I first heard Francis Chan speaking on one of the Passion sessions and loved his orthodoxy as well a his enthusiasm as a communicator. Finding more about FC and Cornerstone (the church he leads in California, Simi Cornerstone) I found a radical building project/approach to missions. Here is a video that explains a bit about it : i.e. the decision not to throw tens of millions of dollars at a new building.
A compelling story to say the least, and if you click onthe link to their facility site, it’s a beautiful community concept as well.
The story is that his church was on track to spend 20 million dollars to build a new building. What happened, and I don’t know how, was that the decision was made to build an outdoor meeting place instead. Much cheaper. Much much cheaper. And the money that was saved would then go to the truly poor around the world. And, the story goes, meeting outside on rainy days or hot days would serve to remind folks in the church of the discomfort others live in every day.
Spend less. Create empathy. Mobilize to show mercy. Sounds like church to me.
He told this story at the National Worship Leader Conference. He said that he told them it was repulsive to spend that much money on themselves, and he could never pastor such a group of people. He said that he, as a pastor, would be responsible for that before God.
He suggested that every time an offering was taken that it was divided equally – half spent on their church, half spent on others outside the church. This is the only way Christians can claim that they love their neighbor as much as themselves.
He said that if we really believe Jesus is starving (cf. Matt 25), then we can’t sit back and let that happen and expect to call ourselves Christians.
So, he told the elders it was repulsive to spend that kind of money on themselves when Jesus was starving on the other side of the world. He suggested building a park with an amphitheater that the community could use and they could hold services in – and would cost less money; the rest could be given away. When one asked about the weather, Chan reminded them of the Green Bay Packers fans who sit through a blizzard for the season every year. Packers fans are that dedicated for the team; are Christians that dedicated to sit outside in Southern California weather so that Jesus, who is starving on the other side of the world, can be fed?
Here is what they say:
On a practical level, Cornerstone has been unable to grow numerically for the past seven years. This is due to lack of space. While many would be content to keep our church at the current size, our mission statement reads that we seek to reach “every individual” in our community.
The obvious solution would be to buy more property and build a bigger building. However, this would require spending an amount of money that none of the leaders feel peace about spending. This lack of peace primarily springs from a desire to give more to the poor who are suffering around the world.
The idea of building an outdoor sanctuary rather than an auditorium sprung from a desire to save millions of dollars. It came from a belief that God would rather we spend that money in other ways. It comes from a thought that God would receive more glory from seeing His children sacrifice for others – namely, those around the world who lack basic necessities. The idea then evolved into developing the property into more of a park-like setting that could be enjoyed by the church and community throughout the week. In this way, we would be giving to our community as well as to the needy around the world.
In reality, this is about more than a building. The park/amphitheater is an expression of a mindset. It represents a group of people who are willing to sacrifice their own comforts in order to better care for others. The following are not just reasons to build inexpensively, but they are the reasons why Cornerstone strives to be a “giving” church.
1. We love the poor: People around the world desperately need aid (Romans 12:13). 2. We love Jesus: He says that He is the One suffering (Matthew 25:35-36).
3. It’s best for us: We’ll be more joyful if we give rather than receive (Acts 20:35).
4. It affects unbelievers: They are impacted when they see good works (Matthew 5:16).
5. It models Christ: Laying down our lives is how we imitate Christ (1 John 3:16-17).
6. We gain eternal rewards: God rewards those who care for the poor (Matthew 9:21).