It’s so good to see you all. If you’re visiting, today is a very different day. Next week, we begin our fall sermon series in the letter of 1 John. Imagine for a moment your friends start deconstructing their faith, walk away from church, and then they come back to you and try to get you to rethink what you believe about Jesus and how you live, what the Christian life is supposed to look like. And you begin to notice your life is shriveling, shrinking, you have no certainty, everything is gray, and you wonder what is really true. That is the background. That seems to be the background of the little letter of 1 John. That was happening in John’s day. And so, he wrote this letter, which is teaming with “that you may know.” He is writing to uncertain Christians so that they can know how to know and even know that you can know when the room is spinning, when everything seems uncertain. So, we are very excited about this series beginning next Sunday. And here’s your homework — if you could try to read through 1 John a couple of times by next Sunday as we begin our journey through this powerful letter.
But for today (haven’t done this in a long time), we’re going to have a pastoral chat. I don’t think we’ve ever done this on a Sunday morning to talk about what we’re about to talk about. This summer we’ve been talking a lot about seasons, specifically seasons of Christian parenting. We wanted all of us to grow in seasonal wisdom, especially parents. What is seasonal wisdom? Ecclesiastes 3:1,
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to break down, a time to build up.”
He continues all the way to climaxing in verse 11,
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
In other words, certain actions that may be ugly in one context may be beautiful in another.
You see this as an example in the life of Jesus. When Jesus was sending out his twelve disciples on mission, in Luke 9, look what he says.
“He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.’”
In other words, you’re going to leave everything home — toolbox, debit cards. No, don’t pack your snacks, don’t pack a suitcase, travel light. And he was calling them into a season of scarcity, minimalism. Trust me with a little. But then in Luke 22, same Jesus, same gospel of Luke —
“He said to them, [verse 35] ‘When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘Nothing.’ He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell this cloak and buy one.’”
Jesus is essentially saying to his disciples, “I’m calling you into a new season. If you have a moneybag, take it. Do you have a knapsack? Bring it. If you don’t have a sword, buy it.” And all of these, if you look at the broader context, are implying that hostility is on the rise, and Jesus is setting his disciples up for this new season of greater hostility, as well as long-term fruitfulness.
But this tension between Luke 9 and Luke 22 illustrates a bigger principle. And that is this — There are times where Jesus will call you to do this in this season and say, “Don’t do that” in this season. And that can be confusing, right? I thought you said, “Don’t do that.” And now you’re saying, “Do do that.” Two quick qualifiers — He’s not talking about major doctrinal shifts — “I was in a season of believing that Jesus is God, but now I’m in a season of only believing he’s a man. New season.” That’s not what he’s talking about. That’s called heresy. He’s not talking about major moral shifts either — “I was in a season of believing that adultery is wrong. Now I’m in a season of infidelity. I’m just going to sleep around and feed on porn. It’s a new season.” That’s not what he’s talking about. Do you understand? What he’s talking about here are neutral areas, areas that can be good or bad depending on the season, how they’re used. They can help or hinder ministry. Things like possessions, certain possessions, bank accounts, assets, resources. All of these in one season could be helpful and in another, maybe not helpful, actually may hinder.
So, over the past year and a half, the elders have been asking you to join us in praying for wisdom regarding our facility needs and how these needs relate to our ministry vision and the remarkable work God is doing in our midst. I’m so thankful for Ryan, Matt, Lensi, Tyler, others who have helped keep us together on this journey, informed. We’ve tapped into architects, engineers, contractors. We’ve explored everything from minor reno to various major construction methods. But the elders are eager to share with you that we believe God has answered our prayers and is in the process of directing us. And for some of us it feels very much like a new season. And you can look at this a couple different ways. One is it’s just all of a sudden a lot of things that we’ve been praying for, saving for, planning toward are suddenly happening. Look across the street — you see affordable housing. It’s suddenly happening. Look out in our courtyard — there’s a large machine out there. Well, we started talking about a courtyard years ago. We saved up, sacrificed for a new courtyard years ago. And all of a sudden (I won’t go through why) all sorts of delays and complications and it’s happening. And it seems to be the same way with some other needs we have as well.
Now this season, this new season that we’re talking about is not a season of extravagance. It’s not like we were in a season of minimalism, and now we’re going to go crazy. It’s not a season of distraction — we were all about people and ministry and glorifying God; now we’re going to be in the building-building business. No, I would call it a season of increase, but not primarily numerical. Obviously, we want more people to be blessed and come to know Jesus and grow in him. But in essence, it’s increasing in what God has truly called us to. This is something I’ve been praying through for a while. I’ve invited our Saturday night prayer meeting several times the last month or so. We’ve looked at our church purpose, and just imagine if we see true increase, like revival. What does it look like to believe God’s Word more fully? What does it look like to connect with his family more intentionally? Or to share his story more fruitfully? That’s primarily what we mean by “increase.”
But obviously, that kind of increase is going to have implications on facility. And I know this is a hard conversation for some of us because if you tend to watch a lot of the news, you will tend to be filled with fear and take a posture of reservedness — “Our country’s going down the drain, and the days of growing churches is a thing of the past.” I believe the opposite. I believe the best days for our church are still ahead. Days of testing? Yes. Purging? Yes. But days of fruitfulness like we’ve never seen, and that gets me very excited. We’ve seen glimpses of this in the way lives are being transformed and the way people hunger for the presence of God in their midst and the power of his Word, but we are just beginning.
There’s lots I’d love to talk about there, but today we’re focusing primarily on how that affects our facility needs. So, one of the many ways our elders believe we should respond to this new season of fruitfulness is to build a new auditorium and add much-needed ministry space to facilitate what God is doing and, by his grace, will continue to do.
Now, some of you may be wondering, “I’m still confused why we’re talking about this on a Sunday.” That’s a good question if you have that question because we never do this. We’ve never done this on a Sunday morning. And, as I answer that question, I want to do it in the first-person by telling my own journey regarding this. And the reason I want to tell it in the first-person is not because I think my opinion is worth any more than anyone else’s or that my conclusions were reached in isolation or that my perspectives are in opposition to any other leader. None of those. But simply to highlight the personal side to what I’m talking about because frankly, I am shocked that I am about to say what I’m about to say. No one is more surprised. I have been against building an auditorium for twenty years, and now I’m for it. Why? And that’s what I want to mention quickly and that’s what I mean by that personal journey. How did someone who was adamantly against it become for it?
First of all, it might help to know why I was so against it. Many years ago, when we first began exploring building a real auditorium. So, this plan … Matt showed you this a month or so ago. But this is twenty-five years old. This was the original design for our property. You’re sitting in the far left, and the far right … That was the original auditorium as designed. But when we began to price that, what I’m going to call a real auditorium (by real auditorium, I mean sloped floors, balcony, acoustically configured), the numbers were so staggering that many of us leaders just tabled it indefinitely — too much! Breathtaking! Today those numbers have gone even higher; so, we’re talking $20-, $30 million. And so, we said, “No, never.”
But also, we communicated our sense that God was calling us to be debt free. And we, I publicly communicated that vision. We have repeatedly expressed that desire, second.
Thirdly, for many years, we have had the joy of pouring millions, literally, millions and millions of dollars into local and global gospel advancement through things like literacy, church planting, affordable housing, well digging, rescuing slaves, training leaders, homelessness, addiction ministry, and on and on, and we don’t intend to stop doing any of those things.
Fourthly, furthermore, our ministry leaders and volunteers have so effectively used the limited space we have in creative ways through multiple services and various uses of ministry spaces and times. Watching our facility team flip a room is like watching a well-trained pit crew. There’s Darren and his team flipping a room so it can be used multiple ways, multiple times. Our children’s ministry volunteers, worship teams, and many others have sacrificed to get the most efficient use out of our buildings, and it is at times exhausting. In light of these reasons, these four I’ve mentioned — cost, debt, focus, and multiple uses — I just assumed we were going to keep going as we’ve always, or for a while, kept going. But the elders have asked us over the last couple of years to pray earnestly for the Lord’s leading, as I have as well. And I feel a little like what the disciples felt like when (remember Luke 9, Luke 22) first time he said, “Remember I told you to do this? Well, now I’m telling you to do this. I provided in this. I’m going to provide in this.”
And then one of the practices that helps me when I have major decisions to make, I know this is not infallible because we are not omniscient, but I try to do this any time I have a major decision. I like to look ahead five years, ten years, fifteen years, imagining and then look back and ask, “What will I wish I had done? What will we wish we had done?” And as I did that and examined all the options, I became convinced that it is wise for us to build an auditorium and renovate the existing space for much-needed ministry room.
Now, why? A couple of reasons — one, our current auditorium needs renovation. This room was never designed to be the final auditorium. So, that is why in certain places you hear sound differently, some loud, some soft. We’ve done a lot to try to work on congregational singing, but that is such a high value for us. As Ephesians 5 says,
“We gather to sing to the Lord and to one another.”
So, the acoustics in a room is important for us to be able to hear one another. I could go through everything from lighting … I had a friend with lighting sensitivity. I don’t understand this, but he said, “If I didn’t love this church, I would leave just because of the lighting” … all the way to needing more chairs to many other things like screen visibility. The chairs we have are the original chairs, almost twenty-five years old. I know many of you will cry when we lose our red chairs. So, what we began to do is price out what it would cost to do just the renovations that we’re talking about in here and then add a little more seating. And the numbers came in the millions. Hold that thought.
Secondly, we need more ministry space. So, about a year and a half ago, I was out in the parking lot talking with Darren, and he mentioned how there are times where different ministries need the same space at the same time, and it’s hard for people to schedule their events. And he said it would really help if we could have a classroom building with more ministry space. And that was super helpful to me because I began to think, began to put these together. Okay, if we spend millions renovating our auditorium, whether now or in the near future, and then we spend millions adding much-needed ministry space and classrooms, but we haven’t addressed the auditorium situation fully, it felt like we were duct-taping things rather than finishing what we had begun. But that raises the problem of the cost of the auditorium being overwhelmed. In steps the architect who designed these buildings at the beginning, and he said, “Give me a chance to design an auditorium for you that will meet all the needs you’ve outlined (the ones I’ve mentioned and others) and is much cheaper than what you anticipated.”
But that raises a third big question, issue — but we said we wouldn’t borrow. I’ve stood right here and said, “We’re not going to borrow.” And frankly, I’m still praying we won’t need to. But I’ve had to ask myself a couple of questions. One, if it’s a matter of saving the Lord’s money … I ran the numbers, and it’s just stunning that with the way, and this could change, construction costs increase. If we wait ten, fifteen years to save and pay cash, we will actually end up spending more than if we bought now, even with the interest rates the way they are. Also, please remember that when we communicated a debt-free vision, it was never because we had a biblical conviction against all debt. All the elders have had or have mortgages. There’s a wise use of financing, and (what’s happening all around us is) there’s an unwise use of financing. And this is why I keep seeing this tension between Luke 9 and Luke 22. “But Jesus, you said this here.” No doubt. Are you saying this here?
So, that raises this question — what if we could build an auditorium on the pad as originally designed for significantly less than what we thought — like, rather than twenty/thirty million, ten/eleven million? We’re still waiting on final numbers. We already have saved about two and a half million. But what if we could build that, address all the auditorium needs, as well as add about 600 seats? And what if this would free up all this ministry space and other space that could be transformed into classrooms, outreach ministry, children’s ministry teens’ ministry? And what if this could make volunteering much more accessible and reasonable, less exhausting? And even if we did need to borrow, what if our current budget would pay the payments?
So, what should we do? I’m going to ask you to do four things, and then I’m going to get out of the way, and you can actually get a video tour of what we’re talking about. So, number 1, continue praying. We do not want to do anything our Father is not calling us to do.
Number 2, keep asking questions. I know I’ve answered a few, and I’ve raised more. When will the service times be? And what will the auditorium be like? And how long will it take to build? What will we use this for in the future? And what about if we go from three to two services? What about the people in the evening who can only worship in the third? Great questions. And some of these we’re going to answer in a few minutes, but many of these can be raised in the Q&A next Sunday afternoon or the Q&A the following Sunday afternoon here in the community room. Or you can jump online, and previously we just wanted your input. Now we will actually answer your questions hopefully.
Third, prepare to confirm August 27th. The elders are asking for the members of North Hills to pray earnestly and either confirm yes or no on the 27th. Do we believe God is calling us to take this step. Now, that’s yes or no to construction. Obviously, there are still questions about timing. Even some of the costs are still coming in. But do we believe God is calling us to do this?
And then 4 (are you ready?) give regularly. So, the average evangelical gives about 2-1/2% of their income to their church… 2-1/2. Half of evangelical Christians give less than 1%, 0.1% to charitable giving. Yet, most evangelical Christians believe tithing is biblical. So, that can lead to a lot of schizophrenia when we believe something’s biblical, but we just can’t manage to do it. Can you dream with me for a second? I’m going to act all preacher-ish here. Come with me in your mind. This’ll take your breath away. I don’t know what anybody gives, obviously, but I’m told North Hills members/givers … If you’re visiting, ignore this … give more than the average. So, we’re maybe at 3% or 4% of our annual household income. Here’s the imagination. Imagine if we moved from 3%, 3-1/2%, 4% average to 10%, which is just tithe. If the average of our giving per household was 10%, starting next week, over the next two years, which is just a little more than it would take to build the buildings and do the renovations, we would be done paying for it. Isn’t that amazing? But wait, there’s more. Not only that, we would have given almost $2 million more than we’re already doing to local and global missions, outreach.
And I get really excited about that because I have no desire just to build buildings. We’re building Christians, and we’re reaching out in this community and around the world, but if we … and this is the power of “we,” and the reason that “we” is so important is … Karen and I were having this conversation yesterday, and we committed the day we got married. We had no money, but we said we will never give less than 10% to the church we’re in. This is way before I was a pastor, and we’ve never changed that. And as God provides, we want to keep seeing that rise. But as we were having a Jedi Council meeting yesterday, looking over our finances and saying, “Can we can we see that number go higher,” I felt this tinge of “But would it make a difference?” Do you know that feeling? It’s like my little bit is a big sacrifice, but would it make a difference? This is the power of “we.” Now, I know you’re not allowed to talk about this in our culture that is jettisoning things like marriage, family, church, and it’s all about the individual. But when you are part of a church family and each of us make our sacrifice, for some of us, we’re maybe down in the 1% of our annual income, and we say, “Okay, Lord, can we trust you for 3%? That’s going to hurt, but we want to move in that direction.” And others who know that some people are going through a really hard time say, “Hey, we were at 11%, but maybe we can go to 13%.” And what’s stunning is when you have a whole church family doing this — getting online and making that change or giving in the boxes or however you give, bringing a check by on a regular basis, two years from now, we’re done. It’s all paid for, but so much more has happened in the process. Does that sound crazy? I saw two heads shake, “No.” And the rest are like, “Don’t pin me down.” I understand.
So, those four things — pray, ask questions, prepare to confirm on August 27th, and have a Jedi Council meeting with yourself or your spouse and say, “What can we do right now?” And I know some of you may feel, especially if you grew up maybe in a church where money was just high pressure, and I react so much to that, but I honestly believe if you are not giving on a regular basis to the church in which you’re a part of, you are missing out on huge blessings. I really believe that. And if you’ve got a couple of hours, I will tell you stories. So, I’m talking about blessing and fruitfulness, not arm twisting and guilt and shame. That’s not it. There’s something absolutely liberating, joyful, and fruitful about being part of something way bigger than us and seeing his kingdom expand through our individual yet collective sacrifice.
Okay, that’s the hard part. Matt’s going to come and do the fun part because he is a fun guy. Right, Matt? Make it fun, Matt.
Hey, good morning, everybody. I get to do the fun part. I get to show you what we believe God is calling us to build. And before I do, I want to say a couple of things. First of all, I’ve been a part of North Hills nearly my entire adult life, which is nearly all of North Hills’ history, and we have always been the kind of place that’s not about buildings. We just don’t build one then start the next one, then build the other one, and just always moving on to the next thing, as Peter already said. However (and we’re still not), they are a necessary part of ministry in the time and place in which we live. And so, it’s okay to be glad, to be happy, to ooh and aah, to be excited when you see something new happening. My family, my personal family, we’re not all about houses, but we do live in one. And when we built our house, we were very excited to build it and to move in. It’s not our identity, but it is enjoyable and part of having a family. And this is too, and so it’s okay to enjoy it.
So, today I’m going to take a few minutes to do three things. I’m going to answer, show, and tell. So, I’m going to answer a question, and then I get to do some show-and-tell like elementary-school style. So, first of all, let me answer one of the main questions that has been asked online. In fact, I think it’s the number one question that was asked online, which is “What will be done with this room when we build a new auditorium? What will we do with this room?” And the answer to that is we desire to use this room, as Peter referred to, for added classrooms and ministry space. Particularly on Sunday, classrooms and ministry space is very limited, while the opportunities to use those things are abundant. So, our plan is to reconfigure this room from a big, gigantic open room to a large room with many medium-sized rooms attached to it. So, that’s our goal — to add multiple classrooms for classroom and ministry space. Additionally, we expect that the reconfigured space will be used for Alive Student Ministry on Sunday afternoons and evenings, as well as other ministries such as Regeneration Recovery Ministry and others throughout the week and other things on Sunday morning. So, it’s a huge need and a great opportunity to use this space. It will be versatile, multipurpose space. So, that’s answer.
Now I get to show and tell. So, we’ve worked really hard to try to give you an accurate picture of what the auditorium will actually look like when it’s done. So, we have people that have chosen paint and colors and carpet and design and all that and put it together in a video so that you can get what should be a really accurate picture of what the finished product will look like. So, I’m going to tell you more about this space after you see it. So, let’s take a look now.
Okay, so I realize that one quick pass might not give you a complete picture. So, I’m going to actually show it to you again in a couple of minutes. But first, I want to tell you about it. So, that was the “show.” Here comes the “tell.” So, this is the floor plan, and for those of you who are visually connected and want to make sure you see that, hopefully that will give you a nice bird’s eye view of the floor plan of what you just saw. And let me give you some information about that as you look at it. First, the space will have about 1400 seats. To give you an idea, this room has 750 seats in it. That will have 1400 seats in it.
It’s always been our belief that God’s people gather to hear God’s Word and to enjoy God’s people. Congregational worship is so important to our gathering on Sundays in this room. So, this is not a spectator sport; this is something that we gather together to, as Peter just said, worship the Lord and for each other. And so, congregational worship is crucial. We’re working really hard to make that space sound the best it can for congregational worship. This means that acoustics and sound which serve the corporate singing has been central to what we’re doing. I love corporate singing. I love congregational singing. We want you to sing and to hear yourselves and each other and doing it in a room like that takes extra care to make sure we’re doing that well. So, we’ve been working hard on that.
Also, we’re creating space for mothers with little ones that will be private and comfortable while remaining connected to the worship service.
We’ve also included private changing rooms, which are actually backstage, which will be backstage, for those who are getting baptized, and a prayer room connected to the lobby so that we can connect to each other as the Spirit moves.
We desire to honor those who serve faithfully on Sundays; so, we’re creating space for those who lead worship to rest and refresh between services. And we’re creating a room for those who translate our services into other languages. Some of you are in this room right now listening to the service in Spanish; so, we’re creating room for the translator to be able to continue that in the new space.
Of course, we’re adding restrooms, that I’m sure you’re all wondering because that’s going to be the most important thing, right? So, there’s lots of restroom space as well that’s added.
And lastly, you can see on the left-hand side that that building will connect to what is existing, building D, all the way up. We assume this will be building E, trying not to make it too complicated. But if it’s E, it actually connects to where the current kids’ check-in is. That’s actually built to be a hallway to building E that’s being currently used as check-in. So, we have to take out kids’ check-in. So, we’re using this as an opportunity where that connects to redo the children’s check-in with enhanced safety features to make sure that we’re doing that well and protecting our little ones. So, we have to change it, and so we’re going to change it well to make sure we’re doing that well. And that’s it.
So, let me show you that 3D video one more time so now that you know more about it, you get to see it one more time. And then I’ll pray, and then after I pray, I’ll just say this. After the end of the service, we’ll sing a couple more songs. At the end, I’ll be down here. If you have follow-up questions, I’ll be glad to help in any way that I can. Tim Hinds is here too, who serves on our building team. Tim works in construction; so, ask him the hard questions; ask me the easy ones, and you’ll get the best answers. So, let’s watch one more time.
Peter asked me to introduce the building team. Do you have that slide that he showed in the first service? Before I pray, he asked me to introduce the building team. That’s the three people that … Becca, are you here this morning? I think she usually comes to this service, maybe not. But that’s us. Tim’s down here. I’m the awesomely handsome guy on the left, and Becca Crocker is on staff here, and so, I’m going to pray. Let’s pray.
Lord, in every step, with so many meetings with contractors and architects, we’ve stopped and prayed, asked for your wisdom. So, we ask for that again. As we seek to move forward, we pray for our church family. We love them. We’re so thankful for every person that’s a part of North Hills. Give them wisdom as they seek to ask good questions and to seek to get the things that are in their hearts answered. I pray God for courage that no one would hold a question back, thinking that they shouldn’t or can’t answer it, but that they would ask what needs to be asked on their hearts so that their consciences can be clean and then they can move ahead. And God, we ask that you would do wonderful things. We don’t seek just to build buildings for buildings’ sake. We seek to expand your kingdom. Please continue to expand it through us by your power, Holy Spirit in Christ’s name. Amen.