700 members of a Texas Church Left their Church Building Behind

By Lindsay Peyton

Some 700 Members at Christ UMC in Bryan have left the church behind – the building, that is. On a recent Sunday, the congregation hit the streets to help those in need, serving on a wide range of projects outside of church walls.

“It’s important that we don’t just do church; instead, we can be the church,” missions director Steve Godby explained.

He saw the Church Has Left the Building (CHLB) Day in action when he served as associate mission’s director at another local church.

“It’s deep in the church there,” Godby said. “Everyone is engaged. It’s once a year, and everyone looks forward to it. I liked what they were doing.”

When he moved to Bryan and joined Christ UMC, he brought the idea of a day of service with him.

“I talked to the church here, and they were like, ‘I’ve never heard of something like this before, but I love it,’” Godby recalled. “They were very willing to do it.”

A year of planning later, and Christ UMC was ready to go out and serve the community.

On Sunday, July 28, a number of service projects were ready for the 500-plus members of the congregation who signed up to volunteer. They gathered for prayer first thing in the morning, rolled up their sleeves and headed off to work.

Volunteers took over routes at Meals on Wheels, they played trivia at retirement centers, and they built walkways for Save Our Streets (SOS) Ministries. They constructed a wheelchair ramp for a woman in need, painted the ABCs on the sidewalk of a head start school and renovated the playground at their own congregation.

There were 40 members who helped with the church’s James 1:27 projects, helping with home repair and maintenance for others who could not complete the work themselves. Others headed to the police department and fire stations to celebrate those who serve and protect the community everyday.

In addition, Sunday school classes and Bible study groups were asked to select their own service projects and came up with 20 to complete.

“Some were working with individuals in their neighborhoods, and some were going to schools to put in lending libraries,” Godby said. “There was just a slew of things. I could go on and on.”

He said that the day was a blessing for the church. In fact the words of Genesis 12:2-3 were worn on the t-shirts of volunteers, “I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing.”

Leading up to the big day, the congregation was buzzing with excitement. All of the members were talking about the event, asking each other about which projects they were going to serve.

That’s the spirit Godby hopes will move forward as this becomes an annual tradition. “This is our first year,” he said. “It’s a wake up call, saying here’s what you can do. We hope people see and want to do more.”

The Church Has Left the Building is meant to be educational – to show members all of the missions available year-round, right in their own backyard.

By serving others, Godby explained, individuals are able to walk with Christ. “You represent him, and you glorify God,” he said. “It helps us move beyond talking about faith, by putting our faith into action.”

He believes that the event will have a lasting effect on members. “They’ll be talking about this for a long time,” he said. “It’s going to take off from here.”

Already, Christ UMC has begun talking with other area churches, across denominations, about joining together for CHLB next year.

“I think it’s contagious,” Godby said. “It’s such a win-win.”