We’re a nomadic sort – and we’ve come to really, really like this characteristic. Vista is being defined more so by who we are than by where we are – and that’s energizing. Being mobile helps retain our God-mandate to be move into the world in Jesus name. And it helps us to stay focused on being the Church.
I was coached early in our church-planting existence to find a place, to settle in, and stay there; to validate ourselves in the eyes of church-shoppers more quickly by having a home. This sort of guidance is likely very good, but we we’re unable to secure a space any more “ours” and any more predictable than a high school auditorium. One of the concerns was that people (Vista) and those looking to visit would lose track of where we live and be otherwise unable to find us. This may be true if you first have a static address and then start moving around, but because our culture has been nomadic from the start it hasn’t been an issue! Anybody who’s been with us knows to check the website before departing for church. Guests don’t know where we meet anyway, so they always check. We have effectively created a culture that understands and embraces our mobility – and not only that – but is learning to leverage it! (So, it’s not likely clear yet why I entitled this blog what I did. Hang in there – I’ll get to that.)
We’ve been in four locations in almost three years and have somehow grown at rates that greatly exceed church growth statistics in the country. I’m not interested in wining statistics competitions, but it is instructive to realize our “nomadicism“ hasn’t seemed to significantly hurt attendance. In fact, what we’ve discovered is that moving around has actually helped us. Have you noticed that when something new happens in a new space it attracts attention; the longer something exists in a known location the less “visible” it becomes? You know about the new ice cream store on the corner, but can you remember what was there before? Another example, many of you likely can’t even describe some of the old furniture in your home, in fact, some furniture would seem “new” to you if it was brought to your attention. Like, “Hey, I forgot we even owned that!” On the other hand if a new piece of furniture was put in a previously unoccupied space in your house – it would stand out. This is what we’ve found to be an exciting element of our short church life. We keep popping up on the radar in different places, attracting the attention of new people.
Our circumstances are financially advantageous as well. In short, we can commit more funding to ministry and missions rather than to mortgages and debt service. Fifteen percent of last years offerings were obligated to missions work…and we have been able to save another eleven percent beyond that. Those numbers (if you care to find validation through comparison) also exceed most church standards.
So then, why does my title suggest that we acquire numerous buildings? The key is – what sort of buildings? During last years Christmas Service we mentioned the one building we do have – an orphanage home in Cambodia housing 17 wonderful little children that were all abandoned and starving on the streets of Phnom Penh! We suggested that if asked, “Do you or will you have a building some day?” that the best response is that, “We already do…it’s just 9000 miles away!”
I have a dream. (Note from our Ops Guy, Brian: It should be noted here that Mike has many dreams…occasionally Mike will even have “a dream” in the course of a management meeting. I’m not dissing Mike here, his dreams are often inspiring and the beginning of something God may be up to. I’m just saying…so that you’re expectations are set appropriately: Mike has a dream…not a strategic plan! Yet…)
Anyway, back to the dream… It’s becoming clearer to us that God may be uniquely challenging us to facilitate the acquisition of missions buildings instead of church buildings – locally as well as globally. Let me paint a picture. Imagine connecting local community needs with our collection of resources throughout the community – a city-wide web of ministry infrastructure and resources emerging from the church meeting social needs. What if we opened a not-for-profit salon (with the myriad hairdressers and stylists at Vista), where the proceeds went directly to an indentified community need (instead of back to the church); and that pro bono services were offered to single moms? What if we opened a coffee shop with the same objective – profits back into the community. What if we bought an old Lube Shop…oil change place…and had an experienced crew that did like wise – directed profits to community needs and offered pro bono service to under-privileged? What if one day we had 50 operations like that around NW Columbus, but still no church building…but on the weekend’s in all those buildings that had space for 150 – 200 folks we would have church!? And what if in a few of those spaces/services we partner with a church of a predominantly different race than ours!?
What if the signage at all those joints instead of a trademark® attached to their name they had a Vista Circle-V!? That way everyone would know, if they take their business there, that they’re helping someone out…and they could come back for church too. Oh, and how about 100 orphanages around the world too.
Now that’s a bunch of church buildings I could get excited about! Just imagine…