Since the birth of our church almost exactly one year ago, we have been meeting on Sunday mornings at the Lubbock Civic Center. This was not by choice - we could not find a building in the right location that was both cheap enough and large enough to meet our needs. We all prayed and begged the Lord to provide us with something that would fit our needs, and nothing seemed to open up. Finally, about a month and a half ago, a building opened up and everything fell into place. Two weeks from today we will hold our first church service in this new building.
As Andy and I were greeted at the Civic Center this morning as we pulled into the parking lot with a large yellow banner that said "Liquidation Sale", we reminisced on some of the bizarre events that have been running at the same time as our church services. Here are just a few: a bridal fair, the cowboy symposium (complete with live animals and booths of cowboy merchandise to buy on the way into church), a car show (not old cars, but new tricked out cars with blue lights and deafening stereos), and, my personal favorite, a dog show (accompanied by all breeds of prissy dogs and nervous dog owners in the "church" parking lot). You better believe it that I made my way into the dog show after church that Sunday morning.
Andy plays in the Lubbock Cowboy Symposium every year. During this year's cowboy symposium, our good friend Kristen came in town to visit with her two little boys. Davis, her four year old loved it. We spent all Saturday there, and the next morning when we returned to the Civic Center for church, he turned to his mom a little confused and asked, "Isn't this where the cowboys were yesterday? What IS this building?" Kristen's answer: "Well, it's kind of an everything building." This caused little Davis to realize you don't have to have a steeple and stained glass to have church.
It seems like every Sunday we have giggled about the many random events held simultaneously with our church services, and anticipated the next bizarre event that we would walk through on our way to our next church service. On top of the odd events we see on Sunday mornings on the way into church, add our ghetto baptistery we've had for the last year. We've had baptisms in the most unusual fashion - usually a blue kiddie pool like the ones you remember buying from Wal-Mart as a child, and even in a swimming pool in a backyard. Watching a six foot tall man get baptized in a one foot deep kiddie pool was extremely akward, albeit beautiful.
Although I will forever get laughs out of the poodles I saw the dog show in our "church" parking lot at the Civic Center, I must admit that the whole process of having church at a place like the Civic Center, buildingless, has been extremely endearing to me. It is something that has reinforced in a special way a concept that I always knew: the Church is not a building.
So as a church, we are entering into a new era. We now own a building, though it's quirkiness would cause some to argue that it is not that much of a step up from our previous building situation. It is a classic church building, complete with burgundy carpet, children's rooms, and a real live baptistry. But the principle still remains: the Church is not a building, nor do you need a particular building to have church. It is a living, breathing organism set up by Christ and redeemed by his blood. It is a powerful thing, not tied down to a specific location, vastly different than organizations familiar to our culture like the Lion's Club, the YMCA, or the Red Cross. It was established by God himself, and will stand the test of time. When Jesus established his church, he described it this way, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Haides will not overcome it" (Matt. 16:18). I saw that baptism is a sweet picture of redemption, no matter if it's in a kiddie pool or a swimming pool. I saw the church growing and active, regardless of whether we met at the Lubbock Civic Center or at the Holiday Inn. I saw that the Church is alive, growing, and powerful - just as Jesus said it would be two thousand years ago. And I have had the priviledge of being a part of this.
While I'm very excited about the ammenities of having a church building, I have to admit that the switch will be bittersweet. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be reminded once again that the Church is God's, and is not constrained to any particular location. I'm also looking forward to the new things I will learn or be reinforced by this ghetto building we'll be meeting in shortly. Any ideas of what it will be? There has to be something to be learned from mismatching carpet in every room of the church....