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In Long Beach, CA (as in any urban center) we have issues related to church growth:
5. Racial and Economic Diversity
ALONG SIDE OF THAT YOU STILL HAVE, as far as I can tell, an old system of churches doing their own thing with lack of trust, competition and fear across denominational and cultural lines. Black churches do their thing, Whites, Hispanics, Cambodian, etc.
Of course, many of these non-White churches exist by meeting in the ‘fellowship halls’ of aging, near-dead traditional churches, as well as growing White churches, which by the way are also a mission field (we need to help aging White congregations, not just rip off their buildings and space). The relationship between these groups can be anywhere from amiable, to competitive, and in some cases even dysfunctional. I’ve seen this first hand.
THEN WE HAVE LONG BEACH CHURCH PLANTING. Long Beach is hot for church planters and God is using them, in fact, more church plants are needed in Long Beach, more good church plants at least. All the ones I’ve interacted with are great church plants, led by great men and teams. But they also deal with the same issues of space, budget, leadership development, getting flyers and invites out to Area 1, Area 2 trying to reach people with the Message of Jesus Christ.
Emergent is relatively new in Long Beach but there’s a pulse mostly among these new church plants. If Emergent is missional, communal, relational, justice and mercy oriented, if Emergent is artistic, contemplative and honest, most of these new church plants have it.
But the problem is that for the most part, whether new or old, traditional, contemporary or emergent, most of our Long Beach churches still do their own thing. There are efforts such as Kingdom Causes that are trying to bring pastors together to pray and to allow for relationship, but more needs to be done.
WHAT I AM RECOMMENDING IS ALONG the lines of a united staff to lead multiple churches. A sharing of power, a non-traditional approach to leadership with four or five pastors together leading, shepherding, evangelizing and developing leaders for multiple churches together in community. Messy? Yes, but God can do the impossible and we need it.
The larger churches can do this by having two or three of their staff, say in my case, commit to developing the Arts in 4-5 churches for 6 months to a year. In the course of that time, my job would be to develop artistic leadership by modeling the values of worship, a devotional life, intimacy, community and transformation among artist, stuff that I believe in and have done in our own church. And from day one lead along side of a local, indigenous worship leader in training who will actually remain with the local church. The same can be done in preaching, discipleship, facilities, tech, small groups, spritual formation, children’s ministry, evangelism.
This assumes a few things of these New Kind of Pastors:
1. They are committed to a non-traditional approach to leadership
2. They are willing to trust one another
3. They are willing to share what they have
4. They are secure in their own gifts and role
The biggest obstacles to this New Kind of Church are:
7. Lack of Trust
With the struggles urban centers deal with all across the U.S. we need to attempt different church systems and leadership structures. I think this new approach can be used in most urban centers of our country and around the world. My guess is this is already being done in non-religious settings.
YOU LOOK AT THE CURRENT MULTI-SITE MODEL, or the old church planting center model, these systems require BUCKS, BUDGET AND SIZE and their main objective is to grow a BIGGER ME. A church plant of 200, a new church of 20-30, a traditional church of 40-50 cannot do this. Even medium size churches of 1000-2000 are hard pressed to go multi-site because they may lack the leadership structure to do this (in other words, they have not developed people to actually go), or they don’t have the budget to buy 2-3 times over curriculum, leasing/rental fees, audio equipment, staff and more.
It’s time for a Root System approach to church leadership versus the Tower of Babel traditional approach, where the bigger churches send, diversify their goods and services perhaps even liquify some of them to serve other churches, and this is not to just give them a fish, although I’m fine with that, but to develop local leadership and most of all to unite, to bring relationship and friendship among pastors, congregations and churches.
THIS IS NOT AN ASSOCIATION OR A DENOMINATION, this is a root system, a network, an alliance of churches, Emergent Leadership, led by a group of pastors committed to relationship, leadership, to Long Beach, humbly submitting to one another, can I say this again, humbly submitting to one another and committed to seeing the Kingdom of God expand in our city.
This model, like the current multi-site model, is something that not every can do or will buy into, but as the problems surrounding church growth continue, new kind of church systems must emerge.
Do you know anyone on your staff, leadership team or community that thinks this way?
THIS IS A SYSTEM I AM COMMITTED TO. This is what I already do and believe in. This could help churches expand the Kingdom of God in their own cities by bringing together staff and resources towards a common cause.
I want more than a bigger, better MY CHURCH. In fact, I’m not sure if bigger is even possible in Long Beach or most urban centers. I don’t want to grow old doing what I do mostly for the benefit of MY CHURCH. And at least for me, I’ve dedicated myself by God’s grace, to equipping and developing people that are ready, and if anything may be bored to death with the lack of missional, servant, relational ministry between churches. Isn’t it always awkward when someone in your church helps another church? Sort of like, hey, I thought you were committed to MY church.
IT’S TIME TO UNLEASH PEOPLE’S GIFTS in new ways, to give them a greater vision than for our own churches. It’s time to ask those with the gift of giving for $5 million to fund these projects, it’s time to talk to pastors of dying churches about renewing their vision. It’s time to once again ask God for the impossible, things that will challenge our hearts and attitudes.
I am convinced that there is a generation of pastors both young and old, new and traditional that are ready for this. And although we all worry about budgets, salaries, how exactly will this work, etc. there is something inside of us saying, keep talking, this sounds right.
We need to give answers to the hard questions, to provide the details of how this will work. We’ll get there. I have three Long Beach pastors to whom I’ve spoken, and they feel God is in this, they are open to this conversation. Currently, we meet at my house. Seeing these young pastors from different churches in my backyard, talking, praying, sharing our struggles, our concerns, learning to be friends not competitors, is one of my greatest rewards. Now, it’s time to organize and do something great that will cause Satan to run and allow for the presence of God to move in a powerful way in our beloved city of Long Beach.
Into the future,