Church building … relationships.

Before sunrise one chilly Saturday morning, our church gathered to improve the building. Please note the theology of that sentence: the church (people of God) gathered to work on the building (not the church). The same phenomenon occurs Sunday mornings: after the church gathers (in worship), it scatters (on mission).

Molly & I have been part of four church plants, but this is the first in which we’ve had property to steward. Ironic, because the vision He gave for The Mission was to train missionaries to function outside a church context. Then he puts us in a building. The Lord must’ve chuckled when He gave us a church building and our launch team blinked in confusion.

So it seems strange that a church dedicated to incarnational living outside the building would spend a work day investing time, energy, & resources in the campus. Why would we do such a thing? Did we sell out? Have we gone attractional?

None of the above. The reason we gathered that chilly Saturday morning was to build relationships … on two fronts.

The first was with strangers. In our mission field (DFW, TX), God brings people into our path on Sundays simply because they see the building with some cars out front. So we worked to serve strangers who might arrive with some trepidation – those may have suffered hurt, abuse, or others who’ve never been to a worship service before.

As for us, we’re fine with the place as it is. It’s just a building. Our friendships in community take place far more frequently outside 3224 Cheek-Sparger Rd than within. Our goal was to help put strangers at ease by giving them a glimpse of the beauty and care our Creator taught us. If our efforts to redeem (cleaning & painting) and restore (gardening and construction) help them encounter Christ in His body, then they’re worth the sweat and time.

But to be completely honest, freshening up the welcome mat (our campus) isn’t what excites me. It’s seeing God’s people more deeply connect.

The second realm of relationship the workday built, was in the volunteers God gathered together as a family (which, for many, isn’t a warm/fuzzy word).

My heart goes out to men, because I believe most endure a lonely existence. Typically, guys are slow to friendship (as I’ve blogged before). We’re insecure and don’t like to be vulnerable (which real relationship requires). This is why men can stand next to one another in church for years – singing, praying, even smiling & shaking hands – and yet not truly know one another.

Men don’t seem to become friends just by talking (though ladies certainly seem to). But put us together on a task – like felling a tree, moving something heavy, or building something new – and the project connects us. The small talk-type fluff shakes off and we bond … basically in battle. Fighting side-by-side, trust and respect are earned. We connect as we conquer the obstacle before us.

Perhaps this is why missiologists like Michael Frost teach that, when the church aims for community, it rarely materializes. But when we embark together on mission, community is forged in the struggle. Tasks greater than ourselves  galvanize us in relationship, for they require dependence on one Christ and one another.

As tired, sweaty people stopped for the day to eat lunch, I looked around to see what God had done. Sure, some of the buildings looked a bit better. But more importantly, relationships were stronger. People who hadn’t known each other well (some of whom perhaps no one truly knows well), were talking and laughing together. Walls had come down … both literally and metaphorically. After working together, the Father’s kids left able to know, love, & serve one another better.

The Mission will never be a beautiful cathedral. But the people can. By God’s grace, they will.

He commissioned us to make disciples. The workday was part of that. For if the church can’t love one another well, how can we befriend those hostile to our Lord (yet need Him so desperately)?

I praise you heavenly Father, for giving us eyes to see needs, feet to propel us out of laziness, hands to create beauty, ears to enjoy song & laughter, and hearts devoted to you. Thank you for giving us a brisk October morning to come together as a family of friends to serve people we haven’t yet met.

Thank you for bringing each of us to the cross, where you revealed our need for the Savior and You provided the gift of eternal life through His atoning sacrifice.

Please continue to unite your people worldwide. Purify your bride, strengthening her for service, giving her a hospitable heart, renewed mind, and passion for your kingdom mission. Thank you for letting us be a part of your work here and now that has eternal impact. Amen.