It’s been 375 days since floodwaters first slid beneath the doors of our church building in west Houston. Twenty-eight inches later, the adventure had begun. It cost nearly $500,000 just to gut the first floor, and we lost at least $500,000 in contents. Reconstruction has lasted nine months, and the final cost—well beyond the initial million—is yet to be determined.
This Sunday, September 9th, we’re moving back to our restored campus. After 53 Sunday’s away from home, the feeling is surreal. To me, it doesn’t feel like an end or a beginning. It just feels like a really big deal.
All along the way, we’ve told ourselves that “the church is a people, not a building.” I’ve said it so much that my oldest son, who’s no theologian, said it the other day at dinner. Still, as earthbound humans, our sense of place is deeply rooted. Our church building is a home to many, and it should be. So everyone’s thrilled to be moving back in.
It’s also bittersweet, of course. Several of our 50 flooded families were back in their homes within a few months of Harvey, but for many it’s taken the majority of this past year. A good number are still rebuilding. Our church as a whole will disembark this Sunday, but many of our families are still sailing, and on the lookout for land. The pressures have been immense, and the wounds have cut deep.
Yet together, we’ve called this Sunday a “relaunch,” and we’re seeing this entire ordeal as a new beginning, because we believe that God sent Hurricane Harvey to test us, break us, restore us, and change us. We can’t and we won’t return to business as usual, because God washed so much of it away. Our foundations are firm—the Word of God, the gospel of Christ, worship and fellowship, evangelism and discipleship, baptism and the supper. Yet so many of our structures and ministries have changed, because God has willed it.
A couple months ago, I wanted to encourage our exhausted elders with all the things we’ve seen God do. So I started writing up a list of all the major accomplishments, changes, or new things we’ve seen done over the past 18 months. I ended up with 35 items on the list.
As a new pastor, you’re supposed to spend years building relationships, teaching faithfully, earning trust, and learning the church. I’ve tried to do those things, and I still plan to do those things, but it’s clear that God didn’t want us to wait long for new beginnings at BridgePoint. He threw us all in the washing machine of his providence, and (I pray) we’re coming out cleaner for it.
Maybe one day I’ll take the time to look back and summarize what God taught us over this past year. But for now, as September 9 approaches, I’ll just say this:
God prunes his people. He especially prunes our branches that already bear fruit, so that we might bear more fruit. He doesn’t seem so interested in the size of our crop in years past. Instead, he’s looking to the future. He’s always doing a new thing, and he wants us bearing more and better fruit this year and next year and in the decades to come, not just enjoying the memories of past harvests.
The temptation in an established church is to look back—back to the past, back to the glory days, back to the way things were. And we should look back, because God’s faithfulness can be traced across our church’s story. But those heaps of stones are meant to be memorials that keep us marching confidently into the future, not altars where we sacrifice our present calling in the name of nostalgia.
So with the future firmly in view, the saints of BridgePoint Bible Church will walk into a fresh, scarred, familiar building at 13277 Katy Freeway this Sunday morning. There’s no way all the stories will be told, because there are far too many to tell. But we’re going to walk the halls together and laugh together and cry together and marvel at all we’ve been through together, and then we’re going to sing our hearts out and hear from the Lord and dream of the days to come. Because that’s what God’s people do when they reach the other side of the sea—right before they start marching again.