Five church planters weigh in on how they’ve seen their churches grow and what their vision is for the future.
Changing Hearts and Lives
Lots of people think Colorado Springs is a Christian hub because it is home to a lot of Christian nonprofits, but 85 percent of people are not connected to a religious organization.
“In reality, it’s so unreached,” Olson says. “Anyone who thinks it’s a Christian Mecca is deceived.”
But there are signs that Jesus is doing a reconciling work to bring churches and the community back together. Recently, due in large part to the collaborative efforts of churches like Grassroots, the mayor’s office has awakened to the realization that local churches can play a part in addressing endemic social issues in the city like poverty, homelessness and teen suicide.
Olson doesn’t always know the answers to these complex social issues, but he does know that the “only thing that can change that is the gospel. It’s hard to break chains, [but] Jesus changes hearts; Jesus changes lives,” he says. “If you only address the heart but don’t address the systemic issues, it’s not enough.”
At the end of the day, Olson doesn’t have grand ambitions of growing a big church. “Our identity is not wrapped up in that,” he says. But he does want to be a part of building missional communities and businesses that are gospel centers for the sake of the city. “Can we be the aroma of Christ among them?”
Setting More Tables
The Table church has recently added four discipleship groups to keep their process growing. They currently have a couple that is planning to start a new Table near downtown Indianapolis in a few years. They are becoming an incubator for new plants.
Sternke says that is all part the vision for The Table’s future: Table groups all over the city with “the same DNA, but they grow in whatever neighborhood or relational network they’re planted among. It can take unique shape based on context,” Tebbe adds. “We want to reproduce leaders internally for these various neighborhood expressions.”
Axiom Church has found its groove, but serving the unlikely is not a strategy without problems.
“What we found was that we had people who weren’t likely to be in church, but now people who are typically in church aren’t likely to be at ours. We see that as a problem because that’s not holistic,” Linderman says.
Axiom is far from typical in its approach, but it works well in fulfilling the vision that was set from the beginning—reaching the unlikely. And it’s a vision Linderman says others could fulfill. “Churches want to do it, but they drag their feet. Just go do it. Having that mindset has allowed us to see healing, transformation and people experiencing the good news.”
Reaching the Next Generation
In the future, D.A. Horton would like to focus his time and energy on mobilizing and raising up pastors. A theologist at heart, Horton likes assessing culture, studying trends and forecasting the moves of the church to make it vibrant for generations to come. He considers how to reach millennials and Generation Z while also staying true to the missional rhythms of the church.
“If I can train leaders to consider the next 20 to 30 years, they won’t have to reshape the church reactionary to the culture,” explains Horton.
Within the next year, he hopes to see clusters of community groups and campuses come together, even informally. “People could meet in a home, high school, community center or storefront,” he says, noting that the holistic health of the church is what’s important.
“God will add to the numbers when he sees the church as healthy,” says Horton. “Decreasing the population of sinners and increasing the population of disciples—that’s what defines success.”
Drew Hyun’s mentor, Peter Scazzero, defines success as “doing what God has asked us to do, his way and in his time.”
“The comparison trap so many planters find themselves in is unhelpful,” Hyun says. “Whenever there can be a self-sustaining, self-governing, self-propagating church, it’s a huge win. We want to be part of a multiplying movement in the city.”
As Hyun reflects on what the network of Hope Churches has accomplished, he’s amazed. “What’s been beautiful is that we’ve seen addicts and people from three-quarter housing and former prostitutes, as well as bankers and corporate lawyers have their lives changed,” he says. “The beauty and diversity of the people we’ve reached is my greatest joy.”