Monday, September 8, 2008


The plan is for TFC to stay portable for a long time and we've been working pretty hard to get ourselves in the position to be as efficient as possible as a portable church. Here are some of the steps we've taken to 'get better' at being portable.

1) We've moved into a bigger facility. We could probably triple in Sunday morning worship attendance at Pioneer Ridge Middle School before needing to go to two services. This has been a huge step of faith for us. First of all, because it will take a lot of work to fill it up (invite, invite, invite!). Secondly, it isn't easy to pay for. Our annual rent has gone up about $6,000 over our rent at Madison Elementary. But we KNOW this is what God has called us to do. We will NOT accept status quot. Let me say that if you've been considering making giving a regular habit but wondered whether your giving to TFC would make a difference, believe me, it will! You can now give online, to do so click here. It was the move to PRMS that caused us to work at becoming more efficient in our portability.

2) We've made modifications to our carts. We fixed some things, eliminated some stuff we don't need in PRMS and shifted the contents among the carts. Pastor Andy and the children's council also painted the kids carts. Although we're still figuring out the best way to get the carts in and out of PRMS, the rolling carts are what make us efficient.

3) We found ways to make the commons of PRMS much more kid-friendly. See the pictures below. This set-up takes more time and energy than our previous set-up in Madison but it's well worth the effort.

4) Moving into an auditorium eliminated a lot of our sanctuary set-up. No more curtains to hang or chairs to put out. All the work now is for the lights, sound and media. We've also got permission from the school district to mount our lights to the PRMS light rack. We're hoping to get that done this Sunday morning. That will save us about 20 minutes of work each Sunday.

5) We've bought our own truck to pull the trailer. We did this a little over a year ago but the truck is needing some work done on the shocks so as to hold the extra weight of the trailer. Owning our own truck has been a real help. Now anyone who can back a trailer can pull on Sunday morning and we're no longer dependent upon the few people who own trucks. Gardner Nazarene graciously allows us to park our trailer in their parking lot.

Why are we going to stay portable?
People with a traditional church paradigm often ask, "when are you going to get a church?" Andy gets this question at Seminary often. I always clarify, "do you mean a church building? A church is people, not a building." It's really difficult, at first, for those from a traditional background to wrap their minds around a church not owning their own facility. But our approach to portability stands on some solid logical ground. Here are our reasons for staying portable for the foreseeable future (in my mind, that means a decade or more). Although, I should add that if someone wanted to donate $10 million to buy land and build a building, I'd seriously consider taking them up on it, I'd have to pray about it (and I mean that) because there are a lot of reasons for being portable:

1) A church isn't about a building but about people. I really think we need to be careful with our terminology, for biblical reasons. "the church building" is much more accurate when referring to the physical facility than simply "the church." The biblical idea of "church" is the people of God, not a building. Which leads to my second point...

2) The New Testament church was portable. Or more accurately, they were house churches. It wasn't until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire that the church started adapting to Roman traditions of meeting in large groups (which TFC obviously does) in a large building. Some other not-so-good compromises were supporting Roman wars and taking away leadership roles from women. But my point is that the New Testament church didn't even consider owning buildings. That's not to say it's anti-biblical to own buildings but it does counter the idea that you're not a real church until you own a building.

3) We aren't limiting our growth. Why let the shoe tell the foot how large it can grow? If we fill up PRMS, we can move to the GEHS auditorium. When First Light builds on the land that was given to them by their denomination (Methodists have so much $) we can move into the GEHS auditorium that holds 1,000 people. Can you imagine the cost of building a 1,000 seat auditorium. Which leads to another point...

4) Renting is being a good manager of God's resources. Why pay a mortgage for a building that sits empty 75% of the time? Even when a building is being used, it's only filled to capacity on Sunday mornings. I wouldn't be opposed to renting a smaller space to be used during the week, but I struggle with paying a huge mortgage for a Sunday morning worship facility. I'd so much rather invest in church planting across KC or the world than build a building. Call me crazy, but Jesus' heart seemed to be much more about people than buildings. Every $ that has to go toward a building is one less $ that can go toward people.

5) We aren't paying a MORTGAGE! I know this is similar to the above, but when I get worried about paying the few hundred dollars we have to spend to fix the carts and the truck, I think, "we could be paying a mortgage." We'd also be paying utilities, custodial fees and maintenance costs. Dude, just paying rent is enough of a stretch.

6) Set-up/ Tear-down is good for our church. Christ Community Church in Olathe was our sponsoring church. Some of the guys who had been with CCC in their portable days really missed the relationship building that came with being on their set-up/ tear-down crew. We really have a great time together. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's good work. And as Chris Billings just told me, it's good for your walk with Jesus. It seems that Jesus said something about serving other people. What better way to serve than sweating like crazy in August or freezing your butt off in February as you pave the way for people to worship.

If you're a guy reading this and you aren't on the set-up/ tear-down crew, please see me this Sunday to either join our team or turn in your man-card. We NEED you and you NEED to serve on this team!

7) Unchurched people don't care where you meet! I've found this to be true over and over and over again.

8) Buildings don't reach people, people reach people. YOU are the answer to building God's church, not any type of facility. Are you working to build God's church (i.e. people)?

If you'd like to read a GREAT post on the benefits of being portable, click here.

Below are some pictures from PRMS.


soxfaninkc said...

Great post, Donnie! You were right on with all your points. I have one question: Did you come up with, "Does the shoe tell the foot how big it should grow?" I have never heard that expression before! =)

Also, I think too that being portable keeps us from getting complacent and comfortable, which may occur if you meet in a church building where you just have to show up in the morning turn the lights on and then off as you're leaving. That may be a bit of a stretch, but I think it makes sense.

Would you agree?

Donnie Miller said...

I heard that phrase from Rick Warren, not sure if it originated with him, though. Although, I think just about every idea in Christianity, from the virgin birth to the second coming originated from Rick Warren, now that I think of it :).

I agree with the complacency concern. Being portable also appeals to masculinity, we need tough, committed guys to do the work. Of course, we need MORE tough, committed guys at this point.

Aaron Bonham said...

I had been thinking lately about portability and it's benefits, not to mention the fact that I think it's often (perhaps not always) a poor use of $$ to pour into massive buildings to blot out the face of the earth. I came to the same conclusions you seem to have come to. Great post!!!

PS. I'm guessing there's an extra 'not' in this sentence from your post "Some other not-so-good compromises were supporting Roman wars and not, taking away leadership roles from women."

Donnie Miller said...

Good call on the "not."

Yes, it's not always bad to pour $ into buildings, maybe we will someday but it isn't necessarilly the best thing and there's certainly benefits of not needing to do that.

Since you're on our set-up crew, I guess it's a good thing you believe in portability!