Sunday, March 01, 2009

38. A Different Front Door

Thinking a little bit more about organic leadership and communities, I had an epiphany the other night in bringing these thoughts together with some other posts about institutions. Previously in another post I suggested that the role of institutions is specialization in Kingdom tasks. I recently talked to an old college buddy of mine whom I have not talked to in over ten years. Needless to say we have both changed a lot since then. Surprisingly though, he has been having some of the same thoughts I have been having about leadership and community. In fact, he is preparing for a church plant in the Atlanta area as we speak.

The cool thing about it though is that he is not going to do the traditional franchise model of church planting. Instead, he is going to "parachute" into a new area by starting a non-profit organization.

I have been having similar thoughts about church planting lately, but my conversation with him sort of helped me connect some dots. In order to share the good news in Clarksville TN, we need to develop relationships with people. Doing the house church thing can sort of make it challenging to do this. However, we have recently started an organization called the Harvest Network which will help people grow their own food in their back yard. My thoughts now a days are leaning towards the non-profit functioning as sort of a hub of relational activity and then as a result of those relationships, new vibrant families of Jesus would form. Sort of a spin off, or by-product of the non-profits activities

In other words, the non-profit is the engine that generates a meaningful, redemptive connection with the community. It is out of these relationships that new organic communities of the gospel can be formed in peoples homes, Starbucks, or anywhere. In the franchise model, traditionally speaking, you get a building to do church and attract people to the services. In this model (I am not sure what to call it) you may get a building, but it is for the purpose of serving people day in and day out through whatever services your non-profit will provide. The organizations service to the community would then be the catalyst to form relationships with the lost. If I were to diagram this, it would look something like this:

The only way to pull this off is to have intentional relationships with people outside the interests of the non-profit. These kinds of relational pockets and networks already surround a lot of the non-profit organizations. The apostolic role in this situation would be to facilitate communities out of these pockets, made up of individuals who are open to relationships and the gospel. In this model, the non-profit would appear to take the place of the conventional style institutional church, while having a lot of the same benefits that institutions bring to the table. The major difference is that the non-profit''s interests are not to draw people indefinitely into itself. The non-profit naturally creates the formation of organic communities, while the conventional style church traditionally sees organic communities as a crop to be harvested and gathered into the confines of the church. This model reverses that and does not see the non-profit institution as a final destination. The organic communities formed around it would instead be the fertile ground for the seeds of the gospel. The goal would not be to get them into the box, but to get the gospel to them right where they are, and better yet, to nurture their faith in that very context. You would not ask them to "come to church". You would ask to eat lunch, have a cup of coffee, pray with them. Share their story and pray.

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