I promised at the beginning of the year that I would write more frequently here. And I did. But then I stopped. I promise you, this was not because I forgot or because I was getting lazy. I needed to not talk about much for a span of time and now I’m ready to say why. And I can get back to fulfilling my commitment.
What was happening was that my church was in the middle of being given a building.
My church started in a bar in Black Mountain, NC. College students and a bunch of folks not really comfortable with church started a church in a bar and we moved around a bit. We met in a college building. We met for years in the community room of a home for children. Two years ago, we moved to the local middle school. Every time we moved, it was because we needed more space. Our people just kept having babies and all those babies needed room. We needed room to all fit in one space together.
The middle school we moved into was a place that we felt (and still feel) committed to. Our community sends its kids to that school. The kinds of people that Jesus loves end up at that school. Middle schoolers are awkward and forgotten. They’re not elementary school kids anymore and they’re not high schoolers. They’re… middle. And Jesus loves awkward, forgotten, middle people. We want to be close to that school. Worshipping there would give us the opportunity to be physically close and also to give us more room.
Lots of room. Too much room.
The auditorium was a giant grey box that could fit about 8x more people than we have on a Sunday. It was loud and echo-y and sterile. No more beautiful light streaming into the community room or gym of at the home for children. No more playground for our kids to play after church.
It was the right place to be, but it was hard. So hard.
If you didn’t know, the Asheville, NC area is a pretty popular place to be. People love Asheville. I go to other parts of the country and I always, always, always meet people who hear where I live and they always let out this little sigh/moan “Oh! I’m jealous. I love Asheville.” I know. I know you are. And that’s why lots of people are moving here (there’s traffic here now, much to our collective chagrin). That means space is incredibly expensive.
And guess what people in this area with lots of babies don’t generally have a lot of. Yes. That is correct. Money. We’ve never had a ton of money. We don’t have a bunch of 50-year-old brain surgeons making $250K a year who like to give lots of money to us. We’re all basically in the front half of our lives. And careers. And baby-making phases. Our budget is modest, to say the least. I was just looking through our financial past through old documents and I had to shake my head. I can’t believe we made it. I mean, where we are now feels like luxury compared to where we were. But we still have a very modest budget that we’re not sure we’ll meet this year. And you know what never ever ever EVER would fit into that budget? A large downpayment and a mortgage for a property.
I just… never thought it would happen. Unless our annual budget miraculously quintupled, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable jumping at land or a building or something like that.
And then… some folks just gave us one.
A church just down the road from us invited us to move into their building and have their remaining members join our church. Their asking price for this building with a sanctuary and classrooms and a fellowship hall and some offices was… $0.
I kid you not, I still cannot wrap my mind around this whole thing. I have an office where I can leave my stuff. It’s actually connected to the place where we will have church on Sunday, our fourth Sunday here. I have never been able to walk inside the room where I will preach on any day except the Sunday that I get up and do it. We’ve never been able to get our whole church together to have a meal whenever we wanted. We’ve never been able to put things in rooms for our kids… and leave them there.
I just… I’m still dumbfounded.
I told our church in January, when I announced that this was happening, that this is not something I prayed for. I am not that faithful a person. I just never would have dreamed to ask for something like that. I’m just speechless. The people here who decided to do this built this building with their blood, sweat, and tears. They poured their lives into this beautiful place and you can see it and feel it everywhere. They’re not in our denomination. They’re not in our generation. They have different musical tastes than us. They stand to gain nothing at all.
And they just… gave it away.
Do you know why? Because of Jesus. Because Jesus is so clearly worth it to them. They want this place to remain a church and not be converted or torn down so a new restaurant or housing development (or both) could be put in. They love Jesus and they want this place in the Swannanoa Valley to still be a place where Jesus is talked about and sung about and celebrated. And for them, this whole exchange was entirely worth it.
Because of Jesus. Jesus is worth that to them.
And me, on the other side of this whole thing, I have to agree. Who else is like Jesus? Who else would do something like this? I don’t know. I really don’t.
He’s so, so good.
I can barely believe it.
This was written from my new office. It’s located at 115 Rockdale Ave., Swannanoa, NC. Where our church now worships. In the sanctuary whose doors I can point to from where I sit. Which I still cannot quite grasp. But you’re more than welcome to come see for yourself.