Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations
and will people the desolate cities.
It’s fair to say that we are living in a new day when it comes to the church and its approach to reaching the communities we are in. There is a new emphasis on looking, reaching and expanding ‘laterally’, as well as having a vision to ‘grow’ a church vertically. As a church, we are realising that the growth we are looking for is actually right next to us… in a community or neighbourhood 15-20 minutes down the road!
Enlargement comes before growth
To be able to see the opportunities all around us we need to understand the difference between growth and expansion. I believe we need to enlarge before we grow! As stated in the above verses in Isaiah 54, we see that it is the ‘place’ or ‘footprint’ of our tent that needs to enlarge. We are called to ‘expand’ to the right and to the left. Possibly the biggest visionary opportunities are right next to us - look right and left!
Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.
As it says in Joshua 1:3 the promise declares that wherever we place the sole of our foot, that is what we will inherit. But to do this, we need to actually get onto new soil and plant church communities into new territories in our cities.
In C3 we’ve expanded globally and nationally - we have 470 churches in 64 countries.
We’ve expanded to the nations but it’s time to reach the neighbourhoods
We need to be on the front foot of expansion instead of the back foot of passive maintenance. This means that the future to reaching our communities and our cities is firstly by starting new congregations.
Times are changing
Cities all around the world are changing. As the pace of life in cities is increasing, and as issues like traffic and access to amenities is becoming more and more challenging, people are craving a respite.
Several decades ago, people responded to this need by moving to the suburbs and even further away to discover peace, space and sanity. Younger families, and even retiring baby boomers, are wanting access to the lifestyle that urban centres are offering, and they’re craving community, connection and a version of ‘village’ life!
Even urban planners are responding to this need and to this trend by designing ‘precincts’ within cities that create a sense of community and easier access to amenities.
As churches, we need to understand this trend but also to intentionally respond to it. People build relationships with people (not churches!) and they need a community to join.
Build communities, and they will come
We need churches that are ‘neighbourhood’ communities that are alive enough and excellent enough to represent the culture of the kingdom but close enough and relationally engaged enough to meet this growing need within our cities. These are exciting days of both growing need but also endless opportunity.
We need far more church communities planted in our cities if we’re going to have an impact for Christ into our culture
If you are a pastor of a church currently, why don’t you consider, pray about and begin to research what could be a ‘new place’ to plant another congregation! You could even consider shifting from a ‘mono-site’ church to a ‘multisite’ church and create a vision and leadership culture that empowers and releases more people into new congregations in your city! Praying for you as you expand to the right and to the left!