Last week I wrote a bit about our desire to start a church in Dublin that is "Reproducible & Sustainable." The comments that came helped me realize how difficult something like this is to clarify in a few blog posts.
I believe one difficulty is the perceptions many of us carry when someone says "plant a church." We immediately start thinking about the building where this church will meet and how the Sunday services will be structured. I know that's how it worked for me most of my life.
But as we've thought about church planting in Dublin, we've had something very different in mind…I wouldn't say original…but maybe a bit of a hybrid. When we went over there last summer, the phrase that we used to convey what we were thinking was "parish model."
It actually came out of something that I'd been thinking about our church here in Ithaca. Let me explain...We have been, like a lot of contemporary evangelical churches, a "regional" church. While we have had people at times drive from Bath, or Auburn, both over 50 minutes away, that has not been the norm. However, we regularly (& currently) have people come from Trumansburg (15 miles from the church's facility), Aurora (25), Cortland (20) & Sayre, PA (41).
[While I spent the first 11 years of our church's history in Ithaca, I have lived in Trumansburg for the past two (long story.)]
While I'm glad people have decided to travel to be part of what we are doing in Ithaca, (many of the people who've live in these outer areas have been leaders at our church,) I've wondered more and more lately about the impact of that.
While I do think there are a great deal of positives to having people come in from all over, in the 13 years that I was lead pastor at the Ithaca Vineyard, the number of outreach/service events that I've planned/organized for Cortland, Tburg, Sayre, or Aurora would be a grand total of 0. Why? Because I believe God called our church to serve/lover/reach out to Ithaca. And that's where I've focused…that's where our church has focused. At the same time, it has meant that many those who are driving into Ithaca have not been able to be as involved as they would be if their church was right where they lived.
So here's what I've been thinking as far a Dublin. Rather than building something and expecting them to come, our family is going to focus on serving, relating to & loving people in Clontarf. As we start to see people come from other areas, we'll invite them to join us, have them learn along side of us what we are doing there, and then send them out to into their neighborhood and communities to begin doing the same thing.
(If you're familiar with Alan Hirsch, this is pretty similar to the hub/network model he writes about.)
Now, this probably means smaller groups of people meeting in any one place, but the potential for many more of these small groups spread out through out the city & beyond.
So with that said, what would be the first question that would pop into your head? What concerns? Or what opportunities. Love to continue the discussion.