The following guest blog is by Charles Hill, church planter in Salt Lake City and founder of The Sticks Conference
I have been engaged in “vocational” ministry for over a decade now. I have read the church growth, church health, theology, polity, simple church, mega church, church history and church future books to name a few. But it wasn’t untilÂ I held the dying bride that everything changed for me.
God blessed our first plant in the middle of nowhere, cornfield, rural, small-town [2,800 people] Ohio. Our last Easter there, we saw 1,500 people just at our first campus, and we had 2 other regional campuses and 1 in China. Yes, God blessed beyond our wildest dreams despite our stupidity. [By the way, if you are called to the middle of nowhere, you might want to check out this gathering of radicals who are called to the same thing atÂ THE STICKS gatherings.]
God has called us to do that all over again, this time in the fastest-growing state in the country…UTAH [not a typo], throughÂ MISSION WEST. There are 24+ cities just in the upper 1/3 of Utah found by leaving the main interstate by only 20 minutes in either direction that we have found without ONE CHURCH in them [non-Mormon of course]. And yes, that is UTAH, USA, not Pakistan or some other out of the way place. And in cities as large as 22,000! I dread doing the rest of the research.
So why not? Let’s roll. We did it once [actually several times through multi-sites] through God’s power, let’s rock it again. We have the experience, we have the tools. Let’s roll this thing. Same thing, new location right? UntilÂ I held the dying bride in my arms.
You know all of those alarmist books that calls those of us in America to wake-up, to take notice, to understand that the future of the church is and will look much different, and we need to take notice NOW so we can prepare for it? I had read those, but working in the mid-west and the Bible-belt for a time, where cutting-edge music, graphics, programming, lights, cameras, action is still so new, hip, sheik and still working well to draw people to the Savior?Â Crap, we had half the town in church that last Easter, but something still felt wrong. Because I didn’t really get it untilÂ I held the dying bride in my arms.
January, 2010: I held the dying bride in my arms. On a vision/learning trip to London and surrounding areas, it happened. To my friends working in the UK/Europe, I honor your efforts [and many of you are KILLING it in Jesus name, and I salute you!] In just 1 generation, everything has changed in the UK you told me. 1 generation. And for those in the bible-belt, it’s happening here in the USA just as fast. You, like me just haven’t experienced itÂ yet.
I now not only have read about it, spoken about it, theorized about it, but I haveÂ held it. And as a church planting coach, consultant, speaker, and planter myself…everything has to change, and it has to change not just to be trendy, not just to be hip, and not just to use “missional living” as the next big “program”.
Everything. You are like, no kidding Charles, how is this innovative? Where have you been? Awfully late to the party aren’t you? This is old stuff.
Oh, no, trust me…I’m not late. I travel the country right now a ton, and people might say they are living this out, but they are still stuck in one of several “forms” of ministry that are leading us to record decrease in the US, not an increase. [And many are still stuck in the good old days of yester-year, but that’s a totally different story.]
We are 1 generation from being a very post-Christian nation such as they are in the UK and Europe. Matter of fact, we are easily on our way as I type this. But many of you, like me, have refused to changeÂ everything. Not just tinker with a few things here and there. But radically overhaulÂ everything. But that might cost you some givers, some momentum, might even cost you your job. You might not even know where to start. But you, like me, know something is wrong with this picture, no matter how “small or large” your church is.
This week I will be sharing my thoughts on how, why and what we must change immediately now thatÂ I have held the dying bride in my arms. I believe we can turn this ship around in the name of Jesus!
You can find me this week overÂ HERE and help carry out the discussion. I would love to learn with and from you. [Thanks Greg, innovation guru, and the best late-night movie date ever, for hosting me as a guest. You are a noble and honorable man of God].