First Year Thoughts, part 2

First Year Thoughts, Part 2

After crossing the 1-year checkpoint at Advent as Senior Pastor, I’m taking the space in my Friday morning email to share some thoughts about who we are as a church and what possibilities that we have ahead. If you missed last week’s post, no worries. I also posted it on my personal blog. You can read it here.

Advent is a Scattered People

Recently, I had staff teammate Nancy Garrison print off our best mailing list for those who interact with our church, at least a little bit, throughout the year. My main inquiry was to find out where we live in the Greater Memphis area. I batched all of the zip codes together, did some simple math, and calculated the percentages of where we live. Here are the (approximate) results:

29% live in Cordova, TN

22% live in Arlington, TN

15% live in Bartlett, TN

12% live in Lakeland, TN

5% live in Collierville, TN

4% live in Germantown, TN

4% live in Eads, TN

4% live in “Memphis, TN” (13 other Memphis zip codes not otherwise represented above)

1.7% live in the “outer Memphis area” (Oakland, Munford, etc.)

0.9% live in Northern Mississippi

Here are a couple of things that I would suggest from this data:

1.   Our two campus sites (north Cordova and east Arlington) appear to be the best places for our current church community. They resemble helpful epicenters of where we scatter on the map. Some have said that for every 10 minutes that person needs to drive to your physical church building from his/her home, (s)he is 10% less likely to be involved in your ministry. For instance, if Barry Bonafide drives 25 minutes in order to arrive at the Cordova campus, Barry is 25% less likely to establish vital connections to the Cordova campus: its ministries, its people, its core leadership. To have two locations at different parts of Shelby County provides two outposts of connection and mission for our people.

2.   Advent is a regional church. We don’t have the majority of our church in one location or neighborhood. Although Advent may have been a neighborhood church at one point in her existence, she is no longer. Although there may be some things that are common with each location where we are scattered, I think that we’d also have to admit that there is something fundamentally different about one’s experience because they live in Bartlett versus Collierville versus Eads, etc. This is particularly important to consider if we truly believe that Christianity is practiced beyond the property of our two church campuses. If we want to dream that our members can have vibrant, Christian experiences in their lived contexts, our staff and leaders must come up with creative ways to help deploy regional ministry with a congregation this scattered. This means we will have to get creative about how to make more capable leaders in all of our micro-centers of Memphis and learn new ways to “organize religion” way beyond our walls. Stay tuned for more on those developing plans.

This gathered and scattered reality is nothing new. One read of the Book of Acts in the New Testament shows that our faith has been centralized (around common teaching and practices) and de-centralized (developing zip-code-driven-spirituality) at the same time. G.K. Chesterton once said that you’ll notice Christian truth “stands on its head in order to gain attention,” that it is prone to honor paradoxes, to dangle its two feet in the air. Advent’s future will be shaped by how comfortable we can be a gathered-and-scattered people. I pray that we are up for that task.

What I am currently reading: The Cynic and The Fool by Tad DeLay

What I am currently listening to: The “Elton John Takeover” playlist on Spotify

What I am currently watching: The NHL Playoffs (go #CBJ)

An app I find helpful: Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals


Published by joeskillen

I'm a husband, dad of 2, Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, KS.

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