For we walk by faith… 2 Cor 5:7
After the Israelites left Egypt, God brought them to the Jordan River (picture above) to cross over into the land promised to their ancestor Abraham. All they had to do was take possession of that land. We know the story of how they sent spies into land and saw that it was pleasing – “a land flowing with milk and honey”. The Israelites had an opportunity to experience incredible blessings, but they didn’t take possession of the land and were forced to wander in the desert for 40 years. Instead of milk and honey, they had quail and manna as God provided for them during their wandering. Then next generation of Israelites took possession of the land and got to experience what God had planned for their parents. If you read the book of Joshua, you see that God was with them as they went forward in faith.
In the 142-year history of our church, Oak Grove has been where we are today four times – standing on the banks of the “Jordan River”. As I understand, Oak Grove has had four sanctuaries and one cedar pergola to meet for worship. Each time they outgrew their space, they built a new one by faith. They didn’t waver at the waters edge. Now it is our turn to walk in faith. Two years ago, we discussed building a new sanctuary and even had concept drawings made. We didn’t move forward at the time but we do need to begin thinking along those lines again. The Building and Grounds committee has already met to discuss how our church should proceed.
We have very exciting opportunities at our church. China Spring is a large and growing community. God has blessed us with new guests every week and many of these have continued to attend our church and become members as well. I often ask guests how they heard about our church. The common response is usually a friend recommended Oak Grove to them. I believe, based on the last four years, we will continue to have families visit and join our church. This is good news! A vibrant church is a growing church.
When a church grows, it gets crowded in the sanctuary. We should not view this as a problem but an opportunity. We have the opportunity minister to more people. As families come to and join our church, it increases our opportunity to be salt and light in our community and share the love of God through Christ with more people. The question is what to do when it gets crowded. In the past, we have used various methods to deal with our space limitations. We have removed walls, filled the space with chairs, and had two services. Each of these was used until a new sanctuary was built. We do need a new sanctuary, but are not ready to build one right now and it could be 2-3 years before we could break ground on a new space. The question remains, what do we do right now?
The deacons and the building and grounds committee have both discussed this question. There is not a “right” answer but one suggestion seems to make the most sense – to remove the pews and replace them with chairs. The sanctuary has 36 pews that usually hold 4-5 people every Sunday. This means we have a maximum occupancy of 180 seats in the pews. Studies show that when a meeting space is 80% full, it feels too crowded and is considered “full”. We have been averaging 160 people this year – almost 90%. We have compensated by adding rows of chairs to the back and sometimes down the aisles. If we filled every available space in the sanctuary with chairs as it is with the pews, we would only get 240 seats. This would block the entrances and the aisles. If we remove the pews and put in chairs, we can put 300+ chairs in the same space, without any crowding or blocking of exits and aisles. We would increase seating by 120 by removing the pews (180 seats) and adding chairs (300 seats). Click this link to see pictures of what this could look like.
I am sure you have questions and I will attempt to answer some of them.
Has this decision already been made?
No. This has only been discussed. The decision to change to chairs is a conversation that should happen among our members. We will have a ministry conference on April 3rd at 6:00 pm to deal with regular church business and consider this change.
What will it cost?
Obviously, there would be a financial investment and we will raise the funds. Depending on the chair chosen, the cost is either $35 or $45 per chair. We believe it is possible to sell the pews to offset the expense needed to purchase chairs.
Have we actually measured this out? It looks good on paper but will it work?
Yes, we have removed pews and put chairs in the actual space to see if the chairs would fit. We didn’t put 300 chairs in the entire space, but we did lay out rows and chairs and know it can work.
Shouldn’t we wait and put that expense towards a new building?
That’s a good question and has been discussed as well. While we could put that money towards a new building the question remains – “What do we do right now?” Right now, we have the opportunity with the growth of China Spring and the guests and families who are coming to our church to reach out to our community. Our giving has continued to increase as new families join and give to our church.
If we grow, how will I know everyone?
I have heard similar questions/sentiments many times in churches both large and small. I want to answer this question with two passages from the Bible. In Genesis 1 God created the earth and put Adam in the garden. He told Adam to “be fruitful and multiply”. God’s intention was never for Adam and Eve to remain alone. In Matthew 28, Jesus gave the command to His disciples to “go make disciples”. Both commands require growth to fulfill the command. The church is to be a fruitful body that grows and multiplies itself. If we claim to be a church that loves God and follows His word then we should be a growing church both numerically and spiritually.
It is truly impossible to “know” everyone in a church unless that church has less than 20 members. I would venture to guess that no one knows everyone who participates in one of our weekly church activities. Over 550 people attend now. They are not all here at the same time, but they are part of our body at different times.
Should we wait to see what happens with the economy?
It is easy to be fearful about the unknown. The future is always unknown. But, we do know that our God is faithful and generous. He can make the finances available to us when we may not see how it is possible. God can provide for both chairs and a new sanctuary in unexpected ways.
Obviously there are other questions and we want you to come to the Ministry Conference on April 3 at 6:00 pm to discuss them. If you have another idea how we can increase our seating and provide space for more people, please share. Make plans to attend on April 3 and begin to pray right now for the future of our church.