Wendy and I have a big change coming. To understand where we are going, you have to know where we have been.
It is funny how just a word or phrase can clear the fog in my head.
Leadership Network had done a phenomenal job of lining up three very different churches for the conference. It was a different than other pastor’s conferences I had been to; most of them consisted of listening to speakers give tips and tricks. This one consisted of round table discussion between three very different head pastors and their staffs. All three were successful at buildng multi-sites (churches with multiple campuses). They had come to spill their guts to the attendees. The main sessions were question and answer times with all three head pastors, and the break outs focused on different aspects of church world. I loved every minute.
I went to the conference becasue Streetlite was getting ready to open its first multi-site. We felt our pull was limited by our building and the neighbor centric Baltimore life. If we could open new church sites in different neighborhoods we hoped we could tap groups of people we currently were not drawing from.
The conference took place in Seattle. I love Seattle. It is absolutely my favorite town in the whole wide freak’in world (next to Baltimore of course). Maybe it’s because it’s usually overcast (my favorite kind of weather), or maybe it’s the insane amount of coffee shops (my favorite drink), or maybe it is because cool oozes from the city’s pores…I’m not sure what it is, but I love that city.
The three pastors at the conference were Mark Driscoll, John Bishop, and Dave Browning. The session that helped change the course of my life was on what materials were needed for each church to open a new multi-sites. Driscoll (a disciplined, autocratic, attraction mega church pastor in seattle) explained that he need a few million dollars for a new building, a fully functional staff, and 150 people. Bishop (whose church symbol was a charging rhino – a great description of the man and his congregation) explained that it was never as cut and dry. They figured it out as they went along; but T.V.s to enable video venue, live worship music, and a cool space were definites. Both of these men were great leaders, but I felt like they were just more of the same.
Then came Dave Browning of Christ that King church (a quiet, unassuming guy…much less charasmatic and flashy). He said all he needed was willing people and a box of Christ the King coffee mugs. As he explained his philosophy, he stood in great contrast to the other two leaders on stage. Browning urged the audience to figure out what it meant to “be the church.” He explained that the first step was building core values every site would share. Once those were in place, establishing new churches was more about releasing the people to run with those values than it was about the structure. The structure, he said, should be kept as simple as possible.
A structure based on meaningful core values. Empower the people to lead and design. Keep it simple.
The first thing I did when I got home was unload those phrases on Wendy. I couldnt’ stop my mind from spinning. It wasn’t that I planned to copy exactly what Browning was doing. There was a lot about his system of church that still felt irrelevant to me. It was more that Browning gave us permission to take away some assumptions we had. In that simple talk he freed us from starting conversations about “church” with certain structures in mind.
Almost every night for weeks and weeks Wendy and I sat in our living room and pondered what ifs. Dreams began pouring out of us.
What if we could build a church not focused on its Sunday morning service, but rather on loving people in the community?
What if we could build a church that put 80% percent of its money and resources into the community instead of into infrastructure? Crap…what if we could build a church with no over head at all, everything that came in went to serve others around us?
What if we could build a church that wasn’t tied to a central personality or leader? A church in which every member was a force for Christ in the community.
A picture was beginning to form for us; but we still felt like we were looking through a dirty window. It was an exciting and frustrating few weeks as we deconstructed our understanding of “church.”
Then came a lunch with Bryan Doyle. He encouraged us that our fantasties could be reality. He spurred us on from late night philosophical conversations to action.