A couple of years ago, Karine and I set out on the journey of a lifetime when we resigned an established church with a full-time salary, packed up everything we owned, and moved our family to Bradenton, Florida to begin the process of planting Synergy Church. This naturally begs the question, “Does Bradenton really need another church?” After all, like most American cities in the Southeast, there’s definitely no shortage of churches here. So, the simple answer is yes… and no. Let me explain.
The Sarasota-Bradenton area is booming with explosive growth and an influx of new people moving here from all over the country. Recent studies show that the Sarasota and Manatee Metro area is the 11th fastest growing area in the US with more than 20,000 new residents moving here in one year alone!* That’s the size of our neighbors to the south… Venice, FL. Not only that, but the estimated population of Manatee County alone is over 375,000 (factfinder.census.gov), and the latest stats indicate that only 23% of Manatee County residents attend church any given weekend, which subsequently results in a staggering 77% that are unchurched. What this indicates is that there are approximately 290,000 people who don’t attend church anywhere! Needless to say, there’s a ton of potential for a new life-giving, Spirit-empowered church on Florida’s Gulf Coast!
So, our vision is not just to start another church with the same format, same programs, and structure as other churches out there. Our vision is to start a vibrant, life-giving church that influences a city and shapes a culture.
When Andy Stanley started North Point Community Church over twenty years ago, he began with the following premise:
“Atlanta doesn’t need another church. Atlanta needs a different kind of church. Atlanta needs a church where church people are comfortable bringing their unchurched friends, family members, and neighbors. A church where unbelievers can come and hear the life-changing truth that God cares for them and that Jesus Christ died for their sin. We’ve come together to create a church unchurched people will love to attend.”
A “CHURCH THAT UNCHURCHED PEOPLE LOVE TO ATTEND.” I love this for so many reasons! And it has absolutely NOTHING to do with watering down the message.
First, many churches today have become so inward focused that they have all but lost their initial reason for being (any church worth its salt begins as an extension of God’s love to the lost); Second, it resonates with the mission of Jesus, who “came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10, NLT) and who would even “leave the ninety-nine… and go out to search for the one that is lost” (Matthew 18:12, NLT); Third, it mirrors the life and ministry of the Head of the Church–Jesus, who was known as a “friend of sinners” (see Luke 7:34); and lastly, I am convinced that there are ways of “doing church” that no one has even thought of yet, and this excites me!
I often find myself thinking about the possibilities and dreaming about the type of church that God would have us plant. There are so many creative ways that have yet to be imagined to connect lost people to God, and I want to be a part of this creative process with Holy Spirit as He reveals and inspires us on this journey. After all, as I mentioned in my previous post, we serve a…
“…God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT)
The good news is that God wants a vibrant, life-giving Jesus community where all people are welcomed and are finding freedom, forgiveness, hope, and purpose for their lives… even more than we do! This requires stepping out of our comfort zones, taking some risks, and dreaming of new ways to do church that will connect with those who need it most–those who are far from God.
Let’s be clear. Bradenton really doesn’t need another church. Neither does the community in which you live. What they need are grace-filled, Good News-centered, Spirit-empowered, life-giving movements that are truly making an eternal difference in peoples lives. Our goal is for Synergy Church to be that type of church. And with God’s power and provision, we will see a miracle birthed!
So, to answer the question “why plant another church?… may I suggest that the eternal destiny of the 77% just may very well depend on it! Continue reading