Eugene Cho

what to do with church buildings

here and there, i get listings of churches forwarded to my inbox from friends who are real estate agents.  churches that were once thriving but left with very few choices.  most will sell off their properties and within a year or two, you’ll see condos, retail buildings, office spaces, and my worst fear – another starbucks store.  the sad part is that the while the Kingdom’s future is not contingent on that property, that ‘physical’ space will never return to be used for the Kingdom.

and the reality is that this is a very common story.  a scenario happening all around the country – especially in urban location.  this morning, i read about the long drama surrounding the building of seattle first united methodist church.   after what seems to be at least couple years of conversations, discussions, and drama, a decision has been made to preserve the actual sanctuary but demolish the church annex.  eventually, a 40 story tower will be built to add to the already very busy seattle downtown landscape.

After decades of uncertainty, the sanctuary at First United Methodist Church will be saved, its buyer said today.  More than 250 people attended a Sunday church meeting, when members unanimously approved a deal to sell the property at 811 Fifth Ave., said Kevin Daniels, president of Nitze-Stagen & Co., a developer of commercial properties with historical value…

Nitze-Stagen plans to demolish the church annex south of the sanctuary — but keep the sanctuary — and erect a 40-story tower with about 670,000 square feet, Daniels said…

The congregation put its downtown property up for sale because the costs of repairing and maintaining the sanctuary consumed cash it needs to support its ministry to the homeless. Church members also say the sanctuary is too large for their needs. [read full article]

according to this article, the church [likely the funds distributed between the church and UMC denomonination] will be paid $24million dollars by developers.

i’m not entirely sure how i feel about the whole situation.  i’m saddened that this church got to a point where they were simply unable to sustain their ministry and maintain their properties.  i’m quasi-ok about the church sanctuary being maintained as a means to honor the church and appease the preservationists since this was a “historical building.”  i’m more curious how the funds will be used.

the reality is there are many urban [especially downtown] churches that are simply no longer able to have a vibrant and engaging ministry presence.  it’s usually not just the church and its ministry; there’s simply too many variables to consider the reasons for the struggles of urban churches.  many of these churches also have many years of history.  my vote is to sell them off for as much money as possible and redistribute those funds for the purpose of churchplanting [especially urban churchplants], local community development projects, and global missions.  the other option: give the properties to another church that may be a more effective steward of the facilities.

Filed under: church, churchplanting, emerging church, seattle

7 Responses

  1. ethanmorris says:

    Couldn’t agree more bro.

    Where is the missional heart that would raise up those who would use God’s resources for His glory? In an urban setting there is endless opportunity to employ these buildings for Kingdom use.

    The problem I have typically seen is the lack of vision more than a lack of resources when it comes to the urban church abandoning their properties. We need a generation that is willing to charge into the abandoned church (not just buildings) in our cities and take the gospel to the least of these.

  2. derek says:

    Release the funds for the kingdom.

  3. Don says:

    Great post Eugene. For years I’ve been wrestling with the notion of sacred space. Being incarnational is part of the gospel and that entail occupying and using (redeeming?) space. You do it well at “Q”. In the Santa Barbara community there are a number of space-less churches that have tried to maintain a long-term ministry by renting/leasing. The adventure fades as they face so much transportation and set-up time eating into being and doing gospel. Is God pushing the church to occupy smaller, more financially viable (responsible) spaces so that we can be built into redemptive communities and not consuming crowds?

  4. Rex Hamilton says:

    Good thoughts Eugene! Not sure if you were aware that the recent issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine has an extensive article on urban churches facing this decision of selling. It also looks at City Church based here in the Eastside where I minister and their recent take over of an old church and why this super-charasmatic evangelical church is succeeding in an area that you really wouldn’t think it should. Keep up the good work…

  5. Good thoughts indeed.
    The more I look at church and nonprofit budgets, the more I observe that personnel and building costs eat up the majority of most budgets. What creative ways are there for us to minimize these costs so as to “release more funds for the kingdom” as Derek said? Can we share buildings, or staff? Can tentmaking become a more popular model for pastors to follow?

  6. e cho says:

    all good thoughts and ideas.
    i really think that pastors and churches need to take some classes on creative usage of spaces. churches CAN’T just be used on Sundays or even two days/week. Churches, in my opinion, CAN’T assume that they can only depend on the giving of their churchgoers. The burden is too heavy and too many variables.
    so, in that end, i resonate with Ethan’s comments about ‘vision’ or the lack of vision with many of our urban churches with many many years of history. the context and world around us has changed and we simply can’t afford to DO church AS IS.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

These are crazy, turbulent times. Fight the good fight. Run the race set before us.

But we also need you for the long haul. Don't burn out. Discipleship and justice work is a marathon. Learn to take care of yourself. Don't play the victim. It's far too tempting to blame others. Be rooted in prayer, Scripture, and community. It's okay to pause, critical to rest and retreat, and godly to practice Sabbath.

#NoteToSelf Everyone loves the idea of  reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. Charlottesville. So heartbreaking and infuriating. We weep and mourn over the hatred in the hearts of these white nationalists. We weep and mourn but we can't be defeated.

As I stare at this photo that's making its round on the internet, I'm reminded of the utter importance of showing up. I'm grateful for the news media, law enforcement, clergy, and peaceful protesters that are currently there to report, protect, pray, and protest.

And this is an invitation to us. May we not be mere bystanders. May we keep pressing forward. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Commit to truth-telling, justice, reconciliation, peacemaking. Follow the ways of Christ. Every day. And it's important to note that we don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. In fact, it's more important that we do this exactly where we're at. May we live out the call to reconciliation in our churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and around our dining tables. Lord, may it be so... We don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. We have to do this wherever were called to be.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /// Thanks to those who let me know that the photo wasn't actually from today but rather from last month in Charlottesville. - https://www.facebook.com/FrankSomervilleKTVU/posts/1551137301616258:0 Grateful for a spontaneous, last minute trip with Minhee to my old stomping grounds - San Francisco. 48 hours of visiting this special city that I called home for so many years.

Pic 1: Went to the Cliff House restaurant where we got engaged about 21 years ago to make out. Oops, sorry, I meant...to reflect on God's faithfulness over these many years.

Pic 2: Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge because it's such an iconic place - with some of the most incredible views.

Pic 3: Enjoyed a glass of some Cabernet Sauvignon and pretended to be wine connoisseurs at a vineyard.

Pic 4: Had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Sam Tung, which boasts some of the best chicken in the country. And of course, we ate at In-n-out.

Pic 5: And finally, celebrated with the good folks at @thefreedomstory where @onedayswages received their annual Freedom Award. What an honor.

Grateful. Thankful for this sabbatical. Breathe.

Show yourself some grace.

We can't do everything for everyone in every situation. Do what you can and do it with a joyful heart.

Amen A family that eats sushi together stays together.

Seriously, I don't ever remember eating so much as a teenager but these kids eat and eat and eat. Perhaps, the reason why this kid is pushing 6 feet tall. Grateful for a special treat with the family at @JaponessaSeattle.

my tweets