Part of our missional strategy at COMMUNITY is to reproduce new sites so we can reach deep into local communities and neighborhoods to help more and more people find their way back to God. COMMUNITY currently has eleven locations and a dream of one day having two hundred locations in the Chicagoland area. That kind of dream forces us into movement thinking. While we have several new sites that we expect to start in the next 18 months, it is movement thinking that has us planning the launch of our first network of three new sites in Chicago.
Jon Ferguson, my brother is leading the way as network leader and will be moving with his family into the city this summer. Got to love that Jon and Lisa are willing to take the lead on this great new missional endeavor. We are calling this new initiative CHICAGO IMPACT. We believe that this strategy of starting a network which ideally will include 3-4 sites will allow us to more easily achieve our dream of being a catalyst for a movement.
The good news is that momentum is already starting to build as more than twenty-five people are making plans to move from the suburbs into the city to help launch this new site. I anticipate that the number will more than double over the next several months. One of those people that relocated is our campus pastor, Tammy Melchien who in her first two weeks started two small groups reaching mostly people who are not going to church. That is a very good sign! We are already hearing some amazing stories and I'm sure there are more stories to come.
As I look to the future I know COMMUNITY will continue to start individual campuses, but we will also start more and more networks. Why? To help people find their way back to God!
I had a great time working with Mark and Nicole Conner and the CityLife team for two days in Melbourne, Australia. They are definitely world class leaders with tremendous passion and gifting. We spent most of our time talking about the organizational changes needed once you get beyond 3 sites. We also spent a great deal of time talking about how they can further implement the BIG IDEA. And we ate alot!!
While it was impressive that CityLife is the second largest church in Australia with an average attendance of 5500; what was more exciting is that it is now a reproducing church! In the last three years CityLife has added two more new sites; plus planting a new church with dreams for continually reproducing. If you dig deeper you will discover that this church, like most successful reproducing churches has an infrastructure of reproducing small groups with 88% of their people in small groups. Outstanding! I look forward to partnering with CityLife in the future. It is so inspiring to see what God is doing all over the world to bring about a movement of reproducing churches.
Anthem Church: Former NewThing/COMMUNITY Leadership Resident, Matt Larson (and wife Kristen) launched a NewThing Church near L.A., CA called Anthem Church. They kicked off this weekend with 339 people!!! We are super proud of Matt and the whole team at Anthem!IKON Christian Community: Former NewThing/COMMUNITY Leadership Resident, Aaron Monts (and wife Tracy) launched a NewThing Church in downtown San Francisco, CA. They kicked off this weekend with 100 people!!! San Francisco’s average size for a church is 40 and IKON’s attendance on launch weekend already makes them one of the largest churches in San Francisco. San Fran, much like our Boston plant, is utilizing a “pace yourself or slow growth” strategy; where they will be doing multiple launches throughout the year. Eric Metcalf, NewThing Director spoke with Aaron yesterday and they are humbled to be a part of NewThing and very thankful that COMMUNITY has been praying for their new church. He shared many stories of people who are “spiritualists”, young professionals, and people who are in church for the first time in their life – taking their first steps to finding their way back to God.
I had the privilege of being a part of The Idea Camp in Washington, D.C. a couple weeks ago where the theme was compassion and justice. I did a workshop on "Doing Missions in the Burbs" and was also asked to do an interview in the opening session along with Mark Batterson of National Community Church. If you would like to watch the interview of Mark and myself it is now available by clicking HERE.
Got a chance to hangout last night with L.V. Hanson, Ambassador for the Catalyst Conference and head honcho of the Catalyst Road Trip. Since he was new to Chicago I had to treat him to some Lou Malnati's pizza. He's a great guy and we had a great time. In the video we talked a lot about church planting and where Community is headed as a missional church. If you want to read his post about our conversation it is on the Catalystspace blog titled First Full Day in Chicago and it includes some stuff on multi-site that is not in the video.
This picture goes back a few years when Bill Carroll, Jeff Prosapio and myself went to England and France to experience and learn from the alternative worship movement in Europe. We had heard a lot about Taize worship that started and was practiced in Taize, France. So we left Paris and drove about 3 hours to Taize to for the experience. When we arrived we were confused because this little village couldn't have had more than a couple hundred people and the only church in town looked severely under-used. The reason we were confused is because there are two Taize in France and we were at the wrong one. The other was another 6 hours away. This is Bill and I looking at the map and the two Taize's in France.
Since that time Bill and his wife Rachel have fallen more and more in love with France. After faithfully serving at Community for the last 12 years they are getting ready to take off with the whole family to plant a church. We are all going to miss them immensely. Bill is a tremendously hard worker and the most tenacious recruiter and developer of artists that I have ever seen. I am currently finishing up a book with Jon Ferguson on the reproducing church and much of the chapter we wrote on reproducing artists is from what I've learned from Bill. It is a skill that all our arts directors value and that's a huge part of Bill's legacy. Rachel was the founding director for CCC's School for the Arts. We have about 400 students in our school and it has been a huge help in us developing artists young and old. More recently she served with the creative arts team in Kid's City. Rachel is a super talented artist and tremendously creative leader.
At the end of this summer Bill and Rachel will take off for France and after going through language school will plant the first of many reproducing churches in Paris. We are thrilled that they not only go with our blessing and financial support but also as a part of NewThing. This will be the first of what we believe will be many new churches NewThing will plants in Europe. Thank you Bill and Rachel for passionately giving yourself to the mission of "helping people find their way back to God". You have served us, the people in Chicagoland and God with great love and integrity. We are so proud of you, love you very much and will be praying for you.
This is the picture that I will long remember from Exponential 09. This was the first of more than 500 leaders who came forward to make a commitment to plant a new church. I was standing in the wings stage left while Francis Chan finished up his challenging closing message. He had just begun to explain that people could come forward to receive prayer for the new church you will start or just started and I saw this young man come down the aisle and collapse in prayer. It was representative of the moment and what God did through Exponential 09.
For the last few years I have served as the volunteer President of Exponential. It is our prayer that God will use it to catalyze a movement of reproducing churches. Every year God continues to send us more and more church leaders who are passionate about making that dream come true. Three years ago we had 900 leaders attend; two years ago 1800; last year we had 2700 and this year more than 3000!
This years theme was "The Art of Movements" and we told stories of church planting movements in the East in hopes that we could learn and see it happen here in the West. One of the church planting movements in India had rallied 100,000 Christ Followers to pray for Exponential 09. No wonder we saw such amazing things happen!
I can't wait for Exponential 10!
When Anne Jackson was at COMMUNITY last week we had lunch and I was asking her about potential campus pastors and church planters. I'm always looking for the best and brightest who are interested in planting a new campus or church. So I asked Anne, "Do you know any women who you think would be good campus pastors or church planters?" No one came to mind, but she said she would ask her friends through her blog. She gets a lot of traffic on her blog and she posted the question and has received a lot of comment and some fascinating responses. So if you have an answer to my question you can leave a comment here OR you can click over to Anne's blog and join the conversation on her blog.
After I posted this Kevin Miller posted an appropriate critique of Exponential 09 and the lack of women church planters calling it, The Final Church Barrier for Woman: Church Planter. It's an important read.
God brought together myself, Sue, Jon and 4 college friends to start a new church in Chicago. God gave us a dream to not only reach Chicago, but a dream that goes beyond that. I believe God’s dream was for us is to be a "catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches." That dream continues to motivate us and COMMUNITY now has 9 locations with over 5,000 people in attendance. But I believe that we are just beginning to fulfill the dream that God has for us. Until now God has been introducing us to the world. And I believe what God wants for us next is to impact the world. The way that we will impact the world is through NewThing who is reproducing networks of reproducing churches reaching lost people around the world. That is God's dream for us.
So how about you? What is your dream? What unique dream has God placed on your heart? On your life? Or as you read these words, do you find yourself saying, “I want a dream. How did you discover what your dream is?”
If you are wrestling with these questions, we would like to meet with you. NewThing is hosting an event called Discover the Dream to help you discover the dream God has placed in your heart. Join us on Monday, April 20 at Exponential Conference in Orlando, FL.
To learn more about Discover the Dream, look for Part 2 of this four-part blog. If you’re ready to sign up for the experience, click HERE. But hurry, space is limited to the first 80 people who sign up. In fact, if you sign up because of this blog you get 20% off! Email [email protected] to take advantage of this discount.
Last week I got to host another podcast for the Exponential Conference. This time it was with Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York City. And Tim was simply brilliant! At one point in the podcast (I have listened to see if they edited this out) I just start gushing and say, "Tim, I don't care if nobody else listens to this podcast, this is such great stuff, I'm glad that we got to have this conversation!" So, click HERE and check out some great stuff on church planting and how movements are constructed by Tim Keller.
Have you thought that maybe God is calling you to something new? Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit that is begging to be unleashed to impact God's kingdom? May be you aren't sure exactly what your dream is, or you have an idea, but haven't defined it. If so, NewThing’s Discover the Dream is an experience that will help you discover how to make God’s dream for you become a reality. In almost all cases when I talk with someone who is currently living out their dream, I find a motivated, overtly raving and passionate person. And I quickly learn that, at some point in their life, they encountered the power of discovering the dream that God put within them.
Join the staff of COMMUNITY and NewThing on January 9-10, 2009 in Chicago and learn how you can be part of the reproducing church movement. We want this to be a personal experience for you so space is limited to the first 80 people who sign up. For more information or to register, click here. I would LOVE to see every person encounter the power of discovering and living out the dream that God has placed in them!
My friend Vince Antonucci is moving to Las Vegas in January to plant a new church on the Vegas Strip. Today, on his blog he announced the name of the new church and is having a "design the church's logo" contest. If you're a graphic design type, you might want to check that out at www.vinceantonucci.com.
If you can't be in St. Louis for the LEAD Conference, don't worry - you can watch all the main sessions LIVE on streaming video through the Planting Channel. It all starts on Tuesday, October 21st at 9:15 CST with Darrin Patrick (great leader, who loves church planting!) session on Gospel-Centered Repentance. The Planting Channel (which includes a NewThing Channel) was created to bring you the best in online training for the reproducing church.
It was about a year into the life of COMMUNITY when I was sitting in a little Mexican restaurant at a table by myself thinking about the future of this new church. It was while sitting there that I started scribbling on a napkin (see pic) the dream of being a reproducing church. The dream was from God and it was a dream of a church that would meet in multiple locations and would continually reproduce all over Chicago and then beyond. Today, COMMUNITY has nine locations in Chicago with 5,000 people attending each weekend and in addition to that our NewThing Network now has 22 churches across the U.S and one in the Philippines. Every one of these campuses and every one of these churches are committed to this dream of reproducing to accomplish the mission of Jesus.
I know the power of discovering God's dream in my life and I would like for every one of you to discover the dream that God has for you. That is why NewThing is hosting the first-ever Discover the Dream, a pre-conference event to the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. The Discover the Dream event is an invitation-only event being held October 8th from 8am to 11:30am; and as a frequent reader of this blog you are specifically invited to attend! Cool, huh? We are looking to connect with emerging leaders who dream of being a reproducing church so we can put you on the path to discovering how to make that dream a reality. A generous breakfast will be provided, and the experience will be offered at no charge to the first 100 people who register. Spaces are filling up fast, so register now by clicking HERE. Come and join me for this one-of-a-kind event, Discover the Dream.
Hugh Halter and Allie Harding of CRM stopped by Community Christian Church for lunch a while back to talk about how to organize movements. Since writing The Tangible Kingdom, Hugh is getting a lot of demand for training missional church planters and wanted to discuss what we have learned through NewThing about structure and networks. Currently, NewThing has three networks, but it looks like very soon we will be doubling and going to six networks. After I confessed to having not read his book (but I have it with me now!) and he admitted that he'd never seen the list of question e-mailed to me from his people, we got down to business. I'm not sure how much we helped Hugh and Allie, but it was great to hear Hugh's story and pick his brain He is clearly a passionate evangelist who loves Jesus. I hope that our paths continue to cross.
The most helpful part of our conversation was when Hugh talked about the three main phases of missionary life and church formation. The three phases are as follows...
Troy was on staff at Community for 10 years after leaving a job at General Mills. Troy was sent with 20+ people from Community to start a Restore Community Church in Kansas City. It launched with 423 people on March 2nd of this year. The surprise was the high number of students who were there on the first day. Eleven weeks later the kids and student numbers have increased and Restore is now averaging little over 300 people. Here are some key learnings that Troy gave us at our NewThing Gathering.
One of the cool things about being asked to be the President of the Exponential Conference is getting to connect with some remarkable Christian leaders. We had an unbelievable line-up of speakers this past year which included Tim Keller. I had not met Tim, but was able to work both our schedules so that my brother Jon and I could spend about an 90 minutes with him the night before he was to speak. His reputation for being an intellectual is right on target. But Tim is also very approachable and has a keen understanding of the practical side of ministry and what it takes to get stuff done.
Whenever I set up an appointment to meet with other leaders I will write up a list of questions and bring them with me. I am always surprised when someone makes an appointment with me to talk about church planting, multi-site or leadership and then they have no prepared questions. It feels like we are wasting both our time. I believe leaders are learners and the best way to learn is to ask good questions. So anyway, I had a written list of questions and one of the topics that we discussed was Redeemer's vision for international church planting. Here is my summary of their strategy
While Keller and Redeemer are all about reproducing sites (they have 3) and church plants (helped start more than 100) my favorite quote of the night from Keller was this warning about the reproducing church: "cell reproduction without a purpose is called cancer." Comments?