t even hear it). But I keep thinking about it, since I have raised quite a bit of money for buildings in my day and such a question makes me wonder.

Right now we are considering new buildings. I think questioning whether we should have any makes sense. There are doubts worth voicing:

  • It’s not like our present buildings are full, not really. (More buildings would mean we want even more space).
  • Buildings are expensive and we don’t have that much money. (More buildings means we think we will come up with more money).
  • Buildings are a commitment we have to maintain. (More buildings means we are committed and will maintain them).
  • Isn’t every Christian in the U.S. sick of leaders who are always raising money for a building? (More buildings means more risk of turning uncommitted people into even less committed people).

I think the questions are relevant. There are a lot of pharoahs out there building pyramids with the sweat of peasants. Justin Bieber is building a church. Three hours away the largest United Methodist Church is planning a spectacular new building. There is plenty of room for skepticism. Awe-inspiring buildings are rather low-level appeals to faith, don’t you think?

All that being said, more buildings could imply that we have a church that is “open for business” – the business of including more people in our life and work. We need room to grow; we need workshops. The fact that we have a building to use communicates that we share enough money to do big things – our people understand what it takes to get things done and they pay for it. Sharing a space communicates that our people have a common life and purpose that motivates them to stick with it – buying a building or making a long-term lease means you are doing something that is going to take a while.

We don’t have yesterday’s building strategy

We obviously have a new strategy that is not like yesteryear (or even like Kansas). We are not trying to build the most imposing building on the village square. The religion of capitalism, symbolized by Comcast, overtook that spot in the Philly region years ago. We’re not trying to outdo the false gods at their own game. On the contrary, we obtain utilitarian buildings that are just enough to do what we want to do as a whole congregation. A good half of what we do happens in our homes or in some other public places.

Some people say that we should skip the expensive together-space altogether and just do things out of our homes. That strategy has worked great for the Chinese church. (But see what is happening in Fuzhou, across the strait from Taiwan). Ex-evangelicals are writing their latest books about “house churches” that don’t have big meeting places. We listen to these thinkers and often look like their teaching, but we still think most Americans (unfortunately) think Christians “GO to church,” not ARE the church.

  • We need a public space to meet the public.
  • What’s more, we want to be a village, so we have a village space.
  • Plus, we DO things, like art, music, plays, advocacy meetings, classes, children’s work, counseling.

We need some space to do that 24/7, not just when the baby is sleeping or when we can pay someone else for the space they own.

Our buildings

Right now, Circle of Hope

  • owns two buildings for the church to use (Frankford Ave and Marlton Pike)
  • leases one 24/7 long-term (South Broad)
  • leases time at a building (North Broad)
  • owns two buildings for Circle Thrift (Frankford Ave)
  • leases space year to year for Circle Thrift (South Broad).
  • Gwen and I own two buildings for Circle Counseling, and counselors use a space at Marlton Pike.

Today, our new temporary team for solving some space needs will be out again looking for space to buy or lease somewhere in the Northwest (possibly with a thrift store attached) for our new congregation. Our new Good Business ideas also need space and bring a new possibility for combinations with church planting. We have big ideas for committed people who want to make a big impact.

I think you can be assured that nothing is going to happen too fast, though, since the biggest factor in the process of buying or leasing a building is whether our people really want to do it. Maybe your questions are so big they shut your bank account right up!

In the past, the people of Circle of Hope have said YES with their voices and with their sharing. But, right now, we may have said YES with our commitment to our map but NO with the amount we are sharing. We are not succeeding in meeting our modest goals for our Common Fund. We thought we could engage enough new givers this year to raise our income 10%. We have regular attenders, even covenant members, who do not give ANYTHING in a year, so that seemed like a logical place to raise the income and fuel our ambitions. So far non-givers have not awakened and new givers or regulars who have increased their sharing have not increased our income.

As one of the people who drives the bus, I have my foot hovering over the brake pedal. We don’t need buildings for unconvinced or  uncommitted people to supposedly use, for sure! We can wait for people to get on the bus (or to discover there is a bus and it is about to leave the station!). Maybe people don’t know where we are going right now. Or maybe they don’t know that we are waiting for them to be an important rider! I doubt that I would talk to anyone personally, especially covenant members, who don’t support the unique community and mission called Circle of Hope! This post is designed to help everyone get on board when it comes to our prospective buildings, or at least say STOP!