Last week I was in mid-Missouri – a beautiful week to be on the road enjoying fall foliage and the rolling terrain of south central Missouri. As I entered Rolla I noticed a huge new car dealership beside the interstate – Kingdom Kia.
In conversation with a friend, I learned that Kingdom Kia had once been the home to a large bustling church. Along the way, tensions filled the church and eventually it closed down – with the building probably returned to a local bank for lack of payment.
A car dealership spotted the superb location. Probably also spotted a good deal from a bank wanting to unload a defaulted loan! As my friend in Rolla commented wryly, at least now the parking lot is filled with cars.
I drove to another church in Kansas City this past Sunday as a guest preacher. The parking lot was amazingly empty 20 minutes before worship was to begin. I then learned this church has worship first and then small group Bible study after. The worship center was pretty well-attended after all and so was the parking lot with cars.
Cars in the parking lot are not what matters. It is people faithfully gathered to worship, learn, fellowship, and prepare for engagement with our culture that matters. That church in Rolla forgot how to “be church” it seems – and now when you enter the building you can find cute chipmunks and drive off with a Kia Soul. The church in Kansas City (like most of our churches) is wrestling with schedules to fit the lives of people in its community. They are shifting the ways they use their facility to be the presence of Christ where they are.
All this makes me grateful for the community called Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Churches and pastors are connecting to help each other in a rapidly changing era. Resources of all sorts are available from staff in Atlanta and Liberty. A range of partner organizations network together. Together we seek to be Cooperative Baptists—not out to build our own individual Kingdom Church that, isolated and separate, runs a greater risk of becoming a Kingdom Kia.