Below is the Vision for Living Hope Church, crafted prior to the construction of our present facility.  Please note intentional redundancy in this document! The point was to develop a comprehensive look at who we are, where God is leading, and how we intend to get there.

From the very beginning our vision has been:  Living Hope Church exists to bring people everywhere to Jesus, our “living hope,” that they may Honor God through worship, Offer love and support to each other, Pattern their lives after His Word, and Engage in serving Him.  This vision speaks to our foremost purpose: To help people establish a real and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

With the move to our 26 acres and first building, we have the chance to solidify this vision as never before; we have the chance to “get it right;” we have the chance to paint the enduring picture that church isn’t a place, it’s about living, interacting, and being with people in everyday life, in a host of situations and environments.  

Building the way we will should continually remind us that church isn’t a building, or a specific brand of religion; it’s people who’ve wrapped their lives around Christ and then intentionally become involved in the lives of others.   

This means there’s no “institutional arrangement” that could ever contain what the church is.  Let’s not get caught up in the institution – or in the building. Let’s never think of church as a destination only.  Put simply, everything about our building and property must proclaim and provide the opportunity for relationships – with each other and with God.

As it relates to methodology, “Come and hear” is powerful! There will always be a place for solid proclamation of the Word.  Make no mistake – we remain committed to the proclamation of the Word!

But in this postmodern, post-Christian world, “Let’s get together and explore faith” is vitally important.  That’s so much of what’s behind certain contemporary church movements, this core desire for dialogue, discussion and conversation.  Too many people in this postmodern culture associate “come and hear” with an antiquated, out of date religious system. We must never let an undying devotion to “form” prevent us from finding new ways to connect.

Therefore, the purpose with a new facility, and the entire 26 acres, is to create spaces and places where we can naturally “be” the church, not just create a better place where we can “go to” church.   

A building will simply be a part of a much greater end, namely a place where we can be alongside other believers, as together we interact with those in our community.   And together, we’ll look for those natural, relational opportunities to explore what it means to be in relationship with God.  

What we want to do, then, is create a place that the community would easily relate to.  Put simply, it can’t look like some sort of impenetrable fortress.  Rather, it should provide multiple opportunities for people to connect.  As Ray Oldenburg says in his book, “The Great Good Place, “. . .sort of a home away from home where unrelated people can relate. “

So it becomes very important that everything about our building (design, colors, shapes, layout, etc.) communicate a sense of belonging, warmth, caring. . .and even fun! That’s one reason we have dedicated space for a wonderful children’s playground!

We believe that a typical church building in this postmodern culture is not typically well suited to accomplish this.  While a multipurpose gathering space is obviously needed, the building should clearly convey that it was built for others, not just for us.  

Toward this goal, we’ll establish an actual coffee shop that is open to the public like any other coffee shop.  We’ve talked with multiple coffee shops, managers, baristas, etc.  And several of these do more than serve great coffee; they are active communities of faith.

Our coffee shop manager would, in effect, be a pastor to this community, for the coffee shop is just as much the church as the multipurpose/worship space.  It’s another place where relationships can be established and faith explored.  It’s another place to do life with people.

Workers could include anyone from the church, and possibly college students we could challenge and reach by sharing this vision and providing opportunities to serve.  And, of course, we could hire and train baristas just like any other coffee shop.

An outdoor seating area could be utilized to bring that “front porch” feel that conveys invitation and warmth.  We want people to settle in and linger, just like they would in someone’s home. Again, we want people to feel like extended family, where we know them by name, and hope they stay for as long as they want.  One phrase which speaks to this is:

       “There are no strangers here, just friends who haven’t met.”

Some potential “friends” we can meet are found when we look at the demographics of our location.  There are more moms and kids in our area than we can possibly count. Elementary schools are everywhere and filled to the brim.  But that’s not all. A “fitness studio” could easily fit into this picture, something that both men and women could enjoy at designated or reserved times.  And this workout area is as much “the church” as anything else.  

Picture one possible scenario:  The coffee shop, workout area, and programming for parents, all working in conjunction with each other to provide young families a place to bring their kids, workout together, or have coffee together, or both.  And we’d be there to do this part of life WITH them. We could also have nice biking and walking trails around the property.

What’s vitally important is that the people of Living Hope, and the staff who work in these areas, be in tune with our purpose, vision and mission.  We’re out to build relationships, not just provide alternative fun/retail/service type stuff.

An example of this can be seen with some church daycares.  Too often they just provide alternative care, but make no real attempt to build relationships with people.  They assume that something good will happen just because the provision of some service is being made. Our staff and workers will intentionally pray about and look for opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation at every turn.    

In Oldenburg’s book he mentions a school principal who spent a portion of almost every day at a local restaurant.  He seemed, in the eyes of his faculty, to be taking advantage of his position. In fact, however, he met a good many parents in that restaurant; parents who didn’t have time to dress up and spend time waiting in his outer office.  

Our staff could work in our shop at different times of the day, meeting people, rubbing shoulders with the community.   In fact, the idea of office in public places is actually seen in other cultures.  Wouldn’t it be cool for teens to know that they can come in and find their youth pastor there after school?  Or for parents to drop in, knowing that they’d find the children’s pastor in the shop?

If we do this right, we can create a focus, a working model if you will, for how each of us can fulfill the  apostle Paul’s desire in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (the Message)

So in addition to trained staff, we would need some of our own people to say, “I’ll workout there.  I’ll bring my kids there. I’ll have regular coffee with my friends there.” Again, I’ve seen too many daycares or church schools where no one really cares to build relationships; they simply provide the same thing someone else does while putting the Christian label on it.

One final, interesting thing I want to note is that the early synagogue actually functioned as a type of “Jewish community center” with the communal dimension easily highlighted (meeting place, court, charity, place of study, library, place of residence, etc.)  

I found this bit of information online:  “Lee Levine, professor of Jewish history and archaeology at the Hebrew University, who has written on the history of the synagogue since 1975, has provided us with the single best survey of all relevant historical, archaeological, architectural, and institutional issues related to one of the oldest surviving institutions of the world.

As it involves the origins of the synagogue, Levine abandons the older theories that presupposed the religious function of the synagogue as primary, assuming that new religious circumstances gave rise to this new institution beside the Jerusalem Temple. Since the synagogues of the first century A.D. were foremost communal institutions, Levine suggests that their origins should be seen in the city-gate as the focal point of communal activity in the First Temple period.”

Our takeaway from this?  Let’s not build a building just for ourselves and the “religious function” we want it to serve.  Let’s build in a way that honors God by portraying the church as vital to every aspect of daily life.

If we see church as something we “go to,” then that’s consumerism, pure and simple.  We’ve got to do more than just consume. The entire New Testament makes it clear that it is in giving that we receive.  And that’s why we‘ll do what we do on the property and with our building. . .provide multiple, creative ways to be a giving people, a giving church.  With this as our constant goal, the building doesn’t become the end, just a creative means to it. And again, what is that “end?” Simply this: Through relationships – doing life together, working together, playing together, and talking together – the greatest relationship of all will be explored, established and nurtured.  

Let’s be the church!