BLOOMINGTON — When the Rev. Ted Max of Vale Church on Thursday walked around the church building under construction at 3101 Ireland Grove Road, he didn't just see crews working on walls and a roof.
He saw an invitation.
"We are running out of space" at the current church building at 1304 Morrissey Drive, Bloomington, the pastor said. "This building represents an opportunity for more people to come.
"We're making more room," he added. "If you want to learn about God, here's a place you can come."
Vale Church is a longtime Bloomington church with a quickly growing congregation.
Now, the church has 2,300 congregants and an average Sunday attendance of 1,700, Max said.
"We have a great group of people who are inviting their friends to hear the message that has stood the test of time for thousands of years ... that God wants to reconnect with his people," Max said.
The church acquired 37 acres south of Ireland Grove Road and west of The Links at Ireland Grove because the site allows for expansion. Max called the $6 million church building under construction "our first step to make more room for people."
"Our goal is to bring people together," Max said. "He has asked us to gather. Community is about us connecting to him together."
As a physical representation of that, the future church building will have only three spaces — for worship, gathering and children's activities. There will be no small classrooms and no hallways, he said.
"It's about building community," he explained. "We don't want to divide ourselves when we're together, so the building is designed to bring us together."
That's why the new building of 31,000 square feet actually will be smaller than the existing, 36,000-square-foot building, a renovated automobile dealership.
"There is no wasted space" in the new building, he said. "We will be able to get more people into this building even though we will have less square footage."
Vale Church gradually has been adding to its staff as the congregation grows and has 19 full- and part-time employees, Max said. The church has five weekend services.
Construction began in August and is on schedule with the building about 50 percent complete, Max said. The building should be enclosed by the end of the month, and the first worship services should take place in the new building on June 1, Max said.
The property at 1304 Morrissey Drive is being sold to Michael Cale, CEO of the Wilber Group, a subrogation claims recovery office serving primarily the insurance industry and based at 210 Landmark Drive, Normal.
Wilber Group will remain on Landmark Drive but is looking at the Morrissey Drive site for future expansion, Cale said.
As Max looked at the church building under construction, he added perspective.
"I didn't get into ministry to build buildings," he said. "I got into ministry to build the kingdom of God. I'm excited about what this building will mean to the people we've been called to serve."
Lee Eidson and his wife, Zena, have been members of the church for 63 years.
"Completion of the building will permit more space for our congregation but, more importantly, it will mean that we can possibly reach more unchurched people from the Bloomington-Normal and surrounding area," Eidson said.
"There are many people in our area that currently are not hearing the message that is being proclaimed by Vale Church, and it is our desire to reach and present the Scriptures of the Bible to all who will listen," he said. "Our job is to tell and leave the rest to God."