When most people hear the word church they immediately think, "building." After all, we always talk about church like it's a place. We tell our kids we are "going to church." We talk about meeting "at the church." If you look at the Bible, however, you quickly discover that the church isn't a building or a location, instead it's the people.
Ken Rucker is leading a church that lives that truth week to week. He and his family -– which includes his wife of 22 years, Susan, and four boys -– launched New Branch Community Church in 2008 but have never had a church building to call their own. Instead they have met in a variety of locations and God has used that reality to help them grasp what it means to be a true church.
"We are a church without a building, and that has been a great benefit to us. Although there is nothing at all wrong with churches having buildings, sometimes the building can become what the church is all about," he said.
"Because we don't have a building, God has been able to build into us a culture of understanding that we are the church," he added. "We 'gather' on a particular day of the week in a particular place, but we are the church. We are the church when we are at home, when we are in our neighborhoods, when we are in our community, when we are in our workplaces, etc."
Even with such a biblical understanding of the true church, New Branch still needed a place for the church to gather for corporate worship from week to week.
"For the first couple of years we met in portable buildings that were located on property that was leased to us," he said. "When that property owner met with some economic struggles, we found ourselves in need of a new place to gather."
It was at that moment the true unity of the true Body of Christ was demonstrated in an even more unique way as a ministry arm of another local church offered them a place to meet.
"The administration of Hebron Christian Academy reached out to us and offered the use of their cafetorium (it's their cafeteria and auditorium, and they affectionately refer to it as their 'cafetorium')," he recalled. "The staff and faculty of Hebron Christian Academy has been incredibly kingdom-minded and has bent over backwards to make us feel welcome. It is a very neat relationship as we each look for ways to encourage and support one another in our unique yet similar missions."
The partnership has been great and New Branch, under Rucker's leadership has found great ways to make a positive impact in the community.
"About a year ago we sensed the Lord leading us to get involved in some kind of 'mercy ministry' in our own community. He began to really impress upon the leadership His own heart toward the poor and underserved, and how we needed to be mirroring His heart in that regard," he said. "We believe that the greatest need of every person is that they be reconciled with their Creator through the blood of Jesus Christ; however, we also know that God has given us clear direction to feed the poor, visit the widow, help the sick, care for the orphan, clothe the naked, minister to the hurting, etc. At the same time, we recognized that we were a small congregation with little to no experience in wading into these kinds of issues. That's when we partnered with StreetWise Georgia."
"StreetWise is an incredible ministry that is really getting it done on the streets, and they have been an incredible partner to work alongside," said Rucker. "We're able to send our people to them, and they will train them and then put them to work doing any number of tasks (financial counseling, clothes closet, food pantry, apartment outreach, etc)."
Pastor Rucker's heart for ministry comes out of a genuine love for the Dacula community.
"Dacula is a unique bedroom community of Atlanta. It retains the feel of small town America," he said. "The people are some of the most friendly folks you'll ever find. It is a joy to minister in this town."
Ken Rucker, and New Branch Community Church, may not have a building to call their own, but they have something more important: a heart for the community and a heart for spreading the message and love of Christ which can never be contianed within the four walls of any building.