Friday, March 19, 2010

Free Buildings!

While some pastors are gifted at building campaigns where money is raised to build a new facility, I seem to be gifted at building rescue.

It started in New Orleans where I was pastor of a Spanish-language new church start meeting in the basement of an inner-city Anglo church. A church six blocks away was going to disband and turn the building over to the Greater New Orleans Baptist Association. The plan was to sell the building and use the money to fund new church starts.

“Not so fast,” I said, “Any new church will eventually need a place to meet and that will involve another real estate transaction. The primary beneficiaries will be real estate agents and tax collectors.”

I was allowed to move my small congregation into the building. With the help of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary students and short-term mission teams, we were able to add an English-speaking service and several ministries that benefitted the community in tangible ways.

Years later that experience proved beneficial. I was asked to start a new church in a church building where the existing congregation had disbanded and turned the property over to the Lake County Baptist Association in Far North Metro Chicago. Once again mission minded folks banded together and developed a thriving ministry in a church that had once shut down.

This was repeated in the same area twice more as new churches were launched, buildings were repaired, and a gospel witness remained in a community that needed it.

What’s my secret? The desire to do it!

In one building I was able to do more than $200,000 worth of repairs and improvements in a year through donated parts, grants from churches and individuals, and volunteer labor. The dilapidated, out of code and unwelcoming building became a cheerful place where God was praised in two languages.

Two other church starters had first dibs on that building and both turned their noses up. Five years later, one of those new churches disbanded and the other was still renting.

Another key factor is my belief (constantly repeated) that the property does not belong to me, the church that meets in it, nor the association that holds the deed. It belongs to God. It is a Kingdom asset and all Christians ought to participate in its success. That is why so many mission-minded folk (some are not church-goers) pitch in to make it happen.

The third and, perhaps, most important factor is NETWORKING. I go to the meetings where Christian leaders gather, listen to their stories and tell mine. Somewhere in between there is a vision and partnerships are formed. You’ll discover opportunities and resources for ministry if you listen. You’ll discover partners if you tell your story.

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