Pictures of what Central and it's campus community could be...
SNAPSHOT: In 2025, Central Christian Church has transformed to become a center of community life. People come onto the campus for a wide variety of aims and activities. We have developed the campus to not only allow but encourage and inspire this. All the work people do here helps them flourish and thrive through the range of life experiences. Our presence among and alongside them enables deepening relationships, conversations about things that really matter, and companionship in the joys and sorrows of life. Through it all we bear witness to God’s Transforming Love revealed in and among us. We listen to their stories, and we get to share why we follow Jesus, and what difference He makes in our lives. So, is Central still a church in 2025? Yes! Is it also a community center? Absolutely! And thanks be to God for that!
THE WHOLE PHOTO ALBUM
When you drive onto the campus at 4711 Westside Drive you notice several things immediately. The building and grounds are immaculate. It’s a mid-century modern building, but doesn’t look weathered and worn. The landscaping is understated but beautiful, including pops of color throughout the beds and in particular you see small but beautiful gardens for roses, wildflowers and native Texas plants. The front lawn includes a playground covered with laughing children along with tables and benches where people sit and talk while enjoying their lunch. A walking track meanders around the property for exercise or prayer.
You also notice clear and well placed signage that tells you where you are and what you will find on this campus. We might call this place “Central Westside – A hub of community engagement, innovation and impact”. The congregation of Central Christian Church who owns and manages the property celebrates that all of the activities here work together to bless people, build the kingdom of God on earth, and thus Glorify the God revealed to us in Jesus. They see this as a clear expression of our congregation’s mission statement: As followers of Jesus Christ we partner with our neighbors to experience God’s transforming love. We do this with specific priorities around Diversity and Inclusion, Creativity and the Arts, and Wholeness and Flourishing for humanity and all of creation.
Early in the process of becoming what we now are, there were some who said with a hint of sorrow or sarcasm, “This place has become a community center. It isn’t even a church anymore.” The congregation came to recognize that these are not mutually exclusive, and in fact that no place can rightly be called a church unless it is also a center of life for its community. Thus the response became, “Actually, it’s both. And isn’t that wonderful that the community is becoming increasingly comfortable finding hope and happiness in their time here at 4711?” (Incidentally, in the 1980s when a church building housed Scouts, a school or day care, and Jazzercise, people didn’t thereby presume it was no longer “a church.”)
Back to our visit… When you approach the front doors you again find more clear signage that welcomes you and orients you to all that you will find inside, and where you will find it. Through the glass doors you are greeted by a warm and welcoming host who offers you the appropriate beverages for the season and asks how they can help you connect. Brightly colored maps and brochures lead the way to all the many opportunities.
The hosts are part of a larger team of trained, skilled and caring leaders who love to help people connect to their own true purpose, the people around them, and the God who made them. These connections are made mostly informally through conversation and growing friendship. The Care and Connect team recognizes that what people want most of all is to belong and to know their lives matter. All the activities at Central Westside are ultimately oriented toward these two goals.
Along the hall you encounter what feels like a European café with many small tables and chairs clustered together and people talking animatedly about their work and life and how God is present in both. All of this over cups of gourmet coffee and pastries from Central Kitchen. The Hall Café also boasts doors out to the beautiful Grace Gardens where people work, pray and visit. Off this hall is a larger gathering area that can be arranged in a variety of ways depending on the day and activities. Beyond this is The Great Hall off the Café and Kitchen - it hosts a wide range of meetings, conferences and other events. On weekends it also is home to The Westside Players theatre arts company which offers dramatic productions, musical performances, improv and other entertainment which capture the imagination, the intellect and the spirit. From the café you can head upstairs to the Wellness Center on the mezzanine level, downstairs to the Underground – a creative space and meeting area, or around the corner to the chapel where people gather throughout the day for a wide variety of spiritual practices including prayer and bible study.
Through the back doors you see Central Dog Park, which is approaching its 20th year as a home for dogs and their families. This place really became the turning point for Central – the first glimpse of what it might mean to open our campus to strangers and just let them do their thing. It’s a thing that has no obvious religious value, and yet we discovered that these people were creating communities of care among themselves. They were wrestling with the messiness of life. They were celebrating and crying together. And once we fully engaged them in humility, they taught us what it means to take Christ to the world right here on our campus.
Back inside, down the long hall toward the sanctuary you will find the Westside Child Care Center which is a small boutique daycare for the children of all those who spend time at 4711, whether as part of a worshipping congregation, a 12 step group, a wellness class, or the SyncLife coworking community. This hall also offers several small and medium sized meeting rooms for groups from Central Westside and the surrounding neighborhoods.
SyncLife is based upstairs above main North/South hall and includes 10 rooms of varying sizes where nonprofit and for-profit social impact organizations work. Coworking is essentially a community of innovators who share space and resources, collaborate together in mutual support, and “do life together” as they each encounter the ups and downs that come with work, family and personal growth.
Some of these folks do work that is obviously and traditionally thought of as “ministry” – i.e. their work is non-profit and they are addressing social, relational, and spiritual needs of individuals and families. Take Charge. Period. provides menstrual products to those who cannot afford them. Poetic serves the needs of girls who have been rescued from human trafficking. Literacy Achieves provides language proficiency classes and resources for English language learners. Institute for Vital Ministry provides training and support for ministry leaders. Table coaches churches and other community groups to engage their neighbors through entrepreneurship. Bold Idea offers computer training to individuals with disabilities. These are just a few of the nonprofit examples.
Alongside these folks are others who have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place but use for-profit business models to accomplish this while pursuing what some call “the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.” Bespoken Art is a graphic design firm. Electric Kitchen is a vegan catering and food experience company. A photography studio is used by artists shooting still and video images for creative and commercial purposes. Marketing and PR consultants work alongside these creatives. We have programmers, accountants, realtors and insurance agents who office at SyncLife. Outside companies, community groups and churches come to use the meeting rooms nearly every day.
The Westside Wellness Center includes studios for yoga, tai chi and other body practices. Nutrition coaching, pastoral counseling, and 12 step recovery groups are also housed here. The focus in the WWC is to work holistically – addressing the needs of body, mind and spirit – bringing together the best of Eastern and Western health wisdom. Classes are offered that equip people to grow in their own practice until they are able to lead and train others.
What about “church”? That question comes up again. And honestly it probably will so long as people who “remember when” are still living. I “remember when” - I remember church as far back as the 1970s, and it didn’t look like this, at least not on the surface. But when I reflect on those days, I recall children and youth programming that “got people on campus”, formed community among them, and taught them to care for each other and serve their neighbors. Along the way our leaders were encouraging our questions about God, Jesus, relationships and the rest of life. They were helping us dream, discover and design the lives God was calling us to live. They were working with God who seeks to form and reform us after the image of Jesus.
Jesus and the Apostles went into the streets, the places of shopping and business and learning, and even to the beach. Wherever they went they engaged people “in the midst of life”. They talked about and built God’s kingdom there, where the people were. 4711 Westside has become a place where people gather to do life, which has given the clergy and laity of Central the opportunity to know them and journey together with them toward God’s best for them.
Central Westside also hosts 8 weekly worship gatherings:
There is no longer just “one main church” and then all the others imagined as a body with appendages. We are all the church together. The Sanctuary Service may be thought of as what was once known simply as Central Christian Church. Once that was all there was at 4711. Now Central has become so much more. And many of the people who have been members of “Central” for decades now participate in one of the other worship gatherings, instead of or in addition to the Sanctuary service. There are groups that meet for prayer, bible study, fellowship and service – including the legacy Disciples Women and Men groups and the Sunday school classes. These groups now provide a connecting place for folks from all the worship communities as well as the others who call our campus “home”.
Perhaps we might imagine Central as the Great-great-grandparents of a large extended family of five generations. It is wonderful to see how much diversity, beauty, creativity and love exists in this community. True, we are not what we were. We aren’t better or worse. We’re just new and next. How many of us really want to live like our ancestors from five generations past – or would want that for the generations to come? The generations who brought us to this location probably never imagined what we have become. But how many of them imagined the internet or the iPhone or self-driving cars either? How many of them expected to have the ability to see or send live images anywhere on the planet, from their homes, to share stories of tragedy and triumph? How many thought they would ever be able to access all the information available to humanity in the palm of their hands? Yet that is the world in which we live, and the world that God is now calling us to know, love and serve. If we refuse to participate in that world and engage it in its own ways, then why would we imagine they would ever want to come be part of a group that has rejected the ways they engage the world?
Central Westside is a hub of community engagement, innovation and impact. It is a place where people with diverse background, passions and pursuits come together for mutual benefit. Those of us who build and lead this know that this is an expression of God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. We know that God is alive and at work among and around us. We give thanks for all those who paved the way with their time and treasure, faith and foresight, so that we could thrive in this day and time. Our greatest hope is that the work we are doing paves the way for generations to come.
Central Christian Church and the constellation of communities known collectively as Central Westside will be overseen by a leadership team of paid and volunteer clergy and laity. There will likely be two full time and several part time clergy serving the gathered communities and worship services. Leaders with skills in connecting, hospitality, training and development, marketing, and administration will also be needed. The congregation(s) may have one unified leadership structure or may be separate corporations with representatives serving on an advisory board for Central Westside.
Some of these clergy will be seminary trained, but not all. All leaders will be accountable to ongoing continuing education, spiritual practices, and emotional growth and support. Central Westside will offer a variety of training and support opportunities for its own leaders and others in the wider community.
The organizational structure of the congregation of CCC will likely change over this time to better meet the needs of the congregation and the wider context. This can include 1) a wider base of leaders serving in their areas of skill and passion, 2) regular opportunities for broad input from the whole community, 3) a smaller and more nimble leadership team making operational decisions, 4) collaboration with the community advisory board to stay “in touch” with partners.
We might remember the current structure as a model, where groups like Disciple Women and Men make their own decisions, but in a relationship of covenant marked by consultation and coordination with the wider church. The new manifestations of our work at 4711 might follow this example.
Traditional 20th Century church stewardship models are outdated and no longer workable. Central Westside will adopt and embrace a nonprofit fundraising model. Advantages include: