Just a Building, Not the Church

Today’s article is more of a Riverside church update. I hope you enjoy and are challenged.

This last week, I heard that a family didn’t visit our church when they were looking for a church because they believed that we would not be here in the future. They thought, “Why invest in a church that will just close up?”

Then in another conversation I had this week, someone mentioned that they thought our church was going under. 

So I want to emphasize in this article that “We’re still here. We still care. And we still have a mission.”

I think these thoughts all stem back to when we put our building up for sale. Notice that I didn’t say “church” up for sale. At that time we were in financial dire straits. This led to us listing the building on the market. When we did that, I emphasized that the building is for sale, not the church. I posted an article online explaining that. I wrote an article for this paper doing the same. And I preached it. Our church, if the building sold, was not leaving Antwerp. We would have been moving into town and had a budget for a few years to be a fully-funded church, allowing us to do many of the ministries we have a passion for but currently lack the funding for. Things that would help us fulfill our mission as a church.

For many, being a church without a permanent building is apparently a tough thing to grasp. Some apparently think that the building is the church. But I know of many churches that have prospered and thrived renting out a place to worship. Rick Warren’s church (Rick of Purpose-Driven Life fame) had 10,000 people attending the church he pastors at before building a building. They were a church without a building.

Rick wrote, “I'm often asked, `How big can a church grow without a building?' The answer is, `I don't know!' Saddleback met for 15 years and grew to 10,000 attenders without their own building, so I know it's possible to grow to at least 10,000! A building, or lack of a building, should never be allowed to become a barrier to a wave of growth. People are far more important than property” (Purpose Driven Church, 46).

Others have probably heard wrong information through the Antwerp gossip vine concerning Riverside. Maybe they heard that we were closing up or some other news instead of just selling our building. In this article, I hope to set the record straight.

For us, listing our building for sale reminded us that the building is not the church. The building never has been the church. The building never will be the church. Understanding that is a good fundamental to build off of. We, the people, are the church. Our relationships with one another and Jesus make a church, not the building. When we meet in the park, we’re the church. If we meet in another building, we would still be the church. When we meet for a Bible study at my house, we’re the church. We, the people, are the church. And if we don’t have good relationships with one another and Jesus, yet have a building, we are not the church. The building, although a useful tool at times, is irrelevant to being the church. 

If the day comes when it would be better for us to sell the building, we would not hesitate to sell it. We would gladly and eagerly sell the building to further God’s church. Now those two sentences would be confusing if you don’t differentiate between the building and the church, but that is only due to a wrong understanding of what the church is.

And we get that wrong understanding honestly. We’re ingrained from birth with a wrong understanding of the building. “Here is the church, Here is the steeple, Open the doors, See all the people. “

But the truth is better  expressed in a revised rhyme that I found, “Here is a building, On top there’s a steeple, Open the doors, The church is the people!”

Anyway, I want to emphasize today that “We’re still here. We still care. And we still have a mission.” So if anyone asks how Riverside is doing, let them know that. “We’re still here. We still care. And we still have a mission.” We’re not going anywhere. Thankfully, things are a little better financially right now than the tough times we faced at the turn of the year. God’s unending and unexplainable provision is awe-inspiring. Our building is now off the market. We have even hired a part-time children’s pastor. And we are growing and actively ministering to our community. We are moving in the direction that God wants us to move in as we continue to seek ways to minister to the community with our limited budget.

May we always remember that people are more important than any tool used in ministry, even the building.