One strategy that emerged was a multi-site concept. We decided that God was calling us initially to start two sites in Uptown and Middletown to function as missional outposts of the Kingdom. These sites are a way for us to send some of our own to serve and love other people in our city who need God's love and power.
Beyond that, we also sensed that God wanted us to push into a new realm. As many of you know, I was part of the house church movement (sometimes called simple or organic church) for many years. That experience fundamentally altered the way I think about and define church. I now define a church as simply God's family on a mission. Of course, many aspects of the house church movement in the USA over the last decade have been reactionary. That was my story. I was reacting against some clear shortcomings within the institutional church structure and megachurch movement. I thought that house churching was the answer to the problems I saw in bigger, more organized expressions of church. Indeed, they were the answer to some of the problems. But we found that house churches simply had other difficulties. Alas, we proved the age-old axiom that there is no perfect church or church structure. So I wandered back into "big" church three years ago with a strong sensitivity toward the lessons learned while living within an intentionally small church.
There are many others within the Vineyard who see the value of smaller incarnational/missional expressions of church. It became obvious that God was ready to make us one church in many locations. This will include the bigger sites like the ones at Uptown and Middletown, but it will also include an emerging network of MicroChurches. (We almost used the word "house church" but some of these churches will not meet in houses.)
Here is our current thinking about Vineyard MicroChurches and how we envision them coming to be. One thing I have learned about new adventures is that nothing works out in practicum quite the way it does in pre-planning. That said, here is the DRAFT of the ideas we are currently throwing around. If something stirs within you after reading it, feel free to email me. With all of this going down, I am a little behind in correspondence, but I'd love to hear from you if God has prepared you to partner with us.
Here are the notes from our first meeting:
DRAFT! (Have I said that yet?)
Vineyard MicroChurch Communities – Current Thinking
November 21, 2010
· What is a Vineyard MicroChurch Commmunity?
DRAFT: A Vineyard MicroChurch is a smaller holistic expression of church centered upon a specific missional calling within the larger mission and vision of Vineyard Cincinnati.
· Holistic Expression:
We will use Acts 2:42 as a simple meeting blueprint:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
1. Teaching – Weekly meetings will include the video teaching from VC.
2. Fellowship – Guided discussion questions will follow the teaching.
3. Prayer – A time will be dedicated to listening prayer each week.
4. Breaking of Bread – Meetings will include a common meal or a Eucharistic experience (or both).
· Specific Missional Calling - Six phases to birthing a MicroChurch:
1. God calls a person to love a specific group of people.
2. That person steps up and says, “I’m called to love ______________ into a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
3. Vineyard leadership comes along side this person to:
a. Discern if the calling aligns with our greater mission.
b. Train and equip the person for their next step.
c. Call others to the mission.
d. Relationally partner throughout the life of the calling.
4. A call goes out – Who else is God calling to this mission?
5. When the call is answered by a leader, a pastor* and an administrator a MicroChurch community is born.
6. Weekly meetings begin using the Acts 2:42 model as way to fulfill the mission.
* pastor is defined here as someone gifted as a caregiver, likely not a professional church worker.
· What makes a MicroChurch part of the Vineyard?
For MicroChurches to flourish, they will need enough freedom to adapt to their specific mission and culture while remaining part of Vineyard Cincinnati. The following expectations will be met by each MicroChurch in order to be part of Vineyard Cincinnati. Beyond these requirements, MicroChurches will have the freedom to contextualize to the people they are reaching.
1. Submission to the VC beliefs, mission, vision and eldership.
2. Commitment to the Acts 2:42 model for the weekly meeting including the weekend video teaching.
3. Centralized giving. (Still working on what this will look like.)
4. Leaders agree to submit to training from the MicroChurch initiative leadership team including aligning with the current leadership pathway and shareholder process.
· What MicroChurches are and are not:
1. They are not simply small church services. (They are communities.)
2. They are not simply small groups. (They are similar to small groups but also a full expression of church life.)
3. They are not independent churches. (They are fully a part of Vineyard Cincinnati.)
4. They are not starter groups for bigger sites. (Some may evolve to this, but it is not the goal. Ideally, MicroChurches are growing by multiplying other MicroChurches.)
5. They are not for people fed up with “Big Church.” (Rather, they are for people who can see the power of marrying big church and small church thinking.)