What is a church supposed to look like? A church’s typical perception is often a large building with a steeple and some stained glass. Maybe your church experience makes you think of something else, maybe amplifiers and spotlights or kneeling and making the cross sign. It is easy to forget, though, that a church is not a building, but a group that has been gathered for worship. That’s something a local church in Waco, Texas, understands. HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines also seem to understand that.
Church Under the Bridge is, quite actually, 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 thrived. But a new renovation project spearheaded by the state has created problems for the church.
Fox News is reporting that Texas has begun widening I-35. That meant lots of heavy equipment and loud construction — and that meant Church Under the Bridge was, well, no longer under the bridge.
That could’ve shifted into a long, difficult search for a place to worship. Instead, Chip and Joanna Gaines reached out, 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 shift from the bridge to the Silos in grand style. After meeting under the overpass, they trekked a quarter mile to the new spot.
A middle school marching band played music as the worshippers marched. Congregant Adam Anspaugh stated, “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 appreciated the Dorrell’s ministry. When Chip saw that construction would create problems for 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 very 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.