What should a church look like? The typical perception of a church is often, you know, a building that is kind of big and has a steeple and some stained glass.
Perhaps your experience with church makes you think about something else, perhaps amplifiers and spotlights or kneeling and making the sign of the cross. However, it’s easy to forget that a church isn’t a building, but rather a group gathered for worship.
That’s something that a Waco, Texas, area church understands. It’s also something that HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines seem to get, too.
Church Under the Bridge is, quite literally, under a bridge. According to the congregation’s website, “In 1992, a Christian couple from Waco and a Baylor student spent some time getting to know several of the homeless men sleeping under the Interstate 35 bridge.
“Over the next few months, the men accepted the invitation to meet (for) Bible study on Sunday mornings at the bridge. Over the weeks and months, the small group grew to include more homeless folks, other lower income people, and local community persons who either had no church experience or felt like they did not fit in other local churches.”
In other words, the congregation flourished. But a recent renovation project spearheaded by the state has caused problems for the church.
Fox News reported that Texas has begun widening I-35. That meant lots of heavy equipment and construction — and that meant Church Under the Bridge was, well, no longer under the bridge.
That could’ve turned into a long, painful search for a place to worship. Instead, Chip and Joanna Gaines stepped in, offering the congregation the use of the lawn at their Magnolia Market at the Silos.
“This is such a joyful journey that we’d been on for 26 years and the sadness of leaving our place of home is only compounded by the joy of us being able to walk into the Silos, a place where 30,000 people come every week to see,” senior pastor Jimmy Dorrell told the Waco Tribune-Herald. “They invited us to have our church there, so it is just fun and a prize from God.”
The church made the transition from the bridge to the Silos in grand style. After meeting under the overpass, they walked a quarter mile to the new location.
A middle school marching band provided music as the worshippers marched. Congregant Adam Anspaugh said, “Pastor Jimmy has been talking about a tabernacle church lately, and it doesn’t really matter where you go as long as you are carrying the right message.
“I just graduated from my recovery program, and I am working now. They’ve done a lot for me, so it’s been an awesome journey.”
The Gaineses say they have long admired Dorrell’s ministry. When Chip saw that construction would displace the church, he decided it was time to help.
“They needed a new place to worship,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not my place?’”
Joanna herself found the service incredibly authentic. “If Jesus were walking the earth today, this would be His church,” she said.
KWTX has said that the Church Under the Bridge may need to relocate for three to five years under construction wraps up. For the meantime, though, they have a place to gather thanks to the graciousness of others.
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