Congregational Development/New Church
Tim Beck, chair of the New Church Start team spoke of years of coming to Lakeside. He reminded the audience that we reach Lakeside via many different routes, but with a common destination. He likened the church to that journey to Lakeside. “As a denomination and a conference we’ve been on just one road.” Beck stated that it is time to find “fresh expressions of church to grow and prosper; creative chances to reach and connect with the un-churched, the de-churched and those on the fringe.”
Beck spoke of the thirteen new church plants and vital mergers. There are new ministries that are laity driven, alternative worship communities, cell churches, youth churches, multi-site, video driven and many others. But much more is needed.
Where is God leading us?
here is the full transcript of the speech:
NEW CHURCH START TEAM REPORT. Annual Conference 2011
East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church
Chairman, New Church Start Team
We are one. And we all travel along the mainline together.
Bishop Hopkins, Members of the East Ohio Annual Conference:
As a kid I took many trips to and from Lakeside, for Annual Conference, vacations and the like. We all know there are many ways to get to Lakeside. You can take the turnpike or any number of Interstates. Hop on Route 2 west and you’re bound to get there. You can even cut over 224, head north on 58 (or any other northern route) and weave your way through the small towns of northwest Ohio. I promise you, your car will wind up in Lakeside. It has that kind of draw.
Members of the East Ohio Conference have journeyed together year in and year out, for 40 plus years, gathering here for our annual meeting. Even though we’ve all come different paths to Lakeside, as a denomination and a conference we’ve been on just one road. The path of our church has been steady and consistent, marked with many highlights along the way. We’ve seen magnificent movements of God, professions of faith and deep spiritual growth in and among our congregations; mile markers along this great mainline. But perhaps we’re missing the mysteries that lie along the on and off ramps of the mainline, where paths less taken lead to opportunities for new faith communities to spring up; ripe circumstances for fresh expressions of church to grow and prosper; creative chances to reach and connect with the un-churched, the de-churched and those on the fringe.
In the midst of the 21st Century we know that the church no longer holds the same status as it used to. We know that attendance among mainline denominations have been in steady decline for decades. In the past 10 years alone, the United Methodist Church has lost 7% of its membership (600,000 people.)* As a result, I firmly believe that we are in desperate need for something fresh, something new; something different. These “Fresh Expressions of Faith”, I believe, will ensure our conference and denomination will not just survive – but thrive!
It’s time for the East Ohio Conference to blaze a trail; to lead the world, not lollygag behind. The movement of the mainline church in America appears to be stalled at times, but I believe we have an opportunity in front of us. These fresh expressions of church are mile markers on a road we’ve not taken with frequency. And though they may be off-shoots of the mainline, they are still connected to the heart of Methodism and the heart of Christ. These new roads lead to new ways of doing church. This is no doubt terrifying to some but I believe the best is yet to come.
1. Let’s build on what has already been planted. Currently there are 13 new church plants and vital mergers who, under the fervent direction of Dirk Elliot have produced a crop of new Kingdom followers. They are all growing and persevering, striving to grow the church. This year we highlight the new vital merger of East Glenville & Warner – becoming Celebration United Methodist Church. We also celebrate 2 new faith communities given life by Church of the Lakes in Canton and Church Hill in Youngstown.
2. Let’s explore “out-of-the-box” methods of ‘doing’ church. Like 02, East Ohio’s first laity driven church plant. Like Impact, the new worship community out of Lakewood UMC. Laity in that group are expanding outside the church walls, aiming to take their worship to people who won’t step foot in church.
But we need more - We need new - We need fresh: Alternative worship communities. Cell churches, Mid-week congregations, Youth churches, Multi-sites, Video-venues, Starfish laity-driven models, Pioneer models, Creative groups or perhaps even connected House churches. Whatever it takes, with the resources given to us. These fresh ideas are right off the beaten path – but still connected to the main road. They are Christ-centered communities focused on serving. They are small groups of disenfranchised individuals who have been burned out on religion, who would never grace the front steps of a church, let alone enter in. They are organized gatherings aimed at making the lonely feel apart of something greater than themselves. They are people who will worship in interactive ways. Frankly, some will be churches that don’t look like churches. These fresh expressions of faith will aim to provide unique opportunities for people to connect with a loving God, while growing the United Methodist Church in the process.
3. Let’s work together to support each other on the journey. We are one. The on and off ramps of the mainline lead to new unknown paths, but we must take risks, continued leaps of faith or suffer our ultimate demise. Maybe, if we adjust our mirrors and our vision, we’ll see an old, dirty, dusty trail, off the beaten path, leading us to a new way of growing the church, a modern approach to making disciples, a fresh technique of winning souls to follow Christ.
We know where we’ve been. Where, now, might God be leading us? East Ohio, God is doing a new thing. Isaiah 43:19 reminds us of that. May we “freshen up” together! Perhaps if we can tap into that freshness, God will show us church growth that will take our breath away, not because of what we might do – but because of the path the Spirit is already blazing ahead of us.
It is my prayer that the East Ohio Conference will support and embrace with it’s full heart exploring and implementing new, fresh expressions, Wesleyan faith communities that will carry the church for decades to come.
*The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (2011)
published by the National Council of Churches in the USA