Thanks & Goodbye, Arts IncubatorAuthor: AJ | Filed under: Blog
Well, it was a good run, Arts Incubator. We never thought we’d be starting a service in the gut of an arts building, embedded in the community, with less than 15 people, at the request of an enigmatic director who said that if we started something small and simple, he’d go.
He never did show up but a lot of other people did, and a few stuck around. We knew we were breaking every rule in the church planting books, but for our crowd, it worked.
The AI was a filter that strained out folks who weren’t urban enough or indie enough or crazy enough, trusting enough or loving enough or determined enough, to begin a risky gospel adventure. The paint-splattered floors, improvised walls and rickety freight elevator shouted, THIS IS ONE OF THOSE UNSAFE, HIGH-RISK VENTURES YOU’VE BEEN WARNED ABOUT. TAKE YOUR MONEY AND RUN!
People with an OK risk tolerance and respect for the underdog settled in. The others didn’t darken the door twice. A year and a half later, we’re still a hair shy of critical mass and I’ve quit my habit of writing down my number projections only to snicker and cross them out later. But the people who are part of Crossroads Church are part of Crossroads Church.
The questions inevitably came up. Why are we singing, why am I preaching, in the dog days of summer, without AC, with the sweat dripping off us? In the winter, why are we wearing triple layers? Those led to other questions, like Why are we acting as ushers and serving chili, Why are we cleaning gigantic plate glass windows, Why are we calling the Crossroads home, Why are we moving downtown, Why are we building a community from scratch?
Thanks, Arts Incubator. You helped us make the answers to those questions obvious. It wasn’t just for kicks. It wasn’t to be casually hip. It wasn’t those great summer parties with fiery grills and sudden cool breezes. It wasn’t even the startling joy of spinning the barrel, pulling the trigger, and laughing out loud when our choice didn’t explode in our face.
Merely saying true things is never enough, Arts Incubator, and while we said again and again that we were downtown because Jesus was downtown, you eroded a lot of the alternative explanations. You helped us be on mission. You kept us a little on edge. You made sure we couldn’t build a church in the name of loving other people that was simply a glorified way to love ourselves.
It’s been a great ride, Arts Incubator. You were a coach to train us toward Team Jesus. You kept us light on our feet. You gave us a panoramic, bird’s-eye view of our city. When we looked around and said we loved Truth, Beauty, and Restoration, you helped us believe it.
You were a prophet, lots of rough edges, shoving us into a new identity as a Jesus tribe. When we shop-vacuumed cigarette butts, commented on third-floor roller derbies, and, in occasional surreal moments, glanced around at each other in disbelief, we knew Someone Else was holding this thing together. For all of this, we thank you. And in thanking you, of course, we’re thanking Jesus.
We were shocked, God, when you moved us in and we were no less shocked that you moved us out. Maybe living by faith feels a little like this. When you shoved us into that shabby-chic second floor corner with the lean-open windows and abandoned chalk board, you knew that a year and a half later you’d give us a week in the echoing, white Cocoon Gallery before you slammed the door shut.
That’s why we’re trusting your sovereignty and goodness, throwing a party, saying our prayers, and typing a goodbye letter to the Arts Incubator. We trust you, Father. Now we’re looking around at our city, cautious but curious, a little shell-shocked but very interested to see what you have in mind.
That one door with countless tape smudges and perpetually broken buzzer is closed. Felt like our fingers were in it. But we’re still here and the game is still on. Open the next door just a crack, God; if we have to, we’ll use our knuckles and knock that sucker down.
You were good to us, Arts Incubator. We loved you for it. And so, goodbye.
Now, Father. Lead us, we’ll follow. A lot of the time we know that we’re here to love Jesus, connect people and transform cities, a block at a time if need be. Help us learn that better. Guide us with your Spirit. Show us how you want this to work.
[The Arts Incubator, a landmark studio and gallery building in the heart of Kansas City's Crossroads Arts District, unexpectedly closed permanently on Friday, July 1, 2011. The nonprofit offered affordable studio space to dozens of aspiring artists (shoehorn Crossroads Church in there), won international awards for excellence, and helped the Crossroads District earn its reputation as a premiere arts community.]