Church Buildings and the Great Commission, part 2

Here is the second part of an article for The Gospel Coalition on whether or not churches should spend money on buildings. Here is the link to TGC’s series on the issue. If you’re interested, part 1 of the response is here.

When a church outgrows its meeting space, they face a choice: multiply services; build a bigger building; or turn people away. Some would, of course, say that I’ve left out the best option: planting a church. Church planting is the most important work a church can be about, but church planting usually does not deal with the over-population problems of a church. It is just not feasible to plant churches fast enough to keep up with a modest 15% growth rate.

For example, if your 700 person church is growing at 15% a year, and you convince 100 of them to go plant a church (an extraordinary feat in and of itself), you will fill up the space left by that 100 in less than a year. Furthermore, church planting doesn’t appeal to everyone in the congregation, and not all are in situations where they can or should pursue it. The pool of people ready and able to help plant will grow smaller each year. Thus, our appeals for people to plant will likely face diminishing returns, and we will not be able to keep up with the growth God is bringing to our church.

Therefore, even with a very aggressive (though realistic) church planting strategy, you will have to choose between building a bigger building (expensive) and turning people away (unacceptable). For that reason, multiplying services and locations deals with over-population more effectively. We have found people both willing and able to shift to a new service or a new campus.

Rather than building one gargantuan building that we expect people from all over the city to drive to, we have chosen to acquire smaller venues in more localized communities. To name only two: 1) smaller venues are easier to find and cheaper to build or rent; 2) evangelism, community, and missional living are easier to accomplish if you are local. One of our mantras is “stay where you are; serve where you live; let’s be the church in your community.”

In the past year and a half, we have sent out over 50 of our members to plant 2 independent churches as well as started 2 new local campuses.

Our largest venue is 1000. At some point we may add a larger venue, but it is not in our immediate future. To be honest, I’m a little scared of large buildings. Have you ever gotten spooked walking into a large, out-of-date building that now serves simply as a monument to what God did in a previous generation? Thus, we at the Summit Church want to stay light and mobile, flexible and ready to do whatever is necessary to reach our community today, freeing up as much of our resources as possible to be able to give away richly to church planting.

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