And this is the myth, namely, that "Today's mission planting is not connected as much to brick and mortar as it is to people, opportunity and relationships."
Here's a radical idea (although not so crazy these days). If the dawn of future ministry in the church really is going to be more about relationships than brick and mortar, then our district officials should be willing immediately (not tomorrow, not in a few months, now) to sell the district offices, disband staff and take the lead in this new model of ministry. Show us how it's done. Model those relationship-building mission models without the a located presence.
Location, Location, Location. It's not just true for real estate. It's true for the Church as well. Just look at the founding fathers of Lutheranism in America. What was the first thing they did? Built a school, then a church and sometimes even a brewery. How's that for priorities?!
Location is no less important on college campuses. In fact, I would argue that brick and mortar are absolutely vital - even more important on campus - precisely because these college students are away from their home, their families and most of all their congregation and its altar, font and pulpit. And for those who have no church home, where will they be directed to? If they run into a wandering Lutheran preacher on campus (such as the Campus Crusade style) where will they go? Somewhere at some point in time the believers must gather together. The Church is not called to be a nomad, wanderer or a vagabond - pilgrim yes, but even they built homes in the new world just as we do in the old world. As we confess in the third article of the Creed, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers and enlightens the Church. The Church needs location. God's people need to be gathered.
There's also another problem with this brick and mortar vs. relational ministry way of thinking. If you follow the logical conclusion, it appears to have a rather gnostic twist to it. Think about it. "Brick and mortar is the way of the past. Relationships are the way of the future." The further down that road you go, the closer you get to "spirituality" and the further away you get from the created things of God. After all, God likes matter, he invented it. Scripture makes no such bifurcation. Both are important: soul and body. Relationship and location. It is the way of gnosticism to separate soul from body, or in this case, brick and mortar from relationships. As if the body (or the brick and mortar) were not important, or in fact outdated and old fashioned when it comes to the work of the Gospel. But if you don't have flesh and blood, what kind of Gospel do you have? A Christ without a body is no Savior at all. The brick and mortar vs. relational-ministry is a false, nonsensical distinction. It's a classic case of both / and, not either / or.
Again, Location, Location, Location. "But the Lord doesn't dwell in temples made of human hands," some will cry out. Yes, it's true the heavens can not contain the glory of the Lord, but a feeding trough once did. While it's true that God is everywhere, He's not everywhere to bless you. He locates himself for you. He did it for the children of Israel in the OT - think burning bush, tabernacle, temple - and he did in the NT - think a womb, a manger and the cross. God locates himself in human flesh. The Creator becomes a creature. The architect comes to occupy brick and mortar. He locates himself in very specific places for very specific purposes: to place his name upon his people and bless them (Exodus 20:24). David knew that it was not right for the Ark of the Lord to dwell in a tent while he rested in a home of cedar (2 Samuel 7). And Solomon built the temple by the Lord's instructions so that the name of the Lord God would dwell among the people (1 Kings 5). Location, Location, Location. The temple then points to Christ, the temple now and forever.
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go up to the house of the Lord." Location is still important, vital for the people of God. True we have no biblical command to build temples and tabernacles, but we do have the two-fold word of command and promise. Baptize. Teach. Do this in remembrance of me. Why? For the forgiveness of your sins. For the salvation of many. For you and all your children and your children's children. In the Church today, Christ locates himself as he did in the Church of the OT and NT. It's no different on a college campus. Location and presence is everything. That's where the relationships are built, flow out of and are brought back into, the presence of Christ in his Church for the world. He locates himself at the altar, font and pulpit for you.
Built on the Rock the Church shall stand
Even when steeples are falling.
Crumbled have spires in every land;
Bells are still chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the souls distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting.
Grant, then, O God, Your will be done,
That, when the church bells are ringing,
Many in saving faith may come
Where Christ His message is bringing:
"I know My own; My own know Me.
You, not the world, My face shall see.
My peace I leave with you. Amen."