Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Plaza Church

         Many of you have called and written asking about this new endeavor Christina and I are about to jump into and are wondering about where and why we are planning to plant a church. Below is a paper I'm writing for our district leaders as a part of my application process. It hopefully brings some clarity to the questions: where are we planting, why are we planting and what do we hope to accomplish.

          Like most of my blogs so far it's way too long, but the reason I'm posting it is to pull back the curtain a bit and let all my friends see my heart and the direction the God is leading me.  Let me know what you think. I'm learning and changing by the day as I assimilate more information and as I'm praying through the direction that God is leading us. 

The Plaza Church

         My heart for this church plant is simply this: to build a Christ-centered pentecostal community focused on serving, loving and discipling the people who live in and round the 64112 area code (Commonly known as “The Plaza”).  We typically leave the term “unreached people group” for overseas missions, but I believe that moniker applies to this locale and it’s residents.

          A quick search at zipskinny.com reveals an interesting demographic.  The people in the zip code of the Plaza are for the most part college educated, single young adults who are employed and making a decent but not lavish wage (35-45k on average).  Like most of us at that stage in life many are just beginning to define who they are, and what course their lives are going to take.  They work hard at their jobs and love their social life.  But many are searching for a larger meaning.
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           They are a very socially conscience generation and the latest studies show that they are intrigued by, but not involved in, Christianity and Church.  A new study from Lifeway Research shows that 2 out of 3 individuals in this age group call themselves Christian and 70% say that the  Church is still relevant.  These are surprising, and encouraging numbers to be sure. However the sad stat is this one: Of those who identify with Christ: only 25% actually go to church.   

              My first reaction is “Why?” Having grown up in church and having spent the last 9 years of my life employed in ministry in the church, I know what a powerful place a community of believers can be.  I know the strength I’ve drawn, spiritually, emotionally, socially and mentally, through the ministries and relationships I’ve found in the church.  So why then are these believers (not to mention the vast numbers of unbelievers) avoiding the church? Why are they disconnecting from Christ and his family at an alarming rate? 

              The answer to this question is, I assume, as varied as the individuals we would ask to answer it.  Some are turned off by style, some by bad experiences, some by the desires and distractions of the world and some simply never felt connected and slowly drifted away.  I don’t know that there is any single solution to the many excuses for why people are not coming to church.  But I do know that a healthy, loving, Christ centered community is the hope of the world.  I do know that when done well, there is nothing on earth so powerful as the church.  Nothing is better at growing individuals into the fullness of Christ and empowering them to live their life to it’s fullest.  

                I think that’s why I want to plant a church.  I see a multitude of people searching for a cause  that is bigger than success and stuff.  A generation accosted by the corruption of their culture and in response something in them is crying out to rise above the fray and live a life worth dying for.    And than I see the cross.  The simple, beautiful cross and the Savor that laid down His life to give me a salvation I didn’t even know I needed.  The old saying goes “They won’t care what you know until they know that you care.”  And I believe that the truth in that saying applies in our day as much as ever.   God’s vehicle for the presentation of His love is the power of the cross, lifted up through the witness of the local church.   This area needs the light in the midst of the darkness.  

                      What will this church look like?  To be honest I don’t know.  Much of the style and look of the church will be formed in response to the insight we gain as we learn more about the culture and people that live there.  Ed Stetzer says in the book “Planting Missional Churches” that “The most biblical church is the one in which the cross is the only stumbling block for the unchurched.”  I like that.  The cross is a non-negotiable.  Discovering what connects people to the cross, and then executing that with a commitment to excellence will determine the style, or look, of the church. I have my ideas and plans for what I think that will look like, but I’m holding loosely to my plans until I better understand the local culture.   

                   I think that possibly the only absolute non-negotiable’s in the formation of a church are Theology and Community. 

                  I believe that if a church is solid in it’s commitment to a Biblical theology then it’s people will grow in their personal relationships with Christ and their lives will reflect that.  As important as it is to be culturally relevant, the medium only matters if the message is transformational and nothing is more transformational than Gods word.    It’s important that a church is not only committed to teaching Gods word, but teaching its people to love and engage in Gods word for themselves.  

                   Community is an old buzz word that I think has lost much of its impact as it’s become a bit over used.  Community does not simply describe a gathering of people.   Community implies a group of people with a common unity that draws them together for the betterment of the individual and the group as a whole.  In Gods family we are to be defined by our love for each other. The “It” factor that drives the vitality of a community is that they simply like being together. They enjoy the gathering and laughter is commonplace.   When one suffers they all suffer, when one mourns they all mourn, when one rejoices they all rejoice as though the joy is there own!  I would love to see people identify church as their favorite place to hang out. 

                   We cannot afford to fail at proclaiming God’s unchanging word in a relevant way or at creating an atmosphere of Christ centered community where we are best known by our love for each other and for our world.  If we have these elements we fulfill the great commandment to love God with all of our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

                 I’m learning so much right now about the process of building a church.  I’ve so many questions about legal issues, finances, payroll, incorporation, organization and leadership structures, developing a board, and so much more.   Growing up in church and in a pastor’s home I have a basic understanding of much of this, but I have so much more to learn.  
              Thanks you for allowing me to share my heart with you about this potential church plant.  In some ways I feel like a pregnant mother, this dream planted in my heart and I can’t wait to see what it will look like, feel like, sound like and how it will live.  I can’t wait to see who God brings alongside of my wife and I to work with us in this harvest. I can’t wait to find the Godly men and women God has already planted around the Plaza who are currently praying for God to bring a local church to their area.

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