Here’s how the conversation often goes.
Average Joe/Jane Christian: “So what do you do?”
Me: “I’m a pastor.”
Joe/Jane: “Really? That’s great! Where is your church?”
Me: “We meet in an elementary school.”
Joe/Jane: “You meet where?”
Me: “In an elementary school.”
Joe/Jane: *awkward silence*
Me, trying to ease their confusion: “We’re a portable church. We move in and out of the school each week.”
Joe/Jane, patting me on the head: “Aww, isn’t that cute? You just keep working hard and someday you might get to pastor a real church.”
Ok, so I made up that last part. No one has ever said those exact words to me. But I’ve run into that perception a lot. I ran into it when we met in a hotel. I’m running into it now that we’re meeting in a school.
There are a lot of people who seem to believe that a church’s legitimacy is based on where they meet. Specifically, it’s based on a building that they have bought or, better yet, built.
Can I point out something? There are a whole lot of stunningly beautiful buildings and cathedrals that house churches who are dying or dead. It’s painfully clear that a building is NOT what makes a church effective.
Here’s what I wrote on Facebook after our second service at the school this week. “We’re still learning and experimenting with our new setup, but there is no doubt about this: when God shows up, you can do church anywhere. And He showed up today!”
So yes…we are a church that meets in a school. And we are proud of it! We don’t view portability as something to run from. It is not a necessary evil that we have to endure. It is a gift of grace from God that we readily embrace.
Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty of friends and family who are part of churches that meet in established buildings. Nothing wrong with that. And God may choose to lead Connect in that direction one day. If/When He does, we will follow. No doubt about it.
But we can’t view this time in our history as perpetually transitional. We are a portable church. That doesn’t mean we’re sitting in the waiting room, waiting for our name to finally be called so we can become a real church. We are the real deal, right now. We’re proud of our portability! It’s not something we shy away from. It’s something that we lean into.
Here’s part of what I mean. God opened the door for us to begin meeting at Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary School. We actually had looked at this location for a long time. We prayed about it for a long time, but the timing just wasn’t right. The doors were always closed. But God has now opened the door for us. And He didn’t open this door for no reason. We are not here by accident. We are here by divine appointment.
We absolutely believe that God placed us at WT to love and serve the families that make up the school, as well as the entire West Clermont school district.
We haven’t just been given a new location. We’ve been given a new and clarified mission. We are here to love and serve the families of West Clermont. And our love and service will open doors for us to reach them with the gospel.
So as I said from the stage yesterday, you’re going to see a very different vision and strategy emerge at Connect over the next few months. We’re going to do things that we’ve never done before. We’re going to take risks that we’ve never taken before. It’s going to be audacious. It’s going to be risky. It’s going to be expensive. But we are going all in. We are NOT going to play it safe.
There are hundreds of families in this district that are struggling and hurting and broken. And Connect is committed to be a source of help and a source of hope for them. We will take risks. We will be generous. We will love and serve and give…and that will open doors for us to connect more people to Jesus.
And it’s all because God has allowed us to be a portable church that meets in a school.
Mike Edmisten is Senior Pastor at Connect Christian Church, a portable church that meets on the eastside of Cincinnati at Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary. Join us for our official launch day on Dec. 6.