Buildings too often hinder gospel advancement.
The church is a people, not a building. It’s the gathering of God’s people to worship Him and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Yet the assembly (church) not only needs a gathering space, but is blessed and aided by a gathering space that frees them up to focus on disciple making. Buildings, though not necessary, can be incredibly beneficial to church plants.
Here’s the problem with buildings:
They’re few and far between, especially in more urban contexts. They’re incredibly expensive. They require a tremendous amount of maintenance and staff time, of which church plants already are limited. And even if God graciously provides you with a building, how will your church steward the resource He’s entrusted to you so it doesn’t sit empty Monday through Saturday?
As a result of the many challenges, too many plants are unfortunately forced to play hopscotch with buildings. Landlords often only give new plants a short-term (in their eyes risky) lease with many restrictions. So, the church is here for six months, there for six months, and then somewhere else right after. It’s exhausting to just think about the constant change, much less live it. And this is especially true for the church planter. There already is so much on their plate – shepherding, counseling, evangelism, preaching, organizing and coordinating volunteers …. The burden placed on pastors from a lack of building permanence takes a bigger toll than most of us realize.
While I could go on and on about the challenges planters face, I’ll simply summarize it in this way: Buildings are too often a hindrance to church plants, rather than a catalyzing help.
A Traditional Solution
In response to the building dilemma, many church planters have creatively leveraged two key solutions: schools and existing church buildings. While this may still be a viable option moving forward, let me caution you that this, in the coming years, may not be a viable option for the majority of church plants.
Schools. An unfortunate trend in our nation is the increased liberalization of our schools. Increasingly, school boards and districts are going farther left and holding views in opposition to the gospel and core biblical truths. As a result, many school districts are very wary of – and oftentimes opposed to – letting conservative, Bible-believing churches leverage their space for corporate worship. This could pose risk to current churches getting kicked out of their space and will likely prevent future church plants from ever leveraging what once was a great solution.
Old church buildings. The number of closed mainline congregations continues to increase, and with it the closure of the many buildings these denominations own. While one could initially assume that buying these buildings at a reduced price is a great option for church plants. Two main challenges prevent this from being viable at scale. First, these denominations often are receiving crazy high offers from developers that many end up accepting. Second, most of these buildings have immense deferred maintenance costs. Sure, you might be able to buy an old building for $1 million, but a few years down the road you may have another $2 million or more in mandatory maintenance costs. These buildings often pose too much financial risk for a new church plant and make it, most often, unwise to pursue.
Another Way: Leveraging the Marketplace
Thankfully, schools and old church buildings are not our only options. In fact, there’s an option for church plants that opens up a whole world of possibility.
What if a church plant could have a building space that:
- Freed up church finances to drive sustainability faster and allocate more money to more future church plants?
- Gave the church plant greater access to non-believers in their community?
- Freed up their pastors to actually pastor, not be real estate agents?
This can happen when you bring the marketplace and church together.
Here’s the good news about church space: Churches really only need space on Sunday morning. That means a building can be used for an incredible number of other activities and businesses during the rest of the week.
Imagine a bustling coffee shop in the heart of the neighborhood you’re trying to reach. In this shop, members of your church are interacting regularly with their non-believing neighbors and the Lord is opening doors for gospel proclamation. Then this same coffee shop is closed on Sunday morning and your church plant is able to meet and gather with 150 people in it. And every Sunday coffee-shop regulars (non-Christians) wander by, wonder what’s going on and venture into your service.
Or imagine a local co-working space run by a member of your church. Perhaps many of your church members decide to join and work from this space. In doing so, they are able to build authentic, natural relationships with other business leaders in their community – business leaders who need the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what if that coworking space was designed intentionally so the pastors had space to meet with members during the week as well as have a beautiful space for worship, kids ministry and other activities on Sunday?
Those aren’t unattainable dreams, and they aren’t something you, as a planter, have to do on your own.
God has placed gifted brothers and sisters in your church with the skills to run relationally oriented, real-estate flexible businesses that can help provide your church plant with a gospel-helping building, not a gospel-hindering one.
God also has been increasingly stirring in the hearts of well-off Christians who desire to invest in kingdom-minded businesses that advance the gospel. Capital is waiting to be deployed in sustainable, gospel-centered businesses.
It’s time for the church to leverage the power of the marketplace to help plant more churches. Members of your church are waiting to run these businesses. Members of your church are longing for a space to interact with one another throughout the week and meet non-believers. And members of your church are waiting for the opportunity to invest in gospel-centered businesses, not just large corporations.
Want to learn more about what this could look like for your church? Dan’s organization, Redemption Collective, exists to help advance church planting through creative real estate solutions. His friend Nick Bonner also is running an organization with a similar vision – Faith Driven Investor. They would love to help you think through potential options!
Published March 16, 2022