Put the Kingdom First

by Matthew Raley When organizations ask individuals and families to put the Kingdom of Christ first in their time and finances in order to support the ministry, the response is often justifiable cynicism. Aren't you really asking me to put you first? Is this really about the Kingdom?

The leaders of Orland Evangelical Free Church (OEFC) know that the church can't ask individuals to do what the organization itself isn't willing to do. The building plan we're proposing was born out of a conviction that we need to put the Kingdom first institutionally.

As I said on Sunday morning, we are asking the congregation to invest in a building it will not own.

There are two ministries that will use this building, North Valley Christian Schools (NVCS) and OEFC. NVCS has its own board of directors, its own property, its own goals, its own staff and operations. Some leaders do serve on both the OEFC and NVCS boards, but NVCS's directors come from several churches in the area, including home churches.

Both of these ministries have visions for new facilities.

The building we are proposing was designed by a site committee, some of whose members come from other churches. It was designed not as a church that can also support school uses, but as a school that can also support church uses. The plan is that OEFC will invest in this school building, in return gaining use of office space, classrooms, and an auditorium.

The representatives from other churches see this not as a threat to their ministries, but as an opportunity for NVCS to gain a better facility than it could otherwise build. They express this confidence because area churches are developing a strong working relationship.

The facility will be both owned and managed by NVCS. The school will not only hold title but will administer scheduling and maintenance. OEFC, in other words, will have a say in facility use, but will not have control. As I said on Sunday, "We're asking the congregation to put the school in the driver's seat. That will accomplish more for the Kingdom."

A use agreement has been drafted that details both the responsibilities of the two organizations in using the building, and how their respective investments will be tracked.

The arrangement we are proposing is open-ended, but explicitly temporary. At some point in the next twenty years, the two ministries will grow so much that sharing one building will be a hindrance rather than an advantage. Then NVCS can buy out OEFC's investment, and OEFC can build a specialized church facility on its own adjacent parcel, a facility that will give the school still more space.

In effect, then, we are asking OEFC's congregation to delay the dream of having its own facility under its own control -- delay it indefinitely. Sharing facilities will involve intensive coordination, much patience, and clear accountability. But these are disciplines we should cultivate anyway.

I am proud of this congregation's unity and large spirit. I am particularly excited to see this spirit connecting us to other churches in the region. I have no doubt that as the church institutionally puts the Kingdom first, individual members will follow with joy.