In February 2017, Christ Church will launch its seventh worship community, named “The Journey”, as part of our new Christ Church East ministry focus. In my 2016 Vision Address to the congregation, I noted one of our new ‘7 Initiatives’ as ‘actively taking Christ Church to Memphis to engage the ‘life witness’ of congregation’.
‘Life Witness’ is defined as the place, relationships and opportunities where we share Christ and live out our faith among the people with which we spend the most time interacting and ‘doing life’. Christ Church is a regional church where many of our attendees drive from all corners of the Memphis metro area to attend services on Sunday morning. However, after our 2015 Membership survey, we discovered that the average drive for our attendees is 15-20 minutes on Sunday mornings, but rises to nearly 30-45 minutes during the week. Of course, this puts a significant limit to not only how we connect to folks the other six days of the week, but how we encourage and engage them to invite their unchurched friends, many of whom live in the same vicinity as where they live.
Therefore, in late 2015, Christ Church began a new ministry focus entitled, ‘Christ Church East’, focusing on ministry opportunities for study, fellowship, service and mission east of the I-240 loop, where, according to our latest statistics, nearly 70% of our average worshippers live. Christ Church East is NOT a new, traditional ‘campus’ but, instead, an extension of Christ Church through a community of small groups, study opportunities, and missional engagement focused on the life witness of where many of our people live, play, attend school, etc.
Of course, one important part of Christ Church East is an opportunity to build community and to worship/fellowship together in a regularly scheduled way. “The Journey” is that opportunity.
“The Journey” will not be your usual worship service or gathering, though. It will include the basics of praise and worship, study, fellowship, etc. But, “The Journey” will also provide a more casual setting for people to sit around tables or on sofas much like any coffee shop or ‘family room’ in a person’s home. The worship will be more acoustic and have a liturgical focus, while also exhibiting contemporary, relevant expressions that attract both long-time worshippers and those new to the faith. The purpose of the experience is to focus more on God’s Presence than on personal likes and dislikes.
“The Journey” will also engage more of a new teaching format that will include traditional instruction but with more reflection and feedback. While we will have modern media, we will also utilize the most basic form of communication ‘technology’- human interaction. And, finally, “The Journey” will be a place absolutely about ‘meeting God’- not about impressing or assuaging any particular person, style or demographic. EVERYONE is welcome.
But, this new worship community will also offer connection to the ministries and communities that make being a part of the Christ Church family so special. We will continue to engage folks in the act of the serving life, spiritual entrepreneurship (creating new ways to offer Jesus to the world), opening our hearts and arms to those in difficult places, caring about mental and emotional health so that ‘no one should have to whisper about their condition’, and encouraging people to Love Jesus and Love Like Jesus in the world.
Finally, I have committed to be the primary teacher of this new worship community, although all of our teaching pastors, Tom Fuerst, Chris Carter, Cynthia Davis, etc. will be a part of the team. I believe so strongly in what the Holy Spirit is asking us to be a part of and I know that God has great things in store. But, most importantly, I pray this is one of many ways that Christ Church ‘takes the Gospel to Memphis’ in this next season of our church’s life.
Now, some may wonder if this means we are lessening our connection to our 4488 location or other parts of the metro area. The answer is clearly and emphatically NO! In fact, we hope this will connect our congregation in even stronger ways and be the first of many ‘reaches’ beyond our Poplar location to where our folks live out their ‘life witness’ on a regular basis. My dream is that 5 years from now, we have these communities in every corner of our area—and every place in between. (For instance, we are also currently discussing a similar opportunity at the Crosstown development!) But, as with any “journey”, we must begin with a ‘first step’.
The Planning Team is currently scouting locations and coordinating the details of all that happens next- including connection to Children and Students during this worship time, small group connections, study and serving opportunities, etc.
What I need you to do…
First, please pray for God’s guidance and wisdom.
Second, pray a ‘hedge’ around our congregation that the Adversary will not distract us from our focus and purpose.
Third, pray for clear objectives and ‘next steps’ as we walk together into all that God intends for this to be.
Fourth, pray for unity and clarity among us, so that God’s message and example will be clear among those we encounter and reach.
Finally, pray about your family and/or your participation in being a part of this new adventure- whether through leading a group or simply attending.
Look for upcoming info about time, place, details, etc. We will be unveiling more specifics over the next few weeks and months.
If you have questions/suggestions, or want to help and be a part of the next steps, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
“Be strong and steady, always enthusiastic, knowing that everything you do for God is useful…’ 1 Cor. 15:58.
Be Salt and Light… You Matter.
Shane Stanford is a pastor, teacher and author committed to sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with the world.