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Moving Church Outside

October 11, 2007 by

2007_10_08cornerstonechurch.jpgWell, we’ve discussed whether church buildings suck before. We’ve talked about whether you put a little money or a lot of money into a building. Here’s a new one: Don’t have a building.

That’s what Cornerstone Church is doing. They’re a megachurch in Simi Valley, Calif., who hit a spiritual brick wall. As they prepared to build a $60 million ‘Chan-ville’ (the words of lead pastor Francis Chan), they were struck by something outside of themselves.

The long and short of it is that Pastor Chan was troubled to the point of taking a three-month sabbatical. At the end of that three months, he realized that there was more to life than having a totally sweet building. And that’s how the Tierra Rejanda Building Project began and the idea of having church outside.


Here’s the quick and dirty on the new site.

  • 140 total acres of land purchase.
  • 5,000 seat outdoor auditorium for Sunday services and Eternity Bible College use.
  • 1,000 seat multi-use indoor facilities with restrooms, classrooms, a chapel and more.
  • 5 acres of community athletic fields for use by Simi Valley community.
  • 10 acres for the Children’s Hunger Fund.
  • 80 acres of preserved hillside not to be developed.

What could have inspired such a move? Well, Cornerstone explains that it’s not about having church outside, it’s about a mindset. They want to escape a consumer mindset and a mindset of comfort in the church in favor of a mindset that cares for the poor and oppressed — in their community and in the world.

Francis described at the Catalyst Conference that he looks to move past comfort and ease into a life of sacrifice for the sake of the things that are truly important. The millions of dollars they save will now go to the community of Simi Valley and to the worldwide poor.

Personally, I love being outside anyways. Buildings are so stuffy.

Maybe it’s church marketing brilliance, and maybe it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Either way, I think it’s a relentless desire to be like Jesus, and I don’t think you can discredit that.

Post By:

Joshua Cody


Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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25 Responses to “Moving Church Outside”

  • Josh M
    October 11, 2007

    I’m gonna try this in Wisconsin!
    Californians get to have all the fun…


  • Jonathan Blundell
    October 11, 2007

    Cool idea – but it strikes me as odd that they want to “escape a consumer mindset and a mindset of comfort in the church in favor of a mindset that cares for the poor and oppressed” yet they’re still building on 140 acres. Maybe they could rent buildings in the area that aren’t being used on Sunday mornings and spend that extra money on the poor and oppressed. But I’m of course only speaking from the route we’ve taken and I also realize every church meets a certain need.


  • Lex
    October 11, 2007

    I’m all about this, but can I go ahead and ask the obvious question: What happens when 3000 people show up for one service and it rains?


    • Ben
      December 22, 2010

      What if it does rain.? Bring an umbrella, ella, ella… Its just a little water.


  • travis
    October 11, 2007

    I totally dig the heart behind this, but from the sketches I find myself wondering what happens when they fill the amphitheater with people and then the weather goes south: rain, snow, too hot, too cold, and so on. Granted, California has the advantage of some outstanding weather, and I would hope that a project of this magnitude would have thought this through, but I still have to wonder ;-)


  • Jenn
    October 11, 2007

    wow what a cool idea. i was expecting a huge tarp over the outdoor area in case of rain…i wonder what they will do in that case.


  • Jeremy Myers
    October 11, 2007

    Awesome…but still so expensive. Of course, how could we do this up north, when it frozen for six months out of the year?
    Jon Courson, when he pastored in Oregon, had a building and an outdoor ampitheater, so they met outside when they could, and inside when the weather was bad.


  • Matt
    October 11, 2007

    I don’t want to come off as a hippie or anything, but I love the idea of buying extra land with the specific purpose of not developing it. It just seems like good stewardship.
    It is a very interesting idea to incorporate willingness to sacrifice into the actual plan. I wonder though, if visitors and congregants will maintain that attitude of “willingness” to sacrifice. If I wake up on a rainy morning or a day that is going to be 110º I wonder if I’d think twice about heading to church.


  • Jason Curlee
    October 11, 2007

    I would go for the outside…but not here in South Texas…
    Maybe I’m not ready yet to be uncomfortable.


  • geoffreybrown
    October 11, 2007

    Fearless forecast: they will get LOTS of mileage out of the 5 acres set aside for community athletic fields. And, the “preserved hillside” acreage will also get lots of points (whether it was really usable or not).
    Kudos for being willing to kick the envelope!!


  • A.B. Dada
    October 11, 2007

    This is too cool — I love the paintball sanctuary and the unisex outhouses, as well as the “Get behind me, Satan” roller coaster. I think the lazy river that encircles the place for the elderly is a bit scary, especially the white water surprise, but it would be great for baptisms!
    Kidding, of course. This is very cool, but what a massive undertaking. How’s the weather in that neck of the woods? Maybe they need a bubble!


  • Josh
    October 11, 2007

    When I heard Francis Chan discuss the weather issue, his quote was along the lines of this:
    “How glorious will it be to preach to 5,000 people in the rain knowing that needs are being met across the world because we chose to be outside. And if someone worries about getting sick being outside for an hour, then (insert some nicer way to say “I don’t care” here).


  • Todd Stafford
    October 11, 2007

    In Alaska we just build an big ol’ igloo for the winter, and go outdoor for the summer when it melts…


  • Joel
    October 12, 2007

    When I saw the headline of moving the church outside I immediately thought of church planting. If these people really want to help the poor then forget about a bigger building or their fantasy outdoor church with its ball fields and go plant churches in poor areas and help the people there. That way people’s lives will be changed for the better. And when it rains Pastor Chan will simple get wet.Their entire concept is just so silly it is unbelievable that God would bless it.


  • sheesh!
    October 14, 2007

    For those of you bashing this plan, check yourself – your attitude and your pride (after all, it is pride that makes us think what we have to say/do is more important than what is being said/done). You should visit Cornerstone of Simi Valley’s website and see what they have put together. This isn’t just a whim or some random thing. They are honoring God in a way that allows them to continue funneling a great deal of money to the poor – which is their passion. Do you even know the ministries to the poor in which they are involved? I doubt it. This idea was birthed out of a heart for God and sadly that’s not typical of the American church today with its bigger-must-be-better mentality. How can you impudently criticize what you do not even know?
    Besides, who’s to say planting new churches is the surefire way to go anyway? Why not support and build up the churches that are already there? Is God exalted in our cloning churches or is He exalted in our strengthening the existing church by serving and training existing pastors and congregations to bring people to Christ?
    Interesting how people seeking to honor God are attacked by “fellow brothers”. Silly? May God have mercy on you for your judgments.


  • kurt
    October 23, 2007

    “If these people really want to help the poor then forget about a bigger building or their fantasy outdoor church with its ball fields and go plant churches in poor areas and help the people there.”
    Good grief! Aren’t we a little high and mighty?


  • Brent Ziemann
    December 9, 2007

    This story reminds me when I was younger. I heard probably one of the most powerful messages that I had heard in my lifetime. And when an invitation was given there was no music, no singing, and to my recollection no noise at all. If you were going to make a public profession of faith you had to do it like the first Christians did it. Totally public, Totally Authentic, and Total Silence. I look at these to stories and find hope. Our lives are filled with convenience. When was the last time your Faith has cost you something?
    If all our Faith costs us is the comfort of a building consider yourself fortunate. Because Saints of old have paid a much higher price for their Faith.
    As for what happens when it rains? Well, you get wet.
    At OneDay2000 60,000+ college students met in a field in Tennessee. On Saturday it rained and everyone was complaining. However, on Sunday we go hit with 4 hours of the worst heat I can remember. Oh those whining about the rain were not begging for it as it kept the temperature cool.
    Just remember folks remove the plank from your eye before you remove the sliver from another’s.


  • Kelsi
    December 15, 2007

    It’s interesting to see so many complaints for the most Christ-like idea I’ve heard in a while. Many here have implied or straight up said that they cant believe God would bless an idea such as this. Who are we to judge? I however am proud of my brothers & sisters who have been a part of this project. It is truly Christ working through the individuals in Simi Valley, for although it has its flaws.. we are human, it is sending the message across the nation that we Must Sacrifice. We must suffer for the Lord (Phil. 3:7). & as for Francis Chan, I believe this man of God would continue to preach through the rain. How BLESSED are we to always have a roof over our heads, when so many do not. How BLESSED are we to be able to worship in public. Count your blessings.


  • chris
    January 30, 2008

    Even beyond the building project, Cornerstone has had a 50/50 policy on church budget… in short, any money they spend on their own operations, they give the same amount away to a wide variety of great causes and missions organizations…
    Cornerstone has also planted 7 churches in the past few years, and has been a major financial donor to Childrens Hunger Fund, World Impact (Inner City Church planting, Mr. Stafford) and much more..
    I know nothing I have said will keep the critics at bay, there is always something to point a finger at… but I think Cornerstone is doing some incredible stuff, beyond the building project, that should be emulated by other churches..
    As for the rain, well Simi has nice weather… It shouldnt be too bad… If the weather is terrible, services could be moved indoors to the MPR, or people could get rained on – if packer fans can do it, so can we..


  • chris
    January 31, 2008

    If The Packers can pack a football stadium in -30 degree weather in the middle of January, you can have church outside in California!
    If it rains, people might get wet! Oh no!
    The packers have fans who are devoted to their team. They pay hundreds of dollars to sit in the sub zero weather to cheer on (and worship?) their team. As Christians, why can’t we follow Christ like that? We don’t need to paint our faces or tailgate before the service, but we can sit in the rain for an hour.
    Great idea Chan!


  • pitifulcoma
    August 23, 2008

    Hi folks,
    I want to address the critics. Chan’s idea was developed after about 12 years of pastoring and doing the very things you all think he should do instead of the outdoor church. They have planted churches, they have given money (1 million to children’s hunger fund one year)they support poor churches across the border in mexico…they hold 4 services a day and conservatively average 4000 people. If you go to their website you can listen to the whole process of the years it took to get from literally turning people away every Sunday to this project here. Chan wants to be a doer of the word. He cut his meager salary (he wanted no increase in 12 years)in half. He sincerely wants to live for Jesus, not just talk about living for Him. Really he is a godly man and so are the people on his staff. I live in New York or I’d go there myself and sit in the rain to listen to any of them preach.


  • pitifulcoma
    August 23, 2008

    Hi folks,
    I want to address the critics. Chan’s idea was developed after about 12 years of pastoring and doing the very things you all think he should do instead of the outdoor church. They have planted churches, they have given money (1 million to children’s hunger fund one year)they support poor churches across the border in mexico…they hold 4 services a day and conservatively average 4000 people. If you go to their website you can listen to the whole process of the years it took to get from literally turning people away every Sunday to this project here. Chan wants to be a doer of the word. He cut his meager salary (he wanted no increase in 12 years)in half. He sincerely wants to live for Jesus, not just talk about living for Him. Really he is a godly man and so are the people on his staff. I live in New York or I’d go there myself and sit in the rain to listen to any of them preach.


  • Comedian Peter Wolf
    January 10, 2010

    Thinking outside the box is so passive and boring. I love that Cornerstone is taking action and GETTING OUT OF THE BOX!
    Blessings,
    Comedian Peter Wolf
    http://www.comedianpeterwolf.com


  • Howard Malone
    February 25, 2010

    Wow! I have to agree, the critics need to take a pill! Romans 14:4 is still in effect, isn’t it? (I’m not going to say what it is, so you’ll have to look it up. Here’s a thought, “What if this pastor has prayed and got God’s plan for the way ahead? Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to do, “Wait on the Lord,” and be “led by the Spirit of God.” Wouldn’t that be just like God, who I believe preached his most famous sermon on the side of a mountain, to tell a pastor who has God’s heart for the poor, to just “take it outside, like I did!” And, I love the Packers analogy. It’s amazing what the people of the world will endure to worship their “thingie.” Why shouldn’t we do the same thing to worship the living God, especially if it means saving a bunch of money we intend to use to take care of the poor. Another thought; maybe, just maybe, if the world sees a bunch of Jesus freaks enduring the weather to praise the living God, they might want to come see what it’s (He’s) all about…?!


  • rblake
    May 3, 2010

    Lets see, three years later- still no outdoor fantasy church and now Chan is leaving to start a church somewhere else.
    Nice, I think this church will not be moving forward once Chan leaves the end of May.
    RWB



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