Why We Exist
The story of the modern American Church is a study in dichotomy. On the one hand, we enjoy some of the most well-developed worship services, preaching, and programs the world has ever seen. You might say that we have perfected the fine art of “Doing Church.” On the other hand, American Christianity has been in steep decline for several years. More churches are closing their doors than new ones can grow to replace them, and the number of church attenders isn’t keeping up with our population; which means we’re not even reaching our own children, much less our increasingly pluralistic society. This is especially true in the largely non-religious Pacific Northwest, where Portland, OR was named the “least-Christian” major city in the nation (2010 U.S. Religious Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies). This trend has continued to the present time.
As followers of Jesus in the Portland Metro area, this is alarming; and should cause us to reexamine traditional methods in light of what’s working, what’s not, and what we need to do about it. Meanwhile, in many other parts of the world, the number of Jesus-followers is growing exponentially. These movements are not focused on professional clergy & church buildings; but are being led by ordinary people all over China, India, Africa, Iran, and other places...sometimes where public worship services and Bibles are repressed or illegal. In these movements, there is little distinction between sacred and secular life. Small groups of followers learn to love God & each other in the midst of daily life, engage their world through acts of service, share their faith with those who take notice, mentor new believers using simple methods, and help them form new groups to continue the process with others. This approach may seem strange and primitive, but it shouldn’t be; it’s the same method that was used by Jesus and the early Church!
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a worship service & hearing a good sermon – in fact these are blessings we are free to enjoy in America. However, if we want to faithfully reach our kids & neighbors & communities with the Good News of Jesus, it's time to take a serious look in the mirror. We need to major on the fundamentals He gave each of us for following Him, functioning as His people, and reaching those around us. We need to focus less on inviting them to “come and see the church,” and more on training each other to “go and be the Church.”
This is the nature of how the Kingdom of God was designed to grow through all of His people: Like a MOVEMENT…each individual, group, and congregation doing its own part in partnership with others, who together form the unified Presence of Jesus in the world. It looks more like a NETWORK and less like an institution.
To build a new kind of church in a networked world we have to understand the elements that make up networks and how to employ them for the formation of the Church. We believe that God wants to see a networked movement like this happen today in the Portland Metro area and Pacific Northwest….and we’re partnering with others to do our part.