The Church in Many Places
Dr. Ray PritchardDr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 29 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The ABCs of Christmas, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 39 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law--Leah and Vanessa, and four grandchildren grandsons: Knox, Eli, Penny and Violet. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
- 2005 Apr 06
Each year our church chooses a theme to guide us. Here is the progression of themes over the last three years:
2002: God’s Word: Our Unshakable Foundation
2003: Lord, Teach Us to Pray
2004: Back to Basics
This year our theme has an outward focus: The Church in Many Places. Our theme verse is Acts 8:4, "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." We want to focus on ministry that happens outside our buildings at 931 Lake Street in Oak Park. Another term for this is "the church without walls." Our vision is to become a church that is a ministry hub with spokes reaching out in every direction. Those spokes represent all sorts of ministries--teaching sites, multiple campuses, church plants, Sunday Schools, ministry teams, small groups, worship services in different languages, revived churches, and various evangelistic outreaches. Perhaps one day from the "ministry hub" in Oak Park there will be spokes reaching out across Chicago, touching thousands of people every week. All of those spokes would be part of the "Calvary Federation" (that’s my term, not an official name), headquartered in Oak Park but stretching across Chicago. I envision a day when thousands of people are associated with the "Calvary Federation," with only a small fraction actually attending services at our current location.
To be sure, we are a long way from that now. And we are seeking God’s direction and his dreams for the future. But it is a noble dream because it envisions our congregation becoming like the church in Acts 8--scattered in many places, preaching Jesus wherever we go. If this is the will of the Lord, then we should see the following things happen in the days to come:
- Less dependence on what happens in our buildings, more on what happens in the community.
- Increasing emphasis on the church going where the people are instead of the people coming to where we are.
- Greater priority given to establishing ministry centers away from our buildings.
I’ve been reading a book on leadership called Building the Bridge as You Walk on It. That's a perfect picture of what it means to live by faith. That's where our church needs to go as we move forward for God. We are called to build the bridge as we walk on it. That requires faith, ingenuity, courage, creativity, unity, trust, and a good dose of joyful exuberance. As long as we are centered on Christ, we don't have to be all together. It may serve God's purposes better if we are scattered in many parts of
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