But as one such church I love “closed” and others have closed or teeter on the brink of closing, I wonder what we are doing wrong. Or are emerging congregations simply more provisional than other churches?
Characteristics of these congregations seem to be:
- Location in urban/suburban neighborhoods with extraordinary transience (i.e. the neighborhoods people move into temporarily because they are fresh out of college or just starting out professionally)
- Predominantly comprised of people who like multiple options for everything – including spiritual nourishment (i.e. they have more than one spiritual community)
- Predominantly comprised of overtly broken people (i.e. addicts, church refugees, etc.) who readily share their brokenness, although they are broken in different ways
- Predominantly comprised of young professionals, non-profit workers, artists, and dreamers (although my former church also included people with higher education degrees in medicine, engineering, national security, etc.)
Many Emerging Churches struggle financially. They cannot afford to call a FT pastor in the traditional sense: someone with a seminary degree, a FT base salary with housing allowance, health insurance, and retirement benefits – although that’s the model most churches have used. And traditional sponsoring churches do not always consider Emerging Communities to be “real church” anyway.
The kinds of churches that will be planted in future years will be more varied than we’ve ever seen before. Many will have bi-vocational pastors, as we’ve predicted. But there will also be missional communities that need and will pay for FT spiritual leaders. And still, those communities will be very different from traditional churches.
I thank God today for Holy Grounds, Neighbors Abbey, The Portico in Charlotte, and all the others communities that have tried to be something new. We are still learning how to do this.