Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NYC & City Collective Pt. 2

Yesterday I posted some highlights from our time in NYC.  Today I want to share a little about the City Collective Gathering.  I could write long posts about each session.  All were worthwhile.  But since reflection time is hard to come by, for now I want to share about one.

First, a little background on Trinity Grace:  Jon Tyson, who is originally from Australia, moved to New York City along with several other families if I remember correctly, seven or eight years ago.  They started what is today Trinity Grace Upper Westside.  Over these eight years that church has grown to five churches, but this network is different from most other church planting networks.  

In one of the sessions our first day Jon shared the moment that changed so much for him:  It was the day he felt God say that there were all of these guys in their city who were trying to start similar kinds of churches, and there was a ton of competition going on.  What if, instead of competing, they worked together?

What has happened as a result is that several church planters, some who came as a result of this vision and others who ended up partnering after the fact, have submitted their personal vision to a more shared one.  Together they have identified the neighborhoods in the city that need churches, and they have set out to plant neighborhood parishes there.  Each of these has their own planter/pastor and leadership teams.  Each church takes on the characteristics of both the neighborhood and the leadership.  But that’s where the similarities to “normal” church planting end.

Each of these churches/pastors is connected to the larger group.  The pastors meet together once a week for prayer, relationship, planning, etc.  They are speaking into one another’s lives.  Church planting is difficult, but these guys (and their wives) know that they’re not alone.  When planting a new parish, there is already movement and it becomes much easier to gather that initial core.  The core has already been living in the neighborhood, and it just makes sense that a new parish be established.

They also have what they call their Central Ministries Team.  It’s what we at NC would call the Macro.  They have discovered that there is no need for every church to have unique systems such as accounting, legal management, payroll, media, etc.  All of these are important, but anyone who has ever planted a church knows that it is these things that can consume time and energy and distract from more crucial things.  Trinity Grace has found that centralizing these macro functions allows each church to focus its time and energy on ministry and mission.  

Here are the three big takeaways I had from this:

First, many leaders can’t do this.  If it’s not their thing, or their church’s thing, then they don’t want to be a part of it.  More than anything, that is sad to me.  And I know I’ve been guilty of it at times as well.  But I don’t want to be any longer.  I want to seek out partnerships with other leaders and other churches.  What I saw from the neighborhood pastors was extreme humility.  Whenever I got to talk to them individually, I was asking questions about how they related to one another, how they got over their egos, and how they developed trust together.  Without that humility and trust, this doesn’t work. 

Second, my heart longs to be a part of something like this.  The Midtown Prayer Collective is all about this.  If we’re going to stand together around something, let it be prayer.  As we do this, I believe God will open up some new realities for us.  I hate the competition I feel in the church world.  I have a deep belief that we are better when we are together.  I believe every neighborhood is different and should be approached differently, according to the context.  But I also believe that can happen in a more “together” way than it’s currently happening.  This “together” needs to be defined differently at different levels of relationship, but I am praying and dreaming that God would allow our churches in Midtown to be a part of this redefining.  I’m not sure what it will look like, but even that excites me.  We need something new and fresh.  One of my prayers during this season of prayer is that God would surprise me/us.  This would fall under that category.

Finally, over the last year the leaders of our church have had a lot of conversations about the micro and the macro.  We’ve done it primarily in the context of our micro churches and our macro church (what they would call a parish).  But this thinking also flows up to a network of neighborhood parishes.  In our context, we’ve become more and more convinced that a lot of what we have always done in the macro (finances, mission, membership, etc) makes much more sense and is much more effective in the context of micro.  So we’ve begun to redefine what these things look like.  And then we’ve sought to determine what is left.  What things still work best in the macro context?  These would be things like celebration and worship times, vision casting, coaching leaders, legal and tax issues, and larger mission projects.  

I’m excited and hungry to go deeper into this path, but I’m also thankful that we’re already on the path.  I believe that we’re set up for a new paradigm of ministry that is needed in our city.  

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