You read the title correctly. Beginning this month, you will hear a lot about our efforts to build a new worship center and more education space for the next generation. To be honest, it will be front and center of everything we do leading up to our commitment Sunday, October 30th. To say things are moving fast is an understatement. But it has not always been this way. A lot of praying, thinking, seeking, dreaming and studying have gone into this decision. As your pastor, I am deeply motivated to make sure you understand and support our journey. As with any major endeavor, the reasons we do NOT do something are as important as the reasons we DO. In other words, to be truly unified around a project, it is important to understand what does not motivate us. So let me share with you 10 reasons we are NOT building a new worship center and education space for the next generation.
10 Reasons we are NOT building:
1. We are NOT building because bigger is better.
Being a bigger church does not necessarily make us a better church. The health of a church is never determined by its numerical size. Local churches of all sizes faithfully serve the Lord; and, sadly, both large and small churches can be unhealthy. The Mill is not perfect, but we are healthy because we have chosen to follow our Lord’s simple command of making disciples by sharing the gospel and teaching people The Word. We do not need a new building to make us something we are not.
2. We are NOT building because busy is better.
A whole lot is going on with this new project, and more church-wide involvement is right around the corner. Excitement and momentum have been building for months, and there will be no shortage of work to get this project done. But, we are not building as a marketing ploy to put the next “big thing” in front of the congregation. We do not do “stuff” just to keep the church busy.
3. We are NOT building because the pastor wants it.
Of course I am excited about having a large space to minister and preach to more people. But I can assure you that my ego, or the egos of our other spiritual leaders, is not driving this project. In fact, for years I struggled to feel freedom from the Lord to lead us to build. I am truly fearful of falling into the sad cycle of so many spiritual leaders who become intoxicated with building “their” ministries or “their” platforms. This project can never be about any one personality. It has to be about all of us rallying behind our Savior’s call to make disciples.
4. We are NOT building because debt is not a big deal.
Actually debt is a HUGE deal, and most of the references in the Bible about debt are far from positive. Foolish debt can ruin personal lives, and it can also greatly handicap the ministry of a church. When we built our current facility, we prayed hard for the wisdom to borrow money wisely from our banking partner. We also decided to aggressively attack our loan principle in order to retire our debt and, while doing so, pay the least amount of interest possible. The results have been remarkable. In 2009 we moved into an $8.5 million facility, and today, six years later, we owe less than $1.5 million! Let that sink in. Hundreds of families generously giving to the Lord paid off over $7 million of debt in a very short period of time (during a recession). With this new project, there will be a loan from a lending partner. The decisions about the amount and terms will be taken very seriously and made prayerfully. Like before, our goal will be to position the church for the best possible path to retiring our debt in a swift and responsible fashion.
5. We are NOT building because buildings reach people.
Buildings most certainly do NOT reach people. The gospel changes people, and the means of communicating and showing the gospel to people is people. A building is nothing more than a tool. I can promise you that, no matter what it looks like on day one, our new worship center will most likely not be standing 200 years from now.
6. We are NOT building because we’ve done enough for missions, so now it is time to spend some money on ourselves.
This one may be the most important reason on this list to NOT build. First, we will never stop investing dollars in missions. Frankly, we do not have a choice. Getting the message of Christ to the world is not a nice addition to a church’s cause; it IS the church’s cause! Please know we will NEVER dial back our commitment to missions in order to build anything on our campus. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. I believe we can do both; and the more people we grow here, the more we can send.
7. We are NOT building because we have plenty of money to spend.
It is obvious God has blessed the Mill. Our Lord has graciously supplied every need we have ever encountered. Sometimes, however, people get the impression that, when a church is large and growing, it must have endless amounts of resources. We do not. There is no account where millions of dollars are stockpiled to build a building. We work very hard to operate as good stewards, but we do not hoard the Lord’s money. What is given is invested right back into ministry and missions. We do have a responsible amount of reserve cash, but it is nothing close to what we will need to build this building. In fact, we will not build this building if people just like you don’t dig deep to give above and beyond their normal offerings. The money needed is right in front of us. But it is not in the church’s bank account. It is in your account and my account.
8. We are NOT building because it is just what we do.
Some organizations, including churches, measure their success by whether or not they’re always building something. Schools, hospitals and shopping centers seem to always be adding on. But we are different. In fact, continuing to build on our campus will very soon come to an end. This will be the last worship center we build on the land God has given us. In other words, there will come a day in the near future when we max out our space and begin to send groups out as church plants from our location.
9. We are NOT building because big rows are better than small circles.
When you sit in a worship center, you’re with rows of other people, not circles. Rows are designed to focus you forward and upward. This is important, because worship, preaching, giving and praying all take place in a worship center, and they require focus. But circles are also real places of crucial life change. In the circle of small groups, unlike worship, you can interact with other believers and grow one another. One of my biggest fears is that building a new worship center will send the message that small groups are not a priority. It is actually the opposite. I’m not a prophet, but let me tell you something about our future that is absolutely true: If we only create a large space for people to attend corporate worship and we do not remain diligent in getting people into small, relational discipleship environments, we will join a large group of churches in our culture that built big buildings and now struggle to fill them. We have to get smaller as we get larger.
10. We are NOT building because we need to compete with other churches. We have no desire to be the best “show” in town on Sunday mornings.
In fact, we believe God is positioning us to help other churches by training leaders and loving other congregations. This project is not to keep up with anybody else. From day one at the Mill, we have never been afraid to just be us. We rejoice that many other churches in our community are partners with us for the gospel, and NOTHING we build or become will ever change our attitude about this.
It is time for us to build, and I believe it is time because we are NOT doing it for the wrong reasons. I hope the Lord affirms this in your heart and your investment as well.
I love you,