Monday, January 14, 2013

Southlands: why one church multiple communities?

The past week I've been looking at what it means to dwell with the Tabernacle God.
Moses understood that Israel were a people on pilgrimage. They were gathered around a transient tabernacle rather than a temple, which meant they lived perpetually on mission. Their mission was to put God's glory and grace on display to the surrounding nations. Dwelling with the Tabernacle God meant they kept moving on.

Every community has seasons of camping out and seasons where God calls us to break camp and advance. Miss the call to break camp and you risk settling into pleasant presence-lessness.

For Southlands, it's a 'break camp' kind of season as we move on towards becoming "One church multiple communities." I realize this is not a unique phenomenon, but I want to give some reasons for why we have felt this is God's way forward for us at this time.

1) Dwelling in diversity
A wise friend once said to me, "LA/OC is not a melting pot. It's a TV dinner."
There are over 50 cities which exist in separate pockets of feel, mood and culture. Multiple communities allow us to go and flesh out the timeless message of Jesus in timely ways that suit a distinct context. When John 1 talks about Jesus becoming flesh and dwelling among us, the word there is literally 'tabernacle'. "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us." Jesus pitched His tent in a particular body, family, trade, culture and town - what we call the Incarnation. He calls us to do the same, as His body the church, for the sake of the Gospel.

2) Together we can do more
There are ways of administrating the grace of God which are more economical than others. 'One church, multiple communities' allows us to share the resources of a common name, track record, staff, ministry team, administrative system, sermon series and website. We believe that we can do more together than apart.

3) Common DNA
We are invested in building unity between different churches in our region, honoring the diverse expressions of the Body of Christ, while at the same time carrying a conviction that there is a great need for more communities on mission with a Gospel-Centered, Spirit-Empowered DNA.

4) Engaging the Priesthood.
We recognize the richness of ministry gifting that God has entrusted us with, and new communities present opportunities for new people to serve in new ways. In short, it is probably the most effective way of engaging the priesthood of all believers - galvanizing all of God's people to live on mission together whether they go or stay.

This is not something we are rushing into. We will more than likely start our first community in the Fall. I am as committed as ever to building a strong base here in Brea. We need to be a people who win home games as well as away games, of this I am convinced. But what a privilege to be a part of God's unfolding story of sending workers into a ripe harvest! Let's be willing workers.

My next blog will deal with more specifics, but I wanted to start with some broad brush strokes initially. I've loved hearing people's responses to the news - both questions, perspectives and enthusiasm. Keep them coming!

Onwards and Upwards.


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