Why does your city need more than one type of church? We’re passionate about starting churches for the next generation – which means starting types of churches that will reach that next generation! Austin Abney, Area Pastor at Lifepointe Church in Raleigh, NC shares their experience with different approaches to being the Church.
In August of 2019, a Department of Transportation project forced our church to temporarily combine our largest location with our newest one in a high school auditorium. It was an undertaking to say the least. Seven months later we were FINALLY ready to move back into our permanent facility and return to doing ministry as a three-location multisite church.
The week before things were scheduled to return to “normal” our Safety Team Leader asked me how we were preparing for the potential fall out of this new virus called Corona. “Jeff,” I smugly said, “I don’t have time for that. This whole thing will blow over in two weeks tops.” That was the last week we met in person for nearly seven months.
Those two weeks came and went. We were all still at home. You were too! We were convinced we would resume in person worship by Easter. Not a chance. It was May and it was becoming clear that we were not experiencing a temporary interruption to life; we were in the early stages of a drastic shift in culture. Change was upon us.
Change can be crippling or it can be motivating. Ultimately only we decide how to manage it. This change began a journey that made our church re-evaluate everything. What started as a big challenge, resulted in a big opportunity. Change allowed us to charge the gates of hell with a renewed vision.
At Lifepointe, we had always met in buildings but were learning to do ministry online with the rest of the world. God was impacting people outside of our concept of normal and we began to dream about better equipping people in the church to make disciples in the neighborhoods in which they lived. A three-pronged approach began to come together … Church in a building, Church Online, and now Church on the Block.
Church in a Building, Church Online
Church in a Building taught us that there is something powerful that happens when God’s people gather. It’s not lights, haze, or a top notch band but the momentum that builds when people unite to worship a risen savior.
Church Online taught us two powerful lessons. First, when the gospel becomes portable discipleship accelerates. Secondly, salvation can happen in a living room just as effectively as an auditorium.
When the gospel becomes portable discipleship accelerates.
While we celebrated how God multiplied our ministry efforts online our hearts begged for something personal. How could we keep the portability of the gospel that online provided while holding to the collaborative connection of Church in a building? It was in this tension that ‘Church on the Block’ was born.
Church on The Block
Ultimately, we are designing Church on the Block to be an intimate expression of the Church hosted in homes, neighborhood clubhouses and anywhere else people do life. These gatherings are driven by online content that provides engaging worship opportunities and meaningful discussion. These groups commit to four common lifestyles: Worship, Community, Serving, and Sharing.
Church on the Block locations meet weekly to worship and discuss topics in community. Monthly, they partner with local agencies and organizations to serve their communities. Every four to six weeks to host parties for no other reason than to foster environments where those who follow Jesus and those who do not yet share life together on purpose. Since Church on the Block can gather anytime and anywhere, it remains portable. Because of its focus on close community it remains collaborative by nature.
Lessons Learned in Starting Church on The Block
If you’re thinking about something like Church on the Block let me share a few lessons we’ve learned along the way….
- Avoid Whiplash: Jumping into a missional expression of Church is a big shift for most American churches. Running after this kind of change without taking the time to bring people with you is a recipe for disaster. We dreamed of 8 locations in 2 months but greatly underestimated the amount of vision and training it would take to get our people on board. Share the vision with key influencers in your church and grow that vision to wider and wider circles. Don’t wait forever, but make sure you have enough people on the journey with you.
- Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: You don’t have to invent a method. People were meeting in homes and neighborhoods in Acts so you’re not going to be first to market on this one. There are so many great resources out there that can make training your teams simple and easy. Check out the Tangible Kingdom Primer by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. Gospel Fluency or the Saturate Field Guide by Jeff Vandersteldt and Ben Connelly are incredible starting points for life in community together. Another affordable and powerful place to start is Verge Network’s website. It’s full of awesome resources to help you get started. Sure, you could engineer something but you don’t have to.
Your city needs more than one kind of church: Early on in church planting I felt like I was caught between two worlds … missional churches and ‘attractional’ ones. For a while they seemed to be at war with one another but each had so much to offer. We’ve chosen to run after both. Jesus drew a crowd and invested in a few. We’ve provided a place for both to happen through our three environments. Don’t feel like you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Your city needs more than one kind of church!