I read this on the new blog of Ryan Bolger. I realize his point was in reference to teaching specifically on worship. However, this one phrase, describing emergent churches, jumped out at me...."transforming secular space." It got my wheels turnin'.
We currently run 3 services in two different locations at Crossroads; a saturday night service at a community center in stratford and two Sunday morning services at the YMCA in Trumbull.
We ran out of room at the YMCA and at the same time realized we had a large group of folks coming from Stratford up to Trumbull so we launched a 3rd service at the Community center in stratford. We wanted to open up seats in Trumbull so we would have room to invite our friends and feeling like God was moving in stratford, we wanted to be a part of what He was doing there.
We have opened up seats in Trumbull and we are starting to have an impact in Stratford. In both locations part of our impact has been simply because we are in the middle of the community. We are where people go throughout the week. We take secular space and transform it.
People are working their butts off to make this happen. There are three of us on staff and everyone else is volunteer. We transform a cafeteria and gym into a sanctuary and then take it down again every weekend. Our folks look tired. For the most part, people have maintained great attitudes, for the most part. We have lots of conversations about avoiding burn-out.
The question on everyone's mind is, "Will we ever have a place of our own?" That has been the question on my mind as well. Recently though, for me, the question has evolved into "Should we have a place of our own?" Are we more effective being in the middle of the community? Being in a non-traditional/traditional place like New England, would we be more effective if we had white clapboard siding and a steeple? Would that give us more legitimacy in the highly cynical eyes of New Englanders? If we weren't so busy setting up and taking down (and recovering from that) would we have more time to reach out to our friends, to those in need around us? What would we be sacrificing by moving out of secular space? Jesus spent most of his time outside the temple walls, right? If we built temple walls would would those wall become "a refuge from the world or a refuge for the world?"