Where? – What we were hoping to do (part 2)

I’m reflecting on our experience of starting a church as a network of missional communities (or simple churches as we called them.) These first few posts (first here and second here) are giving some background if you don’t know us and don’t know what we were trying to do.

bikeA few years ago, I remember telling a biking friend about our dream to start a different “form” of church. He would consider himself “dechurched”- grew up in church but wants nothing to do with a church and even Christianity now. On one ride he told me, “If I ever wanted to try Jesus again, that’s exactly the kind of group I’d want to get involved with!”

We had many confirmations like this. We got to the point that my wife said, “Luke, if we don’t take steps to start missional communities, we’re being disobedient.” ‘Nuff talk. Off we went…

NWIBut where? We knew that we had a heart for “da Region” – this small corner of Indiana that is neither Indiana nor Chicago. We grew up here, have family here, and our heart for campus ministry was always about reaching NW Indiana.  We realized that if we wanted to start a missional church and missional communities, we would need to build first a community of people who live near each other and who could live out a common mission in their city or neighborhood. There is a difference to me between a community of missional people and a missional community.

We looked at two towns in NW Indiana that had more of a “town identity,” Crown Point and Highland. Both of these had town events and a sense of “pride” that was unusual in a suburban area. Crown Point had many more younger people moving in. It has an alive downtown area with a sweet brewpub (Java Porter anyone?), restaurants and bars. It has more festivals and activities. There were quite of few nonprofits serving the poor and the overlooked that we might partner with.

We prayed, fasted and talked with people. I biked the towns, praying and looking for a house that would give us room to host 30-40 people (BTW – a tri-level is a good setup). I networked to find people who might join us and eventually landed on Crown Point. It was where there was a house in our price range AND there were possibly three other younger families interested in joining us, one for sure.

So we packed up and moved to Crown Point.

That’s what we did. In retrospect, I don’t think that we listened enough to the community. Two specific groups of people I wish we had talked to: the local pastors and the average Crown Point resident. Or the average Crown Point 20 and 30-yr old. There might really be something to “door to door neighborhood interviews” like the founders of the mega churches did. Good missionary practices of listening? Perhaps we tried planting a church for a people that doesn’t exist here yet?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I will have a set of posts on “We thought this….but we found this….” But first I want to share some of the awesome ways that God worked in us and through the simple church plant over the past couple years.

The verdict is in: our culture is changing. And churches are simply communities from a specific culture who have one foot in their culture and the other in Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom. The question in my mind is this: what are some of the indicators that an area is ripe for starting a new expression of the church?