A friend of mine, named Kaz Sekine, planted a successful church in the heart of Tokyo where real estate costs are among the highest on earth. With nowhere available to rent they had to innovate. Kaz and his friends planted the church in a park, during a typhoon.
Flexibility comes from understanding that form follows function. You needn’t do what you’ve seen done, in order to accomplish whatever God put in your heart. There is no “right” way to plant a church. You study the New Testament, your situation and go with what works.
The function is to gather people so you can equip them for ministry. The best form is “whatever it takes to accomplish the task.”
Church In A Typhoon
With no permit, they set up folding chairs and held services outdoors in Shinjuku Park, near thousands of coffee shops and nightspots that attract thousands young adults. That first Sunday found the new congregation meeting outdoors during a the first phase of a typhoon. The church was born under umbrellas while everyone braced themselves against high winds.
Eighteen months later, the congregation moved into a nightclub. However, on the last Sunday in the park, like the first, umbrellas were again necessary. This time they popped up to protect worshipers from a snowstorm. Flexible thinking allowed my friends and their congregation to prevail in an environment where others often fail.
Not everyone can plant a church. New ventures always risk failure, so they demand a high level of operational faith. A journey into uncharted waters requires a resourceful and flexible team. Sometimes it even requires umbrellas.
Church On The Beach
Before we started Hope Chapel in Hawaii, we negotiated an agreement to lease an entire floor of a new office building. Just two weeks before we moved, the management reneged on its verbal agreement. Our team had already quit jobs and shipped our household belongings to Oahu so there was no turning back.
My partners and I immediately flew to Oahu to make new arrangements. We searched public schools, parks and even a banquet room in a Chinese restaurant. Everyone turned us down. Our new church was born under a tree at the beach. We made it look like a large picnic (with a guy preaching) and constantly feared the worst as churches are not permitted in parks where we live—the policeman eyeing us each week only made it worse. He never got out of the car but we were certainly aware of his presence.
The litany of rejections simply made the task more exciting. We chose to be flexible and enjoyed watching God provide an innovative solution.
A Community As A Church Campus
I currently pastor a church in a movie theater. We have no building fund and no plans to build. We see the city as our campus. One beach park is our baptistry. We train people in a conference room at a public library. We keep a virtual office via technology and coffee shops. We’ve learned that form must subordinate itself to function if we are to successfully extend the kingdom of God (Adapted from Starting A New Church by Ralph Moore).
What would you do if you had to find new facilities on very short notice?
Please comment (below). How do you respond to unexpected changes? If you are flexible, then sudden challenges can’t blow away your plans… Any stories like the ones above would help others.