101 Ways To Build A Church
Build or Buy or Rent
Obviously, simply purchasing, leasing or renting a location would be the most expedient method to acquire a place to meet and worship. Some groups even have found that renting, or leasing, a space can be very cost effective. We are instructed to be good stewards with the provisions of God; are we not? Many assemblies have leased vacant store fronts inside of malls and some have rented conference rooms in hotels as a way to fulfill their needs. One church had over 10,000 members before they began the construction of their first building. Obviously, with such a large congregation they were not lacking in financial resources. They simply followed after the scriptures and remained patient until they had complete peace before entering into a massive building project. “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:4)
If you have ever been asked to serve on a building committee, I would dare say that leasing or renting a place is a far better option. Why? It is hard enough to get everyone in the church to agree on the selection of hymnals, or the color of wall paint, let alone the monumental task of arriving at a consensus when building an entire structure. Additionally, I believe the concept of ownership plays a larger part in a group’s decision to build, more so than their theology; we do like our things!
Pride of ownership certainly has affected the thinking of many well-meaning Christians. The Scriptures are overflowing with admonitions regarding pride, so it would be wise to consider your reasoning before simply following after someone who stands up and says, “Well, bless God it is time the Lord would have us to start a building program.” My response would be, “Brother, according to the Scriptures for us as New Testament Gentile believers, ‘For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.’”(1 Corinthians 3:9)
When we glorify movements and traditions, we yoke the message of Christ with fads, giving the impression that the ageless Gospel may one day become irrelevant, because trends come and go. When we view a building as a legacy, as something permanent, we tie the church, which Jesus Christ founded and against which the gates of Hell shall not prevail, to a building, which will crumble and collapse in time. Jesus Christ is eternal; buildings are not. We must remain ever vigilant to resist falling into the trap that is set by pride.
A church that I attended for a numbers of years would enter a float in various parades being held in our locale. During one of those parades I remember waiting in the lineup of floats prior to the start of the procession. Being at a standstill gave the judges an opportunity to view each entry and make their respective notes. Their notes would be used to determine which float would be awarded a plaque of recognition within the various categories. Not every float was representative of a local church. In fact, the majority of the entries were from businesses, but parked directly in front of our float was an entry from a nearby church. What struck me as being odd was that the other church’s float made no mention of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I mean, why pass up such a glorious opportunity to share the Gospel with people along the parade route. Our theme in that parade was World Missions. The church members were dressed in costumes representing various countries and cultures around the world. As we moved along the parade route our members would handout Gospel tracts to onlookers. The only signage found on the float parked in front of ours was information about their new building. Their float was a model replica of their new building and the signage said, “Come visit us at our new building;” no mention of the Gospel was to be found anywhere on that float.
A church can fall into materialism when it begins to value things more than people. If a new building program is for the pride of its membership, rather than the effectiveness of its ministry, then the church is headed down the wrong path. In all things, the church must first desire that Christ be lifted up and that the lost are reached and that the saved will mature in their Christian life; all to the glory of God.
The church is not a building, but the people whom God has redeemed and grafted into His family. God may see fit to bless a family with growth. When a family grows in numbers, it usually considers whether or not there is adequate room in their current dwelling. If there is not enough room, an expansion is one option, or moving to an entirely new location is another alternative. The accommodations should be designed in such a way as to facilitate the needed functions of the household and not just a monument to the family’s greatness. For a church to truly be expanding physically in a Godly manner, it must be sure its motive is to be used of God to build up the body of Christ and assist in the building up of the church of Jesus Christ. In other words, every ministry needs to be “mission” minded, not “market” driven.
David Ogilvy, the famous 20th century advertising guru said, “Great marketing just makes a bad product fail faster.” And that is the principle most of us choose to ignore. Most churches are not growing only as a result their location. They have become stale, or dying, because they have failed in not connecting with people and effectively fulfilling their mission. Never allow yourselves to believe that a change in location it the quick fix to grow a ministry; it will simply move your current problems into a new venue. Newer technology is not the answer either, as it will only magnify your current irrelevance. Some may suggest that you join forces, but merging ministries or adding locations will only compound your current problems with new ones.
The trap most leaders fall into is a belief that a change in form will be an adequate substitute for a change in substance; I can tell you from experience that a change in form never makes up for a change in substance. Earnest, sincere and prayerful change is the only thing that will truly affect the course of any endeavor. You can put lipstick on a pig, bit it is still a pig. Until you change the way you function, any change in form will never be effective.
Here is how you can make things worse:
- Focus on form, but not on substance.
- Fail to resolve your core problems.
- Instead, opt to add technology, add locations, add campuses, or finagle mergers.
- Believe that any, or all, will solve your problems.
Following any one of the four paths mentioned above will actually make things worse.
- Instead of being in your present location with a manageable budget, you then find yourselves in a new one with greater expenses that you cannot afford.
- Instead of having merely your own issues to solve, you have merged with another church and now have double the number of problems to solve.
- Instead of being in one location, you are in two and are discovering that having two locations is triple or quadruple more complicated than operating a single unit.
- Instead of having a simple message people can understand, you have all this technology that is creating even greater distance between you and the people you are trying to reach.
I do not have all of the answers and there is no “One answer fits all.” What I do know is:
- You can grow a church in an old building or in mall store front.
- You can kill a church in a brand new million dollar facility.
- You can grow a church with zero media.
- You can waste a million dollars on lights, sound systems and cameras.
- You can grow a church in a single site.
- You can go bankrupt adding locations no one attends.
In the final analysis, you can be sure that if God wants your church to expand, He will provide the necessary leadership, unity, and resources. We must never lose sight of the fact that God is more glorified in the church being obedient to Him and growing spiritually, than He is in the church expanding physically.