Long and Short Range Plans
The traditional, but wholly unbiblical name for most church buildings is “God’s house.” God’s house is the only place on the planet where little boys are forbidden to run. Bringing food into “God’s house” is an only slightly more audacious sin. Wearing a hat and eating a burger while taking a jog in “God’s house” will send you straight to Hell. The church building is God’s house and all good Southern Baptists instill the fear of God in their children so that they may grow up respecting “God’s house.”
Robert Schuller had the Crystal Cathedral. Spurgeon preached in the New Park Street Chapel. I started my ministry in a metal shed. To call the thing “God’s house” would have been a stretch. God’s lawnmower barn, maybe, but if it were God’s house the place had serious issues. In several places the seams in the sanctuary carpet were separating. Someone remedied the problem with duct tape. Seems logical. So toward the rear of the main worship space the color scheme and pattern of the severely used and outdated carpet was broken up by a nice silver strip of duct tape. The walls were an early ’70’s fake wood panel. The center of the sanctuary housed a set of pews. On either side were rows of cushioned metal folding chairs that didn’t match anything. The soundboard had about 8 channels. I think only 6 of them worked. The PA sounded like an AM radio. It had a duel tape deck and to this day I am surprised it didn’t have an 8 track. The parking lot was gravel and had a slight slope toward the front doors. In a heavy rain the runoff water flowed back to the building and underneath the metal walls. Rainy days always meant flooded halls and nursery. The foyer and the bathrooms were separated by the Baptist version of swinging saloon doors. They were wood paneled doors with a small square peep hole. If you swung them in you almost hit the back pew and also endangered someone rounding the corner of hitting them in the face. If you swung them out they would stick on the linoleum flooring in the foyer and trap someone in the bathroom. I remember one Sunday in particular in which one of our Deacons named Donald got trapped, gave up hope that he would be rescued from the potty and decided just to sit have a smoke. Lucky for him we smelled his burnt offering and a kind usher freed him.
I know there are some who may be offended at my assessment of the old LRBC. There were a lot of men who worked very hard to keep the metal building standing. There were even more who sacrificed to make it a possibility. But between the dilapidated air conditioning, the stifling heat of the auditorium, the mice, the musty smell, and the serious amount of patchwork, to call the metal building rough is an understatement. “God’s house” needed an upgrade.
Being a disciple of Bro. Wayne I was armed with a tool that would motivate the church to get busy. Bro. Wayne called them, “Long and Short Range Plans.” On the first Wednesday night of his pastorates he would stand in the pulpit fielding dreams and suggestions, things people wanted to see changed, fixed, or built. No matter how big or small an idea, how expensive or cheap, not matter how dumb or brilliant, Bro. Wayne welcomed any input, wrote it on a poster, and posted it for all to see. Across the top read the words, “Long and Short Range Plans.” As each goal or suggestion was met it was marked off the list. It was an effective motivational tool. LRBC needed some easy wins, so the first Wednesday night as pastor I walked in the path of my mentor, I fielded dreams and before long we had a poster, “Long and Short Range Plans.” 93 suggestions and ideas that would turn LRBC from a struggling congregation in God’s mower shed to a viable church with a serious vision.
#11 - Fix auditorium doors. We did that by removing them. Deacon Donald could now easily go outside to smoke. #14 - Pay pastor full time. I liked that one. I have begun that story and will share more about it later. #15 - Purchase surrounding land. A good story will come of this one as well. #18 - Computers for offices. The abacus must be replaced. #20 - Parking area paved. I have a great story about a green bean farmer to share with you on this one. #27 - Re-plumb baptistry with drain. I will allow your imagination to wonder what became of the dirty sin water post-baptism until this goal was met. #36 - New organ. Seeing that the current organ at the time only had a half set of keys, “new organ” was a novel idea. An only slightly better idea, you guessed it, #38, organist. #58 - another van. Baby Blue needed a buddy. #77 - Regular spraying for pests. Seeing that we had more mice than members, poison was in order. #93 - Mic stands. If we were to be a viable church, laying mics on the pews like men leaving the TV remote on the couch would no longer do.
Looking back on that list of plans brings back fond memories. Comparable to the cost of various projects throughout these last 15 years of ministry, all 93 ideas on the first version of the Long and Short Range Plans seem like a good bucket full of change would have taken care of most of it. It is amazing how little vision costs, but how little of it we often have. Though it didn't seem like much, we had a vision. Some people believe vision is earth shattering, huge stuff. In 15 years of shepherding the church I have found that vision often begins with the little things. Fix some doors, clean the place up, just do something. Reaching the world for Christ often begins with fixing the doors and giving people a decent place to park. Fix the flood in the nursery and just maybe people will feel more comfortable about leaving their babies in it. Do the little things. Easy wins in the short term, but keep it going for the long term. That is exactly what we did. Little by little for the next six years we worked together and things began to change.