Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

27 Dec 2016

Church Planting: Should We Buy a Building?

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Jesus is our King–His mission is our mission. That means that proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches are the goals we need to focus on and strive toward. The priority of the Great Commission should affect every choice you make, including where you gather. Any potential meeting place needs to be vetted by how it will impact your ability to reach people with the gospel, make disciples, and plant churches. At Resurrection Church we’ve been praying for a “mission advancing meeting place.”

Permanent meeting places are common but we must pray for biblical discernment rather than going with “what we’re used to.” Having a permanent location does not equal “mission accomplished.” Our mission continues no matter where we meet on Sundays. Here are some “Pro’s and Con’s” of acquiring a permanent location… (I’m starting with the assumption that you find a location that you can afford and appears to meet your needs.)

First, the cons of a permanent location:

  • A permanent location can subtly allow your church to grow complacent and lethargic. Losing that “front line” edge is no small thing.
  • A permanent location can distract from disciple making with maintenance. People only have a certain amount of time in their schedules. If good people are riding a lawnmower in service of the church that means they aren’t sitting over an open Bible and a coffee with an unbeliever.
  • A permanent location is less flexible for the long term. There is a reason you don’t buy a middle school boy adult pants—you’re not quite sure how he’s going to grow.
  • A permanent location can influence a church toward running too many programs. If you’ve got a building, you’re going to feel pressure to be there doing something.
  • A permanent location can pull a church away from doing ministry in the home and in the flow of normal life.
  • A permanent location can become “the church” instead of the congregation. Church must never be reduced to a time in our schedules or a place on a map.

These are real concerns of mine—but a permanent location can be used well. Historically, (at least within the modern West) most churches have chosen a permanent gathering place.

Here are the pros of a permanent location:

  • A permanent location can improve Sunday worship. Permanent sounds systems sound better. A permanent place needs less set-up and tear down, and it provides more room for attention on the details.
  • A permanent location can improve children’s ministry. Most rented spaces are evaluated first and foremost for how they accommodate the worship service. As a result the children’s ministry can be rather “improvisational.” A permanent space can provide for more careful planning for the safety and discipleship of children.
  • A permanent location can improve Sunday fellowship. Less set up and tear down are wonderful. Feeling at home is wonderful too. Restaurants spend millions of dollars trying to make guests feel comfortable because they know it aides their eating experience. It’s silly to think that feeling “at home” won’t enhance the fellowship of your congregation while they gather.
  • A permanent location could (potentially) be a better use of funds. If you have the up front capital (or can raise it) you can potentially reduce month to month costs with a wise purchase.
  • A permanent location gives you a “location” in your community—people know where they can find you. There’s something to be said for being the church in your neighborhood. I serve in the blue-collar Midwest and its still worthwhile for people in our community to know where they can find us. More people are less likely to stumble into a church these days, but it still happens.
  • A permanent location gives you control over your meeting times and activities. Renting space means you have to be flexible, but a permanent place puts you in the driver’s seat.
  • A permanent location communicates to your community that you’re “here to stay.” Put your roots down and see what grows in a decade (or three).
  • A permanent location gives you a level of legitimacy in the eyes of the public. I’m sure some of it is my Midwest (traditional) background but I feel like a temporary meeting space and flimsy banner screams, “don’t drink the Kool-aid.”

Having weighed the pros and cons, here’s a couple words of advice:
1. Don’t let a permanent location distract you. We’ve been called to preach the gospel, make disciples and plant churches not build and furnish buildings.
2. Don’t let a permanent location put you in debt. The mission calls us to train up people and send them out. Don’t let a building be the reason you have no money to train and send church planters.
3. Don’t let a permanent location replace your homes. We’re called to follow Christ in all of life. Don’t let a building coax you into thinking about discipleship in terms of one place or a couple of time slots per week.

If you’re considering a permanent location, pray and ask God for wisdom–He will give it! (James 1:5)

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