Over my first two days I have spoken to a medley of people in the community and listened to their thoughts on what 801South might look like or what they hope to see as a result of this new ministry. The conversation is wide-ranging and a lot of fun to hear different perspectives. I too will continue to openly provide my own perspective on some of the questions that have been asked regarding 801South:
Have we or should we reach out to other United Methodist Conferences to see how they have done with launching services of similar type?
If you know of any other United Methodist-based ministries launching similar venues, please share. There are many UM churches who have started new campuses. We are in contact with them and learning from them currently. The unique aspirations we hold for 801South, however, may be unprecedented in our tradition.
As an extension of this question, I would also like to share a few thoughts regarding denominations in general. The idea of denominations is a divisive issue to the next generation. There are many people, myself included, who look at the words of Jesus and wonder how we got to such a fractured assortment of religious flavors in the church. Then we look at people and say, “Oh yeah, this is what people do.” We divide by preference and prejudice.
When we focus solely on United Methodist ventures, we unintentionally limit ourselves. We can (and should) learn from everyone–even those with whom we may not agree. After all, Jesus does not tell us to agree with each other. So yes, I would love to learn from similar United Methodist ventures. And I want us to learn from everyone who is pursuing new methods (pun intended) of worshiping, reaching, serving, and mentoring. It would do us well to look outside of our heritage for the sake of informing our future. Young people do this naturally. John Wesley was the master of new methods to deepen the faith and spread the Gospel of Jesus.
We are also working closely with Brian Zehr who founded the leadership firm Intentional Impact. Brian has a wide array of experience in churches of varied persuasions. Brian worked with a Lutheran church who has successfully launched a very similar venue from within a traditional congregation. I plan to visit this church in September to observe and connect with a network of leaders from the suburbs of Chicagoland.
Will this service be a duplicate of what we currently offer at the 9:40 contemporary worship service?
I had the opportunity to sit in on a contemporary worship planning team meeting just this morning. The short answer is no, the 801South worship venue will not be a duplication of this service.
The main drivers of 801South worship will be relationship and simplicity. Therefore, two primary questions will always be: “How does this inform or deepen our relationship (to God, to each other, to the outsider, etc.)?” and “Does it have to be this complicated?” A key focus of 801South overall will be reproduction and simple organisms reproduce much quicker (and more easily adapt to surrounding changes) than complex organisms. To quote Thom Rainer, “[Eric Geiger] found that the healthiest churches in America tended to have a simple process for making disciples.” Making disciples of Jesus Christ is the primary purpose of 801South.
So no, the worship piece of 801South will not be a duplication of the 9:40 Matthews UMC Contemporary Service or any other service that exists currently. The 801South worship will be uniquely hewn by those who desire to invest in its mission.
Who would like to be an investor?
On Thursday, I will cover a few more questions including:
How will this new service be communicated to the target audience?
Who will be welcome during this service?
Yes, I certainly would be interested in the answers to the above questions.