The incident over the bylaws would play itself out once more, but this time on a much larger scale.
Someone had a dream about a new church building. From the moment the dream was shared with the church staff, to the moment the Leadership Team voted to move forward with trying to make it happen, three weeks went by.
From dream to vote.
I made no secret about the fact that I believed this was a bad idea. A very bad idea. Our attendance had begun to plateau, and we weren’t hurting for space. Because of the large demographic of students we served, the only reason we were ever able to make our budget was with the help of large donors from inside and outside the church, which made going into debt for a building we didn’t need a fiscally irresponsible proposition.
I also saw this as a return to UBC’s “business as usual,” making large, consequential decisions without any input from people in the church. The Leadership Team was involved in this conversation, in theory, but it was clear that one voice was going to hold more sway than any other– David’s.
I spent the three week’s between dream and vote talking to people at UBC who I knew were not represented by those on Leadership Team. The ideal for Leadership Team was always that it would consist of members who had connections to varying demographics within the church. And the team, as it existed in 2010, was as close to that ideal as it had ever been. But there weren’t many naysayers or hell raisers on the team- a key UBC demographic– to question the wisdom of ideas brought to them by the staff. So I sought out those voices to speak for them.
The “dream” was to build a large structure, similar to a concert venue, that was spacious and modern. It would include room for children and youth, demographics we assumed would come, eventually. But mostly, it would be appealing to college students. In the three weeks between dream and vote, the dream evolved to include land across the street from Baylor, in a field that had been untouched by the massive development that had occurred on University Parks over the previous decade. It would reestablish us as the “Baylor Church.” Oh, and we would be able to raise a lot of food and clothes for hungry people in the space, (something relatively few people at UBC had cared much about over the years, but now, for some reason, was on our radar.)
As I conferred with my unofficial team of naysayers and hell raisers, we began to think of other options, better ways to go about whatever it was we were trying to go about. Some suggested we move back into the Hippodrome on Sunday mornings and use our current building for ministry space. Others spoke of remodeling and expanding our current building. We all believed that if we were going to do this, the goal should be to reclaim an old building and make it work for us. In fact, someone in the group– *pointy finger clicking in my direction in unabashed spirit of pride at being a true Waco visionary*– suggested that we look into purchasing an old abandoned rail yard on the corner of Webster and 6th, that included an old barn and two abandoned silos.
We were told all these ideas were too expensive, not practical.
Not as practical, apparently, as voting to move forward with building a new building three weeks after being told about it.
Because of past experiences, I knew my place, and decided to go along with the vote. In those days Leadership Team operated under a consensus-only system. This was held over from the early days when there were much fewer members on the team, and less large decisions to be made. I knew the zeitgeist was not in my favor. I also knew that whatever it was we were “voting for” was just a vague notion of moving forward with a new building, and that there would be plenty of opportunities in the future to bring (what I believed) a more balanced perspective to the proceedings.
At a meeting before the Christmas Holidays, 2010, the vote passed.
In its aftermath, I went through a few days of prayer and reflection. Was I on the wrong end of what the spirit and ethos of UBC should be? Had I overstepped my bounds. Was I grinding that old axe too hard for my own good? Most of these thoughts were healthy and helpful. My anxiety often got the best of me when decisions were made that I disagreed with, as I feared what I knew and loved about the church was slipping away from me. When this happened (as it would continue to over the next few years,) I lashed out in anger.
I decided that I needed to talk to David about this, to apologize for the negative feelings I had been having toward hm for some time. I contacted him and his wife, and we decided to meet in the food court of a local retail store.
My goal was to talk about how wrong I had been in my approach to him. It was received with confirmation– that yes, I had been wrong in my approach to him. Then the next thirty minutes went much like the staff meeting from months before, with me being told that I was standing in the way. (Exact words.) Thirty minutes later, I walked away again, alone and disoriented, questioning my sanity and my wisdom.
It’s only fair for me to take a step back and ask myself: Had I been the person who helped start UBC, would I be receptive to changes people who came along years later wanted to make to the church? When I dreamed new dreams for the church, would I have been open and receptive to being told, “No, this isn’t a good idea?” Though I never heard him refer to himself as this, David was a church-planter. He and Chris had a vision, and they poured themselves into bringing the vision to fruition. He and his wife made innumerable sacrifices for the church that I fell in love with. Had it not been for him, who knows what my life in Waco would have ended up being?
The church was changing. It no longer looked like the original vision, and I imagine that was difficult for him. I suppose this is something every church planter has to contend with, especially when they are “successful:” What happens when this church that we nurtured grows into something that we never envisioned it would grow into? What about when our success brings in new people, with new ideas and evolving predilections about what the church should be? Do we allow these people to change us, or do we hold fast to who we were?
I’d like to say that had the shoe been on the other foot, that I would have responded differently. But I can’t say with confidence that I would have, because in later years, when the shoe was on the other foot, I didn’t.
But between the dream, the vote and me not responding differently when the shoe was on the other foot, the unimaginable happened.