Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Feeling the cost of following Christ

For nearly three years we have been camped out in this inner-city neighborhood, faithfully serving and waiting upon the Lord for His provision and increase. This has not been an easy road, in fact, it's been the hardest road I've walked so far. Many times I have felt like giving up. God has provided our every need and I'm trusting that he will continue to.

The source of my frustration has been the century old church building that was given to us. While the building is debt free, it is showing its age. The condition of the church building is continuing to deteriorate. With the funds we have been able to raise we've been able to do some work. However, the entire electrical service needs to be replaced, as it is very old and barely meets code. The plumbing and heating systems also need to be upgraded. There are also needed repairs of the roof, a portion of the kitchen, as well as the fellowship hall floor and walls. We would need around $50,000.00 to make the building safe and functional.

Another issue that we have struggled with is the lack of mature adult believers living in this distressed inner-city neighborhood. While some of them are believers, they are, for the most part, nominal Christians. I truly believe the church is not the building, but the people of God, living in and serving the community, and inviting people into this community of Christ followers. But what, exactly, is this community to look like? What qualifies a person for entrance? Do they have to come to the church building to be considered members of this community? We have many children coming through our old church doors, which we have welcomed and embraced. We have gotten to know some of the families of these children. While they are comfortable with their children (or grandchildren) coming to our church, and have a basic belief in God themselves, getting them to come to church has been a challenge.

I guess in some ways I'm still operating by the old school, open the doors and invite them in, approach. While we have made some great strides to intentionally do ministry outside of the four walls of the church building, there is still this facilities based mindset I am contending with.

We are at a crucial point in our ministry here where we have to decide if it is cost effective and a good use of finances and other resources to continue using our present church building or abandon it and find other suitable facilities. We also own a vacant lot, which is about one-third of an acre and large enough to accomodate an adequate ministry facility.

I am at a point where I have run out of anwers. I am totally dependent upon God and His provision. Our core team has slowly been dismantled. We have endured some fierce struggles and spiritual warfare. I have thought several times about giving up and walking away from all of this. But then I am reminded of the children who live in this neighborhood. If we pack up and go, like a few other neighborhood churches have already done over the past decade (including the Sixth Avenue Baptist Church whose facility we took over) who will be here to stand in the gap for these great kids?

I am still convinced, now more than ever, that God has sent us here. I am trusting in Him for His provision and His strength. I know He will provide where He guides. So here we will remain. We will continue to serve God and to develop a missional community that is indigenous and incarnational.

If you feel inclined by the Holy Spirit to pray for us, we would certainly appreciate it.