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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: church multiplication

City to City part 1


I spent this past week in Miami a meeting with a number of Church Planting Networks and planters too look at the possibility of beginning a North American Network for city movements.  This gathering was catalyzed by the folks at Redeemer City to City and brought together people from  Renew South Florida, Acts29, the RCA, many from the PCA, the SBC, the GCM Collective, and others.  It was an awesome time to meet other folks who are passionate about reaching North America, particular through cities.  It was great to hear the unique challenges and opportunities that cities bring and present to the church.  The outcome of this gathering was that a group will be formed, likely to be called the City to City Collective for shared resourcing, networking, encouragement, and more.  It'll be great to see what unfolds. Tim Keller of Redeemer in New York was the keynote speaker, and I want to share just a few things.  In the first session, The Challenge of North American Cities, Keller said that the expense of cities, the complexity of cities, and the mobility of cities makes a church plant there very hard.  Knowing that, it's important to see larger trends, and in that vein he spoke about the decline of cities from 1970-1990 in which cities were hollowed out at the core, with suburban flight the order of the day.  This left an urban desolation in many cases, with increased crime rates, devalued properties, and a cultural malaise.  The rich would commute from the suburbs and leave the urban poor in the central city.  From the 1990's to today, there was been an upsurge in cities, a renewal of the urban core.  In many ways this was due to gentrification (young professionals re-locating to urban environments).  Crime went down, cultural productivity increased, and the core of cities have thus seen a resurgence.  However, the poor are also often displaced as property values increase and the city finds cultural and economic renewal.  Each era presents a different kind of opportunity, different needs, and different responses by the church.    The follow up question is, then, what is the future of the city?

Keller, then, offered his analysis of what the future holds for American cities.  First, he spoke of the following positive trends:

  • North American churches are globalizing.  This is a positive trend because strong international connections create stability and prestige.  Because the era of America as an economic self-sufficient engine is over, globalization is important.
  • North American churches are urbanizing.  By urbanizing, Keller was particularly speaking to the trend in cities towards smart growth, urban planning of  the New Urbanism kind.  He referenced the return to a walkable, mixed-use human settlement in cities, including places to work, live, shop, play, and learn within 10 minutes as opposed to the suburbanizing affect in which everything is about commuting and doing life with people that are not the same people you live with.  There are lots of great books on this, and I think he's right on about not only emerging urban planning, but also that this is a positive trend not only for cities and human beings in general who live there, but also for the church because it creates a possible parish that is not merely made up of people commuting to their favorite church or speaker.

Secondly, he spoke of negative trends:

  • The rise of great need:  Here, Keller focused on the recent recession and global financial meltdown, particularly in American cities.
  • However, though this is a negative trend in some ways in terms of urban development, Keller rewinded to remind us that through our history lessons we learn that God has often used urban dysfunction to win the hearts of people.  When we are in times of great need, there is also great opportunity for the church to respond.

So, for Keller, the future of urban ministry looks good because of globalization, new urbanism, and increased need.

Lastly, in terms of cities, Keller mentioned the following future trends to expect:

  1. Increasing hostility in the culture wars.  He was particularly on target when he said that we are fighting a Two Front War:  Secularists think Christians are too moralistic.  Muslims and Hindus think we are too permissive.  There will, then, be increasing hostility from secularists and increasing hostility from fundamentalists (of all sorts, including Christians).
  2. More opportunities for justice and mercy.  This is true particularly because of the increasing needs in the global financial meltdown and the increasing gap between the rich and the poort.
  3. Culture-making will be increasingly important, particularly with respect to the integration of faith and work.  People in the city will desire more and more the integration between multifarious worlds.
  4. A new kind of apologetics.  This part was particularly poignant for me.  Back in 2000, I started a class called "Beyond Apologetics" because I was realizing that because of the shifts we are experiencing in late modernity or post-modernity, that a new kind of apologetics is needed.  This doesn't mean that the classic apologetics are wrong or bad, but merely that we need a new apologetic for a new emerging culture.  In Keller's words, "We need to answer questions people are actually asking" or in one of the bylines of my former church in Ann Arbor, "Ask questions worth answering; seek answers worth believing."  Here are some of the points and reasons for a new apologetic:
  • The world essentially says to Christians, “You are not good neighbors.”
  • We need more cogent and powerful answers to questions that people are actually asking.
  • The basic objection alongside of evil & suffering, etc. is that Christians are bad citizens of pluralistic cities because as we grow and if we grow, we will take away people’s rights and freedoms.
  • We are completely outflanked in the public arena.
  • We have to care for the whole parish, including our secular neighbors.
  • The public narrative is that Christians are intolerant, and that is very powerful and makes it extremely hard to enter public discourse.

Keller also spoke about the stages of development of the catachuminate which we need to revisit, and how the church is failing in its response to homosexuality.  That's a long conversation for another time.

I'll blog a bit more on this in the future if I can find the time, including some of his other sessions.

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Multi-Site Road Trip


[youtube][/youtube]I recently read the new book Multi-Site Church Road Trip by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird.  After reading The Multi-Site Revolution several years back, this was a wonderful update. 6 or 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Dave Ferguson for dinner at a restaurant in Brighton, Michigan where Community Christian Church was then working on a potential site.  Dan Reeves introduced me to CCC and the Ferguson brothers who were then cutting edge (and still are) in the multi-site movement.  Then, as reflected in The Multi-Site Revolution, multi-site was new, exciting, and and catalyst to new growth.  They were multi-siting in old churches and even in a housing development for the elderly.  I had a chance to hear their strategy at a small conference in Kalamazoo not long after that in which they talked about the "franchising" of churches.  Initially, that rubbed me the wrong way, but with the right spirit and for the right reasons, that idea was cheaper, more effective, and provided more accountability for "church planting" as well as more support for the planters (or campus pastors, as their usually called.)  I had a chance later to visit the Yellow Box and worship with CCC and was really impressed with their innovation, passion, and down-to-earth evangelicalism.  CCC was really my only real personal interaction with multi-siting until I began reading more about it in Leadership Network's articles.

I now serve at a large church just about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.  We worship just under 2000 most Sundays, and for the last 5 years, myself and the other leadership have worked diligently to move our church not only towards planting, but towards being a multiplication center with church multiplication at the heartbeat of our mission.  We've been involved in church plants in the past, but had gotten away from that focus and got sucked into the megachurch growth movement - which is only a negative comment because of the loss of a planting focus.   Out of that focus, we've decided to plant 4 churches in the next 5 years through venues, sites, and plants.  A month ago, we launched our first venue on our central campus called Rock Harbor with 60% of the attendees (170-200 total worshipers) from outside the church.  We're now looking to out first site to possibly launch in September or October.  We're also involved in the planting of a cluster of at least 5-10 churches in central Florida that will also launch this next year.

The Multi-Site Road trip has been an awesome primer in what's happening around the country and about the maturation of multi-siting over the past 10 or so years.   What I loved about this book was that it didn't give a silver bullet and didn't promote a one-size fits all approach.  In fact, exactly the opposite was true.  MSR defines multi-siting as "one church meeting in multiple locations" and identifies five basic models:

  1. video venues
  2. regional campuses
  3. teaching teams
  4. partnerships
  5. low risk models

The authors give examples of all these models and show how these models actually play out in real churches, real teams, with real struggles.  It also helps the reader to see that multi-siting is not just for the large, or mega church, but that it is a strategy for growth that helps churches to reach new communities, make room for new people, or as our planting network (The Harbor Network) would say, lives into the reality that "new churches reach new people."  It was insightful to read that multi-siting may be an evolution of church strategy not unlike the addition of a second or third service, something that will in the future be "the new norm" as the book calls it.  The book is both practical and encouraging, and is a must read for anyone either considering venues or multi-siting, as an alternative to traditional "planting," and as a catalytic idea for a church looking to expand into the community.

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