“I like all my restaurants to be doing good everywhere in the country,” says my favorite comedian, Nate Bargatze. “I’m a big fan of Applebee’s. If I eat somewhere that’s not Applebee’s I only eat what Applebee’s would serve. If Applebee’s is not onboard with it, I’m not going to be either.”

For most of my life I treated churches like Nate treats restaurants. I wanted the church I go to “to be doing good” by having an appealing building and a lot of members. I also wanted my church to be like Applebee’s—the type that has the same programs and facilities that I could find at any megachurch anywhere in America.

What I would not choose is any church that met in a building in a strip mall or in an elementary school cafeteria. If a church didn’t have it’s own building it could not, by definition, “be doing good.” And just as I could go into any Applebee’s and know what to expect, I wanted to be able to walk into a church building and know—by the size, interior design, etc.—how well they were serving God’s Kingdom.

Had you asked me, I would have been quick to claim that the building is not the church. I always knew the congregation of followers, the brothers and sisters that comprise the Body of Christ, are the church. Nevertheless, I had a typical American bias that equated impressive church facilities with a flourishing church.

My attitude changed, though, when I joined the team to plant Grace Hill Church.

At Grace Hill we believe the church is strongest and most effective when we have Christ-centered congregations scattered throughout the whole world that proclaim the gospel clearly and preach the Bible faithfully. We don’t need a multimillion dollar building to preach the gospel. We don’t need state of the art facilities to reach the lost in the Northern Virginia area. To reach this region with the good news of Jesus Christ we just need a place to meet.

Currently, we meet in a place I’d always avoided—the cafeteria of an elementary school. But I’m here now because it’s where I think God wants us to be. In fact, I’ve come to love having our services at Dranesville Elementary School. We have space to grow and yet new visitors don’t get lost in the crowd. We have a safe space—including a playground and gymnasium—where our kids can both play and learn about Jesus. We have everything we need because we have what I’ve always needed in a church—a place to form a community where people know me and I know them.

Maybe you’re like I used to be, wanting your church to already “be doing good.” Maybe you think if a megachurch is not onboard with it, you’re not going to be either. If so, I encourage you to come out and visit us on any given Sunday. Maybe, like me, you’ll find that what you are really looking for in a church can best be found in a place you never expected.

Grace Hill Church launches on Sunday, September 10, 10:30am, at Dranesville Elementary School – 1515 Powells Tavern Place, Herndon, VA 20170.