by Erik Hall planter of Barnegat Anew inBarnegat, New Jersey
At Waretown/Barnegat Anew we are a hybrid community of faith: an established United Methodist church that has been in ministry since 1848 (Waretown UMC) and a new church-planting movement born in 2009 (Barnegat Anew). When we joined together God gave to us a vision to first grow and multiply our ministries, and then to grow and multiply into a multi-site church. Our mission statement is: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by starting new places of faith.
Like many other church-planters, I often find myself explaining, describing, and illustrating new church-planting and multiplication ideas to our more traditionally-minded church-folks, only to be met with bewildered faces. Add to that trying to explain the concept of a multi-site church (New Jersey multi-site churches are extremely rare) and the faces quickly go from bewildered to blank with complete non-comprehension. The culprit responsible for this inability to comprehend church-planting and multi-site development, I believe, is the traditional perspective that so closely identifies ‘church’ with the physical church building. The attitudes that: 1) church is only church when it’s at a church building, and 2) the church is only the church in one physical location at a time (precluding the one church with many locations) really inhibit one of the most promising forms of church-planting: multi-site development.
Here is a case in point. Every Sunday for the past year I have greeted our community of faith with the Waretown/Barnegat Anew mission statement that we are starting new places of faith. Every Sunday for the past year I have proceeded to describe what a “new place of faith” is: a new community outreach, a new small group, a new worship celebration, a new service project, or any other intentional gathering (large or small, on-site or off) that makes space for faith in Jesus Christ to be initiated and deepened. Every Sunday I showcase some of our “new places of faith” (we have had 30 or more new ministry starts in the past 18 months).
On a recent Sunday I was out of town and I had asked one of our most faithful and long-standing leaders of the church to greet the community of faith in my place. This woman has been a vital and active part of the church for decades and she is also very traditionally-minded. She is excited about our church-planting mission, but is fixed in thinking that “a new place of faith” is only a new church building where a new church does church. Bless her heart because this was done in complete innocence with no bad intent whatsoever. So she greeted the community of faith with the following, “Welcome to the Waretown United Methodist Church where we are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by starting new places of faith. We haven’t yet started a new place of faith, but we are working towards it”. I’m glad I wasn’t there. I would have fainted right there in the pew.
Of course, she WAS right on a very important level. We are indeed working towards launching a second-site, a big old new place of faith. But, she was missing a whole other level of church-planting: the grassroots multiplication of smaller, more organic places of faith. This is where the DNA is instilled, disciples are made, and the world is transformed.
What are some other misconceptions about the meaning of "church" we need to overcome in order to be good multipliers.