We recently hosted another meeting of the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship here in Nashville.
One of the speakers for the event was Neil Cole. I've written about Neil on the blog in the past as well as in the book 11 Innovations in the Local Church (with Elmer Towns and Warren Bird).
Neil's strategy for church planting is one that runs countercultural to the typical American model-- large start, rented facilities, band, etc. Instead of duplicating Sunday morning worship experiences, Neil advocates the creation of simple, organic house churches that can multiply rapidly. His focus is not on the weekly worship experience as much as it is on daily disciple development.
For Neil, that simplicity boils down to having the right DNA in a "church":
This method of church multiplication and church planting has been very successful overseas, but it not as well known (or impactful, I think) here. I think one of the more likely places that organic churches might take root is in the urban centers of the U.S.
So, I thought it interesting to find former megachurch pastor Francis Chan now engaged in planting such churches.
Many of you know of Francis through his books Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell or through his BASIC DVD series.
He served as pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif., until just last year. After taking some time off in 2010 and 2011, Francis has landed in San Francisco and is working to start a church planting movement in the inner city through organic communities.
Chan may use different terminology than Neil Cole, but the premise is the same - to bring life-change through small, organic communities that live out the gospel daily with a focus on discipleship rather than large worship gatherings.
You might find interesting a panel I moderated with Chan, Cole, and Dave Gibbons that touches on these issues:
In his book Organic Churches, Cole writes:
Instead of bringing people to church so that we can bring them to Christ, let's bring Christ to people where they live. We may find that a new church will grow out of such an enterprise, a church that is more centered in the life and the workplace, where the gospel is supposed to make a difference...What would it be like if churches emerged organically, like small spiritual families born out of the soil of lostness, because the seed of God's kingdom was planted there? These churches could reproduce just as all living and organic things do...We must take Christ into people's lives, and it must be in the context of relationships.
Relationships matter to God. They matter to people as well. And in a multihousing context where relationships can be easily formed and quickly grown, organic churches sown with gospel seeds and watered through gospel-centered discipleship can produce gospel fruit even in the hardened soil of urban population centers.