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New Church Development


irreverance
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I was asked by Lily to start something regarding new churches.

 

I'm going to start by reposting what I said in another thread:

I have a personal interest in new church development (NCD) for a variety of reasons.

 

First, according to a friend of mine, he had read a study that said that the transformation of an existing congregation takes ten times more energy and resources than it takes for a new church start. From a stewardship perspective, that's significant. Anyone who has been part of a redevelopment process knows how hard it is to help congregations that are caught in the downward spiral of irrelevance to reconnect to their communities in a meaningful way. There are a whole slew of barriers that keep people out of churches or downright drive them away.

 

Second, I want to bring strategic change into the denominational systems. One of the best ways to do this is to create pockets of new life that can be protected from the "we've never done it that way before" kind of interference. This allows new generations to create their own spiritual communities that gives expression to thier own sense of spiritual connection.

 

Third, I don't want to devalue those who have put all those years into creating space for their own spirituality. Those of prior generations can easily be sacrificed on the altar of change for change's sake. To change their worship style from the traditional old rugged cross approach to Christian hip-hop for the sake of reconnecting with younger generations is inappropriate.

 

In short, I think that Christians have something significant to say about God, and starting new churches seems to be the most stewardly, effective, and respectful way of going about it. It enables us to honor our past and embrace the future at the same time. So it's not a matter of whether we have something to say; it's a matter of how we go about saying it.

 

Now, on to more...

 

Theologically, I always start with the assumption that God is actually somehow at work in the world around me (go figure). Therefore, my primary task isn't to "bring God" to the outsiders, but rather to seek to discern where God is already at work in the midst of those around me and to help them to seek to plug in.

 

From a missional perspective, this has distinct significance. First, it means that when "evangelizing" we are not trying to get people into traditional churches with the expectation that they conform to the established worship image if they want to be real Christians. Liturgy (music, ritual, flow) should be derived from real life because God is really active in life. When liturgy speaks to and through living experience, it becomes meaningful and transformative. Hence, the need for "alternative," "experiemental," or "indigenous" worship services.

 

Obviously, traditional worship works well ("is meaningful") for those who attend. To remove standard liturgical elements and replace them with water-filled trash cans and sandpits in the name of "progress" or "change" would be truly de-valuing to them and their spirituality. Not good. Therefore, in order to "make room" for new worshipful expressions and to "respect" the established worshiping traditions in a congregation, it is important to create multiple services that can take a multitude of forms. Thus, the formal worship of the community becomes "de-centered."

 

While this general structure could theoretically work with existing church structures, realisitically it is a lot easier to just start new communities. Resistance to useful change in established congregations is tremendous! (If you don't believe me, try telling the established powers that be in a congregation that they will no longer be the center of attention and indeed that people may well be leaving their services for other options and see how they respond.) I often hear "we need new people" from churchgoers, but I don't know the extent to which they are willing to adapt in order to make that possible.

 

You may be wondering at this point, "But how does the worship service function as the central feature/act of the new approach to worshiping community?" The answer is simple: it doesn't. Yes, what I propose would be the end of formal worship as the key feature of the community. Rather, the key/central feature of the community is the intentionality behind building a relationally-connected community. Whereas a church would have let's say 5-7 worship services in a week, the "knock-down, drag out, church-wide chili cook off and jamboree" (etc) would become the primary activity uniting its members.

 

The result: a de-centered church that makes room for a variety of ways to engage one's spiritual life and to give expression to that reality, while at the same time having large events (say every other month) that reinforce a singular identity as belonging to "First Community Church of Whereever." Worship then ceases to be something we do on Sunday morning, but rather is something that we "do" that is inseparable from daily living, community building, and making a difference in this world.

 

By starting new churches, a major barrier in "redevelopment" is bypassed: a disconnected church culture. Because they are "new" and not connected with the "establishment" they don't have all the cultural baggage to wrestle with and they are protected from such influences (in part anyway). Moreover, denominations are able to inject new "information" and life into the system, which could grow to becoming significant and a catalyst to widespread change.

 

Believe it or not, that's the short version. :) I can only hope it is coherent since I have to go.

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  • 8 months later...
I was asked by Lily to start something regarding new churches.

 

I'm going to start by reposting what I said in another thread:

Now, on to more...

 

Theologically, I always start with the assumption that God is actually somehow at work in the world around me (go figure). Therefore, my primary task isn't to "bring God" to the outsiders, but rather to seek to discern where God is already at work in the midst of those around me and to help them to seek to plug in.

 

From a missional perspective, this has distinct significance. First, it means that when "evangelizing" we are not trying to get people into traditional churches with the expectation that they conform to the established worship image if they want to be real Christians. Liturgy (music, ritual, flow) should be derived from real life because God is really active in life. When liturgy speaks to and through living experience, it becomes meaningful and transformative. Hence, the need for "alternative," "experiemental," or "indigenous" worship services.

 

Obviously, traditional worship works well ("is meaningful") for those who attend. To remove standard liturgical elements and replace them with water-filled trash cans and sandpits in the name of "progress" or "change" would be truly de-valuing to them and their spirituality. Not good. Therefore, in order to "make room" for new worshipful expressions and to "respect" the established worshiping traditions in a congregation, it is important to create multiple services that can take a multitude of forms. Thus, the formal worship of the community becomes "de-centered."

 

While this general structure could theoretically work with existing church structures, realisitically it is a lot easier to just start new communities. Resistance to useful change in established congregations is tremendous! (If you don't believe me, try telling the established powers that be in a congregation that they will no longer be the center of attention and indeed that people may well be leaving their services for other options and see how they respond.) I often hear "we need new people" from churchgoers, but I don't know the extent to which they are willing to adapt in order to make that possible.

 

You may be wondering at this point, "But how does the worship service function as the central feature/act of the new approach to worshiping community?" The answer is simple: it doesn't. Yes, what I propose would be the end of formal worship as the key feature of the community. Rather, the key/central feature of the community is the intentionality behind building a relationally-connected community. Whereas a church would have let's say 5-7 worship services in a week, the "knock-down, drag out, church-wide chili cook off and jamboree" (etc) would become the primary activity uniting its members.

 

The result: a de-centered church that makes room for a variety of ways to engage one's spiritual life and to give expression to that reality, while at the same time having large events (say every other month) that reinforce a singular identity as belonging to "First Community Church of Whereever." Worship then ceases to be something we do on Sunday morning, but rather is something that we "do" that is inseparable from daily living, community building, and making a difference in this world.

 

By starting new churches, a major barrier in "redevelopment" is bypassed: a disconnected church culture. Because they are "new" and not connected with the "establishment" they don't have all the cultural baggage to wrestle with and they are protected from such influences (in part anyway). Moreover, denominations are able to inject new "information" and life into the system, which could grow to becoming significant and a catalyst to widespread change.

 

Believe it or not, that's the short version. :) I can only hope it is coherent since I have to go.

 

I like a lot of this and it is relevant to discussion now going on under "new denomination".

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