I just got back from the NextInitiative church launching conference northwest of Philadelphia. (Held, btw, at BranchCreek Community Church, an amazing congregation and facility that was incredibly welcoming, helpful to us with their more than competent staff.) 50-some new churches, including some re-launches, were represented by 150+ people. It is always a humbling experience to be with them. They are all taking huge risks to do great things. Few have mega-church dreams, in fact I didn’t hear anyone talk that way. They are looking at making meaningful communities of believers that are turned towards the world around them. They want to be smart about it. They want them to be sustainable and they figure they ought to grow or something isn’t right. But most of all, they want to make a difference.
I’m one of the people who believes that the local church can make a difference. That God wants the local church to flourish, not because ‘religious institutions’ are the better than others, but because there is no single place where all the power God shares with us is better manifested and balanced in one place. Healthy churches can do amazing things that make communities healthy.
Many churches don’t do that, unfortunately. Many suck up resources from their communities for their own empires that would be better spent other places. But that doesn’t discredit the local church for me. Those are churches that have lost their vision. lost the passion Jesus had for the next person who needed his love.
My hat is off to those men and women at the conference.
I got back to Minneapolis – it’s Kris’ birthday! – and was soon greeted by thunderstorms and tornado warnings… ominous symbols of the context of our ministry.
Thanks to all who kept the conference in their prayers. I’ll keep praying for you launchers out there! Everyone else can keep up prayers for them too, please. And while you are at it, keep Jacob’s Well in there too!