At the Covenant Members’ Meeting on February 12th, we shared with those present God’s call on us to pursue a permanent facility for Hope Point. Below are the transcripts from that portion of the meeting:
At our last Covenant Members Meeting, we told you that the Elders were going to have a retreat in mid-October. The intention of this retreat was to seek the Lord’s guidance on the future direction for Hope Point. In other words, what are the steps we need to take now in order to ensure that Hope Point will continue to operate as a biblical, New Testament church for generations to come?
The weekend was packed with study, prayer, fellowship, and vision casting. It was beautiful to experience the Spirit-led unity that weekend. This was most evident during the vision casting portion of our time together. The clarity and solidarity among the elders regarding the next steps for Hope Point was remarkable and was confirmation that God was and is moving.
Four things were made clear as we thought about the next 5 years at Hope Point: 1) the need for a permanent facility, 2) the need for more leadership development, 3) the need for relational depth, and 4) the eventual need for a multi-site/church planting model.
Significance of a Permanent Space
Because of the significance of the decision to go to a permanent location we want to spend the rest of our time today talking through the need, vision, and urgency of finding a permanent home – a 24/7 base of operation. Furthermore, due to the stability and strength that comes from a permanent facility, we don’t believe the other 3 initiatives could be done well or to their fullest potential without a permanent facility.
We Are Taking Steps
Now, this does not mean that nothing is happening with the other initiatives. In fact, we’ve already implemented some leadership development measures and are planning for more. So, you’ll see and hear more about the other 3 throughout 2017 and into 2018, but for now let’s turn our attention to God’s call on us to go permanent.
A Building is not our Vision
We have a clear vision from God for a building, but a building or permanent facility is not our utltimate vision.
How Does a Building Align with our Vision?
We believe that our vision to help people everywhere applaud God, follow Christ, and live on mission will be more effectively launched from a welcoming facility that is accessible for ministry and outreach seven days a week. As we look to the future, God has made it clear to us that a permanent facility will be one of the necessary components in reaching this vision. A permanent facility will allow for the fulltime flourishing of our vision. A permanent facility should not be seen as a landing pad, but a launching point for more disciple making, church planting, and mission sending.
Benefits of a Permanent Facility
Among the many benefits of having a fully accessible facility, these 5 have become foundational as God began to build in us a sense of urgency and excitement for this next phase in the life of Hope Point.
- Permanence conveys commitment. Having a permanent location communicates a vested commitment by Hope Point in the local community. It says here gathers a local body of believers and we are here to stay. Permanence allows us to be a visible part of the community. When the community sees families gathering and children playing several days a week it’s just one of the many ways the gospel can become visible in a community through something as simple as a building.
- Permanence strengthens weary sheep. We are eager to enable more fruitful discipleship and outreach for our staff and volunteers by freeing them from countless hours of setup and teardown each week. Volunteer burnout has always been an issue for our body. Burnout is a major obstacle to multiplication. The portable church model is not a sustainable model for long term church growth. We want to convert the energy it takes to pull off a Sunday morning into raising up shepherds – shepherds of churches, shepherds of ministries, shepherds of families.
- Permanence increases opportunities. A “Sunday Only” church limits our opportunities to train, equip, and multiply the body. A permanent facility will give us a 24/7 home base from which to train, equip, and mobilize people to reach the lost. A permanent facility not only increases accessibility and availability for training, but more importantly it increases our discipleship opportunities.
- Permanence fosters community. It doesn’t create community. It doesn’t guarantee community. We all know of church buildings where the community is as empty as the pews. But used properly, by God’s grace, a building can foster community. Having a permanent location offers the ability for groups to gather, study God’s word, and pray together any day of the week. Small group childcare, a major hindrance to small group growth and community, can be more easily managed from a permanent facility.
- Permanence increases stability. Strength and stamina for spreading, reaching, and growing arise from a stable base. Healthy growth comes from deep roots. This is certainly true spiritually, but can also be true relative to the permanent nature of owning your own space. Healthy things grow. We’ve proven we can survive in the portable church model, but we are no longer interested in merely surviving. We want Hope Point to flourish for generations. We will never find our source of strength from anything or anyone but God, yet we see this as God’s provision for strength and stability during this season of life at Hope Point.
Do we really believe in our vision?
So, for these reasons the elders voted unanimously to actively pursue a building. A building increases our potential to realize our vision. If we really believe in this vision (to help people everywhere applaud God, follow Christ, and live on mission), then we won’t be afraid to do what it takes to maximize our potential to reach this vision.
If this is truly our vision, then it’s worth pursuing – it’s worth the effort, the striving, the cost to attain it. One definition of vision reads like this: Vision is the ability to see a better, more fruitful future despite the short term pain to get there. There is hope in vision because you can see a better more fruitful future. But there is also pain in vision because vision always exceeds current capabilities. Therefore, vision requires faith to execute.
Vision is Rooted in Hope
Our vision for Hope Point is rooted in hope; hope for a greater and longer impact for the cause of Christ. We hope to be a church that God allows to exist for generations to come. Like all hope, this hope is grounded in God’s call – God’s call to move beyond our temporary gathering place to one of permanence. Our hope is not in a building, but in the God who has called us to a building.
Vision Requires Faith
Secondly, it takes faith and courage to execute vision. Faith is not tested in the status quo. (It takes no faith to stay the way we are.) Faith is tested when we take God-ordained risks. Peter’s faith was not tested until he stepped out of the boat. In fact, Peter desired that his faith be tested, but not without his Lord’s command (Matthew 14:28). We’ve asked God to call us out of the portable church “boat” and he has. We now need to step out in faith, believing he will provide and sustain us for that to which he has called. May it not be said of us, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
Vision Always Exceeds Current Capabilities
Finally, vision always exceeds current capabilities and resources. Therefore, we expect that this step toward realizing our vision will bring some temporary discomfort. However, this sacrifice will yield benefits that are far superior to the comfort of remaining at the status quo. There is a more fruitful future for Hope Point on the other side of the pain.
The pain that may accompany moving to a permanent facility could take many forms, but the more obvious pains are the financial burden and the perceived identity change.
The Financial Burden
Let’s start with the financial burden. Since vision always exceeds current capabilities, we know that this step toward our vision will, most likely, exceed our current financial position. So, the natural reaction is to recoil back to the status quo and not consider a permanent facility. This is not faith.
Trusting God as We Step
We are trusting God as we step out of this boat. We are trusting God to provide the financial resources needed. Stepping out of the boat doesn’t mean that we are passively waiting for a “free” building. Stepping out of the boat means we are working with a commercial real estate agent, it means we are talking to architects, consultants and other churches; stepping out of the boat means we are willing to take on an appropriate amount of debt; it means we are willing to take on higher monthly real estate expenses; it means we are willing to temporarily reduce spending in other areas. All this trusting God’s will and guidance into what is appropriate at all levels of decision making.
What Level Financially?
To what level, financially, are we willing to go? We don’t know exactly, but somewhere between “whatever it takes” and not excessive. “Whatever it takes,” meaning that we are not afraid of numbers or the lack of funds if God is in it. “Not excessive,” meaning that our minimum standard will be functional space not an elaborate campus.
The Debt Questions
When we talk about real estate purchases the debt questions are sure to follow. If we are willing to take on debt, well then how much? Is debt Biblically forbidden?
Is Debt Biblically Forbidden?
Do verses like Romans 13:8 (Owe no one anything) or Proverbs 22:7 (the borrower is slave to the lender) rule out borrowing for the Christian? The short answer is no. Romans 13:8, in the context of Romans 13:7, is a warning to pay your bills when they are due rather than an absolute command against borrowing. Likewise, Proverbs 22:7 is speaking of what could happen in a borrowing situation, but not what does happen in every borrowing situation. Proverbs 22:7 speaks of someone borrowing out of financial desperation with no collateral (poor). This is not the case for us. We would have a building for collateral and we are borrowing from a position of financial strength for strategic growth purposes. Furthermore, the Bible teaches much on how to lend properly; even counting it a blessing to be in the position to lend money (Psalm 112:5). If debt is biblically forbidden, then this would be a contradiction to that command.
Conclusion on Debt
For these reasons, we do not think the Bible forbids borrowing and lending in all circumstances, neither among brothers and sisters in need, nor at the level of strategic planning or ministry decisions.
The second question or discomfort that may come to mind is the perceived identity change that could accompany a new building. After 13 years of being a “portable church,” having no building has sort of become who we are. It’s in our DNA. But more than that we know that no building means no debt. We are a rarity among modern churches. How many churches can say, “we have no debt?” Furthermore, we know that no building means no debt and no debt means we can give more to “missions.” How many churches can say, “we give 33% to missions?” I suspect not many.
Will We Lose Our Identity?
So, immediately, when we talk about purchasing a building the first fear is: will we lose our identity we’ve built up over 13 years – namely no building, no debt, and 33% to missions. Well, if we purchase a building, we’ll definitely lose the first one (no building), maybe the second (no debt) for a season, and possibly the third (33% to missions) at least for a season. As Elders and leaders of this church we wrestled with this. Is a building worth the potential identity change?
Self-Reflection, Self-Discovery, and Repentance
By God’s grace, this led us to much self-reflection and self-discovery. The building question revealed to us our idols. The building question showed us how tightly we have been clinging to this identity of no building, no debt, and 33% to missions. We have elevated these things to a position they do not belong. This identity has become a badge of honor for us and we have realized the sin in this. We have not led well here and we repent for that.
Even Noble Things Can be Idols
Anything we hold on to as precious, other than Jesus, is dangerous. Even noble things like no debt and 33% to missions, can become idols if they begin to define us. Our identity is in Christ and our hope is in God. Anything else is just an idol. When we say, we will not venture outside of these three things (no building, no debt, 33% to missions) in the pursuit of our vision, we are telling Christ we are not willing to step out of the boat.
Jesus is Lord
Jesus is the only Lord of this church – mission percentages cannot be Lord, buildings cannot be Lord, and debt or the absence of debt cannot be Lord. We have been given one mission from our Lord and that is to take up our cross and follow him.
We believe with all of our heart that Jesus is asking us to follow him to a location of permanence. We believe Jesus is calling us to a biblical realignment away from our idols – to care for his sheep and reach the lost from a position of permanence.