Church with No Forwarding Address

I have been called by Bellevue Christian Church to be their pastor and planter.  The latter is of course very new territory that has no physical address, and at this time, the possibilities are endless, making vision the first goal.  However, I am writing not about the plant but about the exciting existing congregation: Bellevue Christian Church.  I met this congregation in person a month after they sold their wonderful physical facilities. The building was too big and too expensive to maintain for this “graying” congregation.  The decision must have been difficult and gut-wrenching, but these heroes did just that.  This group of Christians did the unthinkable–they sold the building.

Σπλαγχνίζομαι (Splanchnizomai) is the word that comes to my mind when I think of Bellevue Christian Church.  The root of this word it splangchna, “pity” or more literally “bowels.”  Specifically, it was used to refer to the organs removed in a blood sacrifice prior to the Christian context, when it started being used to refer to being moved to compassion from the gut.[i]  As I wrote above this decision was gut-wrenching, and their decision was based on self-care.

Splanchnizomai is the word Jesus uses for the hungry crowds (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2).  It is wonderful that Jesus refers to this feeling of pity coming up through his “guts.”  Thus it should be also when the Body of Christ (Church) should also feel and act.  To truly understand compassion it is important that the empathy is from the gut.  Even when you are part of the crowd and the Body of Christ, even when it’s about your local congregation, you need to search your gut for the way.

Bellevue acted on this compassion, and left their building.  They have funded some great things with the sale, but what is important is this congregation still exists.  They are currently visiting a local UCC congregation for Sunday morning worship, which may or may not be a new home, and may or may not be 50% more people to the congregation.

It may have felt like, and still is, a sacrifice for some of the members. It is also self-care.  They could have kept the church in the building, renting it out more, developing programs that would attract a family or two.  However, in their collective gut they knew what was compassionate.  And just as Jesus was moved to feed the thousands with limited resources, they opened up many resources for scholarships, multiple plants, regional ministries, and their own authenticity.

Their own authenticity is going to be their greatest gift to themselves, as well as part of their new vision.   Instead of worrying about the building or growing, we will be worrying about our spiritual practices, about each other, and we will grow.  However, I don’t know where.


12 thoughts on “Church with No Forwarding Address

  1. JC, blessings on your calling to Bellevue! May you and yours find fulfillment as you explore new horizons, the Holy Spirit leading you. And God bless this authentically compassionate and visionary congregation, and the blessed legacy they have just planted. May every DOC church family be so open to the Spirit’s leading–each in the particular ways God calls them to be, in their own particular place at this particular time.

  2. You are awesome, JC.
    By the way, I sent you a Facebook msg. Don’t know if you got it.
    Blessings on this journey to the big Northwest!

  3. What a great opportunity! I am serving First Christian Church of San Bernardino. We too have sold our building (escrow is due to close in November). We have made an offer on another church property in another part of town–smaller church, safer neighborhood. I’m completely immersed in the process of cleaning out and weeding out. I don’t know what we’ll look like when we’re settled, but I hope it will look fresh and new, with a corner to celebrate out history! Blessings to you and Bellevue.

  4. GREAT post JC. You have caught the spirit of the Bellevue folk in an exciting way. They are a courageous people and you and your family coming to join with them in this emerging journey is a real plus. Welcome to the Northwest – a great and challenging place to do ministry! Blessings on you as you close your ministry there and begin your westward journey. See you soon.

  5. In the 57.5 years of the Bellevue CC history adversity has always raused our greatest of intellectual focus, spiritual integrety, and the outcomes have always amazed us how strong God was alive and well in our midst. And so it was when we filled in the swamp, under the main 104th street level, which at the time was the main road off the east channel bridge into Bellevue. We chased mice out of the old wood cottage, we built our first building and expanded within a couple years after. The DNA of BCC is meeting challenges that only through God and His living spirit through each heart reached goals unimaginable. My folks were 57 & 58 added to the original 49ers coming in January of 1956 just after the charter closed. You have been called to lead a congregation of intellegence, creative energy beyond explanation, and giant faith. We always new we would have to move east when the main road moved and would have if we didn’t have to sell our property in 1971 after our split to keep going, then recreated ourselves again. So now you are back on track, shedding the building finally to meet another new beginning. I know with your fresh leadership and their hearts and minds of faith you are ready to meet any challenge set before you. My heart and history will remain always your. Gratefully Mike Perkins

    • Mike, what a “good word” from you and what a reminder of part of the history that isn’t always known or remembered as it should. You are a living, breathing evidence of the spiritual life that has emerged from the Bellevue congregation over the years, in spite of some pretty difficult situations and challenging circumstances. Your word also remind me of some very good times we have shared in past years. Shalom!

    • I can’t wait to hear more of the stories as we move ahead. I am honored to be creating new stories with those that shed the building. We know we have not shed what it means to be church. Blessings, JC

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