Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Successful and Innovative City Church Models

First, a pop Quiz: York Street Anglican is in the picture below. What are the colours of the two buildings that crowd the church in? Kudos to you if you can get the answer.

Second, for your prayers: York Street Anglican are having a Vision and Planning Day on Saturday. Just a small group of people interested in asking how we will speak with, for and to the city of Sydney in the next 20 years.

Third, for your discussion: For about 45 minutes, we are going to put our mind to 'Successful and Innovative City Church Models'.

I've chosen three churches, or groups of churches -- one in New York and the other two in London. I could have chosen more, and differently. But I chose these three because they represent three different models and ideas that York Street could put their mind to. I've decided not to critique them, although that would be a helpful thing to do. I'm not agreeing with their models, just recognising that they have found a voice that appears to be working.

I've just listed what I think their key aspects are, and tried to be positive about them:

Key Aspects of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC

(Megachurch Presbyterian on Manhattan. They are in the city, on the upper East and West Side, but not downtown. They are theologically reformed.)
  • Psyche, holistic thinking, and vocational living mark their language. They 'go deep' and they exegete the city.
  • They are deeply positive about the city.
  • They have insightful preaching (unrepeatable, really). Tim Keller ‘hits the sweet spot’.
  • Tim Keller is positive, insightful, and a good example of the new apologetic.
  • They speak always as though new people and not-yet-Christians are present.
  • They have an captivating vision (although worth examining): Renew the city spiritually, culturally, and socially.
  • They have a desire to be ‘Missional’: the whole church facing the whole city in mission (gospel, community, and life)
  • They are positive to other denominations.
  • They have adapted to the new reality: It is a post-Christendom world.
  • They have clearly identified, and articulated the needs of the city, and they speak to those needs.
  • They have clearly identified, and articulated certain ‘defeater beliefs’.
  • They have something to say about being a professional, and the value of work
Key Aspects of Co-mission initiative, London

(Mostly Anglican Congregations in City of London. They are classically reformed and Evangelical.)
  • The words of the Gospel mark their language.
  • They appear free to plant churches well before the most churches would plant.
  • They have about 10 relatively small congregations that appear to plant assertively.
  • They have strong, clear, unafraid and unambiguous leadership.
  • They are strongly Evangelistic in the classic sense of the word. They are outward focused.
  • They may not seen as Anglican ‘kosher’. They capture a young and confident crowd?
  • They work hard to connect with young people (workers in the city).
  • They are great at staffing.
Key Aspects of Holy Trinity Brompton, London (Nicky Gumbel)

(Large Anglican Church in the City of London. Charismatic Evangelical.)
  • The Holy Spirit and change mark their language
  • Long term leadership from Sandy Miller and then Nicky Gumbel.
  • Exciting vibrant meeting (music and ‘worship’ is a big part of the ministry).
  • Found one thing that has made their name known in world: Alpha.
  • Positive, positive, positive.
  • Positive to other churches. They are very warm and accommodating (too accommodating?)
  • Simple and clear messages that touch the heart.
(We could discuss other churches, but that would be for another thread.)

Have I got anything wrong? Have I missed anything?



Sharon said...

Hey Justin,

I haven't heard of Co-mission Initiative, but the website says there is a congregation about 3 minutes walk from where I live....will try to go along on Sunday and let you know what the welcome/atmosphere is like for a visitor S xxx

Jeremy Holland said...

this sounds interesting

'Psyche, holistic thinking, and vocational living mark their language. They 'go deep' and they exegete the city.'

Can you unpack this a bit more?

Justin said...

@ Sharon, I would love to hear your experience of one of their congregations.

@ Jeremy -- You know, I wrote this quickly. And looking back, my comment makes Redeemer look its going to open a shop in Bryon Bay.

I mean that they are into the soul. They are into the inner 'you'. They want the whole of you to respond to the whole of God. And that is clear in the language that is used. Plus they talk a lot about valuing work and valuing the city. So they think about the city and 'exegete' it -- they unpack it's values, motivations and desires. And then apply Christ to the city, and her hungry inhabitants.

I think that's a fair assessment.

Steve Carlisle said...

hey mate

off topic

just listened to an old sermon of yours on 1 cor 7, thanks for being a helpful servant!! enjoyed and found it helpful good stuff

Hecta said...

I'm surprised by the London churches you have chosen, especially the Co-mission Initiative. It's centres are suburban and would presumably have similar challenges and difficulties to suburban churches elsewhere.

Justin said...

@Steve -- man, I don't even want to think about it!

@Hecta -- shows how much I know about London. I'll remove my comment about centre churches then in the post.

And which churches would you choose?

St Helens? All Souls? I don't know enough about those two? Others I should look at?

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

The Co-mission church in Mayfair is most certainly in central London, and runs midweek teaching designed for workers (Mayfair@One, Westminster Talks)-I think it's a good choice to consider their model of city ministry for workers and residents.
Both All Souls and St Helen's are city churches with St Helen's in 'The City' of the city-the financial heart of London.

...And of course, there is're a city church too ;)

Erin said...

The Mayfair - The Bible Talks - is quite urban centre, Justin, but Balham, Raynes Park etc are "suburban", I guess. These co-mission churches seem to me to have been based out of a church like Emmanuel Wimbledon, which is an independent Anglican church - ie they don't pay into the diocesan shares for their clergy to be paid but support their own. Loots Lambrect used to be attached to my church in Tooting (we're kind of sandwiched between Balham, where my flatmate's ex-boyfriend goes and Raynes Park). And my other old flatmates are HTB-ers. My experience of each of these churches is that they reach a certain "type", rather than the community. I can send you a long email about experience of these churches if you like - I attended HTB for about 6 weeks when I arrived in London, then St Helens, then St Nicholas Tooting and I ended up in what is basically a "parish" church - eg Barneys vs St James Croydon, say...

Sally said...

While you say lots of very astute stuff I think you're missing some key parts of HTB

- Franchise model (strict rules on using the Alpha rather than on who uses it) -we may have questions about the extent they've done this and you may choose different teaching material if you were to set up our own evangelistic course, but it's worth thinking about it from the positive angle too - would we rather people didn't become christians at all than they became christians in less evangelical churches?
- Serious commitment to hospitality and giving nonchristians space to air their views in a nonstructured, chaired smallgroup after the talk - I think this is a major part of what makes Alpha work.
- Highly professional and slick church service style (this may or maynot be what you want)
- Commitment to doing projects with those both inside and outside their immediate socioeconomic community (prison Alpha is huge, as is Beasom (linking church small groups up with people with economic/mental vulnerabilities in their area to spend a day painting their house, clearing their garden, being nice to them, etc), etc) - there are still hurdles to be overcome in being more class integrated in the daily life of the church but this is really, really difficult to do in the UK and the church is opposite Harrods!
- Extreme commitment to marriages and traditional roles within those (obviously has many plus points: the clergy take their commitment as husbands and fathers very seriously and I really like the emphasis on husband and wife leadership teams, also worth considering the impact of this on single people and wives who work outside the church)
- The Pastorate small group model - groups of 20-40 people meeting for a sort of midweek minni-church. A chance for people within the congregation to try out gifts and skills (leadership, preaching, hospitality, strategy, pastoring etc), get to know a smaller group, focus the group around a particular interest or geographical area, easier to get nonchristian friends stuck into this group, do outreach projects together, be more flexible to the smaller needs of a community. It's these groups that keep people in the church once.
- Serious commitment to church planting. They've done over 50 since 1985 and have quite a sophisticated model for doing it... each curate who comes in get extra training there and supported through taking on a dwindling church with a group of 20-50 committed church members.
- One of the few evangelical church movements in the UK who are firmly rooted in Anglicanism and it's structures (they negotiate rather than rebel and they get results from this).
- Serious commitment to prayer (even aside from sung worship) - pretty much from the beginning they've had a senior member of staff who's main responsibility is facilitating prayer within the church... cynicism aside I think this has contributed to their impact.

Hope this is helpful - I wouldn't use HTB as the sole model for a charismatic church though - the New Wine churches (and conferences) might be worth considering too. They're also more diverse though so might be more difficult to get a handle on.

Hope it goes well - sounds like a really interesting project...

annie said...

Another good church: Grace DC, in Washington. They, like Redeemer NYC, seek to reach the soul of the city.