I am always trying to think of good ways to describe what we are doing in this River City Christian Community experiment. Church Plant is such a loaded word with all kinds of connotations. So here is my latest thoughts on what kind of community River City is.
I grew up as a part of a large congregation with a big church building and a father who worked on staff as a youth minister, associate minister, and elder. I loved church growing up. It was my thing. But as I got older and began to realize that I was headed into church planting I had some serious reservations about the way a church building could dominate the conversation and mission of a local congregation. I was aware of too many good things that couldn’t be done because funds or other resources were already consumed by the building. I also heard too many stories from friends in ministry of how their days were taken up trying to figure out how to stop an overflowing toilet or something similar rather than the really important stuff of ministry. I also had my suspicions that many churches were held together primarily because of their location rather than Christ. As I ventured off into my first church plant, I wanted to try to plant a church that wasn’t a community based around a specific location.
So when we planted the Sunrise Church of Christ, we never had a specific location to call our own. We rented a couple of schools and a daycare and bounced around several times over our five years as a church and I had far fewer facility days than I heard from my friends in churches with buildings. When we finally decided to call it quits, I thought that there would be a small core of people who would continue to live in spiritual community even though we no longer had our Sunday morning worship gathering. After all we had shared the last five years together in mission. However, it wasn’t two weeks before everyone had moved on to other things. It was a disappointing realization to see that our community wasn’t primarily bound together because of shared life in Christ. I had managed to avoid creating a community based on location, but we replaced it with a community based on an event – our weekly worship gathering.
This go around, with River City, we are experimenting with something different still. We are not location oriented. Our gatherings bounce around from house to house. And we are not even event oriented, or at least we are trying not to be. Our weekly communion gatherings are hardly uniform and we even cancel them from time to time to allow for acts of hospitality and justice. So instead of a location or an event we are trying to build a community that shares a common way of following Jesus. When we meet someone interested in seeking God our first and/or most important step is not to “invite her to church” but to invite them to follow Jesus. And following Jesus is a way of life that is lived everyday, rather than what we do and where we go on one day a week.
We are not perfect and I’m sure we are not totally bound together by this way of life. But we are closer than any community I’ve ever been a part of. It is a fun ride.