There is a fascinating dynamic at play within quite a few denominations and organizations starting new communities of faith.
It’s a growing reality that gives me great hope for increased unity within the church.
Now hold on a second… you might say, aren’t there over 40,000 denominations?
Don’t we have massive theological disagreements? And shouldn’t new church communities be seen as “new competition” from more established churches?
Well, the number of denominations thing is true. (I know it sounds crazy but Wikipedia is rarely wrong). And yes, you could make the case that theological camps are rarely in healthy dialogue around substantial issues. And finally, you’re right, I’ve seen it myself: when new church communities are started they can certainly create anxiety and even suspicion amongst more established churches.
So what is it exactly that makes me so hopeful you might ask?
I’ve had the gift of traveling through hundreds of neighborhoods over the past few years, and almost always return home with a profound hope: not only for the church, but also for how many new church plants are becoming a unifying force within the greater body of Christ.
The Secret Ingredient
What’s the secret ingredient?
It’s deceptively simple:
geographic proximity + everyday life + God’s dream of renewing all of creation = a new game.
A growing number of churches are literally changing the game, which I think is incredibly encouraging. Here’s what I mean: The old game was to plop into a region with as much money as possible, attract as many of the Christians from other churches to your new thing, and scale up as many worship services as fast as possible. This game is still being played all the time, although with less regularity or intensity.
How Church Plants are Changing the Game
I have seen more and more new churches that truly want to join in God’s restorative hopes for a definable area. They hope to be catalysts for holistic responsibility of the town, village, or neighborhood they inhabit.
While they do care about who shows up on Sunday morning, they are even more concerned about relating faithfully to one another on Tuesday afternoon. They are honestly less enamored with the potential for big crowds at a worship event and more enamored with the potential for significant transformation of the neighborhood.
As many of you are well aware: If you’re a new faith community that’s truly seeking to join God in the renewing of a particular place, your hands are quite full. In this sense, the “neighborhood” creates a dare in which we learn how to be the church. Older guides who have been in the neighborhood for years wouldn’t be seen as competition, more often than not they are the first place to go for wisdom, support, and encouragement.
Here’s a great question to help you join the new game:
How might a growing focus on joining God in a definable place open new doors for collaboration, and how might that same focus diminish competition?
The answer just might stimulate a movement of differentiated unity we haven’t experienced in decades.
It’s definitely time we change the game on church competition.
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