Thursday, July 10, 2008

Big Church #2

A few weeks ago I blogged about The Big Church in town. Well, it has pushed itself into my consciousness again. It seems they're starting a satalite church about 4 blocks from my church - Cambridge Drive Community Church.

I have to say that I have really mixed feelings.

I know all of the arguments that the only significant growth takes place in new churches... I have also seen the stats that show that the vast majority of folk who attend these mega-churches are just transfers from other churches. I know that folk who would be attracted there would never come to my congregation and that folk who attend my church are very unlikely to find that place attractive. At the same time, I do see them siphoning off our teens to be a part of their youth group - it is the biggest one around - and as often as not, their parents follow them even though they say they find the church and its theology distasteful. I also know there are lots and lots of people in Goleta who are unchurched and that one more congregation brings another opportunity for them to encounter the Living God. And you know my thoughts on the kind of experience they offer so I wonder whether in the end it really impedes an experience of the Holy rather than bringing people into the Kindom of God. And there is no question that I feel turf issues.

What do you think? Should I be upset? Worried? Concerned? Rejoicing?


Anonymous said...

I think you should establish a good relationship with whoever is heading up that church plant, right now. Never mind their theology doesn't match or their worship band is technically inadequate. Get in there, work together, develop your relationship both professionally and informal. Tell your people you're working together to reach the area.

One of the (difficult) lessons I'm starting to learn is that working together with other churches we may not agree with is far more effective than just doing it 'our way'.


Michael Mahoney said...

Amen, Toni...

Ministering in a city like ours means there are churches literally on top of one another. And yes, there is a fair amount of people moving from one to another. But a mass exodus from a church often is a precursor to growth.

If you're worried about your youth, I would talk to them. Get them in a room, bring up the new church, as them how they feel about it, does it interest them, are they planning on checking it out? If so, maybe you can find out why, and what you could be doing differently. If not, some of your fears are put to rest.

Joseph said...

Why do you care if your church shrinks in size due to the larger, "more attractive" church? Is your identity in your church or the size of your church? Are you afraid you won't be able to make a living off of your church if it gets too small? I don't know if you get paid for pastoring, but if you do, would you continue to do it if you didn't get paid? Are you afraid that relationships you cherish will be lost because of this new church? What if the new church draws away your youth? Why does that bother you? Would you take it personally? Would you feel like you weren't good enough to keep them with you? Who is this ultimately about?

Sorry for all the questions...but these are the questions I had to answer myself when the same thing happened to me.

Personally, I could do without mega-churches...I just don't see the draw of them or frankly, the need for them. But they are a reality and are probably here to stay so it was better for me to be honest about my fears toward them and any "turf issues."

I feel for you.

Toni Ertl said...

To Joseph - If I were heading up a church and saw the people I cared for being drawn off to somewhere that they'd have their ears tickled instead of being built up then I'd be concerned for them. I've always taken the view that people should go where they're planted by God, but sometimes folks don't always see it that way.

roy said...

good thoughts all...

and hard questions Joseph. It would be very easy to brush them off but if I'm going to be honest, there is a degree of my self worth that is caught up in the cultural definitions of success. That certainly plays into my feelings around this.

Michael, you are of course right, talking at least clarifies what is going on and removes any concerns I have that are based in unfounded assumptions.

And Toni, your 2nd comment is a part of my puzzlement. I hear parents tell me that that "we don't believe what they believe" yet send their kids there to be formed as people of faith. That makes no sense to me. I even heard from one of the teens who used to be part of our church and now goes there... "they believe some pretty stupid things" yet when I asked him if he would be interested in joining our worship band as a drummer, he said, "all my friends go to 'the big church' so I go there."

I should say that the way I found out about the satellite being planted is that one of the pastors from the big church called me. That piece was nice. I just wish they had included local pastors in the planning. If they really are wanting to make an impact and do serious evangelism, maybe they should have asked the current practitioners what is currently being done by whom and how we all could work together to do more effective kingdom work.

And you're first comment Toni is so important. In my experience as a pastor, we go through cycles where churches work together and were they don't and some places, churches are more likely than others. Goleta/Santa Barbara is definitely a place or in a time where churches do not work together. And the big church is the best example. They can do whatever they want so they partner with no one except when they invite other churches to participate in their events.

Toni Ertl said...

Do you think you could break the mould and get them to sit down with you (especially while the new church is small) to break into the neighbourhood?

Joe Bunting said...

Great thoughts Roy, and I think it's neat that you're willing to ask other's opinions about this. It's a sign of strength and humility.

The most important thing I've learned as I've explored unity in the Body is that unity is directly related to mission. When the Church is actively pursuing serving the poor and telling people the good news, unity becomes much more important.

So my thoughts: be concerned, but for your mission as the Holy Spirit leads you to it. Find ways (as the Spirit leads) to make this your congregation's mission, not just the pastor's pet project. Share this mission with the new church moving in, find out about their mission, and see how you can help eachother achieve God's will. It's cliche, but we're on the same team. We have to be playing the game though.