It has been cool to be at Awakenings as they have been making this transition and to help be a small part of that. The move has been accompanied by a great design campaign, have put together a great website and are running a series of videos that are being well distributed around twitter.
Moving a church isn’t easy work, nor something that is to be taken lightly. In his book on church planting, Mark Driscoll talks about many of the moves that his church went through in their early years. Mars Hill went from one school to another, a theatre, a park, a church, another church. It seemed never ending. But Driscoll raised some interesting points about what that does to its members. He comments that moving around made sure that the people were committed to the ideas and the vision and the community, not the building, programs or convenience of location. “The best way to test someone’s commitment to your church,” he said, “is to move it 20 minutes away.” I think there is a lot of truth to that.
I have been reading Neil Cole’s book Organic Leadership this week. In it he outlines pitfall after pitfall to creating a church and transitioning it to an establishment. He continually expresses, without much concern for stepping on toes, what he feels are the benefits of smaller faith communities as opposed to established churches. He is pretty convincing as well.
The early church was anything but an establishment. From what I read in Acts faith communities were always on the move. Rather than creating a space for themselves, they were always using the small spaces that were already around them: synagogues, squares, houses, upper rooms. Once they were driven out of one place, they would meet in another. They hardly had a chance to get planted anywhere. They were a group of believers who were defined by their relationship to God and to each other. They were hardly a group who identified with a piece of geography or real estate.
I don’t know what this all means exactly, only that there is something about regularity, predictability, becoming an organization that might change how we see things. It makes church an event rather than a state of being. It makes church a building rather than a bond. It makes worship an hour instead of a walk.
I don’t know how to remedy that. I don’t know how to make a church that is resistant to this problem. Sure, we could have a church that made it a mission never to meet in the same place twice, but would that be beneficial? Would people respond to that? Would anyone attend more than once? Who knows…