I read an article today about a church in Tampa, Florida that made me think about some new possibilities for ministry for the local church. I don’t think I’m alone in this. It’s inevitable The local church if it hasn’t already, will have the talk really soon about the empty unused space on our church campuses that we are funding throughout the week. What do we do with all of the empty space we have? What do we do with the classrooms? What do we do with the offices? What do we do with all of the extra space that we have on any given day of the week and are we being good stewards of our church buildings by letting them remain empty and collect dust throughout the week? Of course the building is always open on Sunday. Or is it? It’s going to require some intentionality on our part as the local church to begin asking the hard questions about what it means to be called by God to the neighborhoods our buildings reside in?
It really should begin to open up some divine opportunities for dialogue as opposed to the fear of, “What are we going to do with our buildings that we can’t afford anymore?” Some local churches have been blessed in that their only real major expenses are paying their pastor full-time and the day to day expenses of running a small church. Their buildings are paid for. It could mean some extra income in helping maintain a fulltime pastor. Other churches that were once viable and who were the big kids in town are now faced with the day to day challenges of loving the neighborhood and paying utilities for an empty church campus. Unfortunately, the church building always wins and ministry suffers. My fear is that we’re afraid to talk about this. Lots of churches are slowly moving to becoming property management companies. It seems to be the new fad now. I’m okay with this only if the conversation about shared ministry becomes a reality with whoever becomes our tenants.
What I do know is that whether our churches are large or small or even in decline, we need to figure out some way of partnering up with others in our cities who are doing kingdom work and that are transforming lives in the name of Jesus. We need to find other folks who have the same heart for wanting to share the Gospel and still doing something that will meet the needs of the neighborhood. What if the lights were on every night at the church and the church parking lot actually had cars in it every day and every night? What would this do for the existing church and what if it was one way in helping the local church move from death to life again? Isn’t that what Easter’s about?
The one answer that keeps coming back at me?
It might mean falling in love again not just with Jesus…
But with our neighborhood.