One of Church of the Resurrection’s three primary visions is renewing the mainline church. For those of you who have never heard the term “mainline” it generally refers to long-established denominations with moderate theology. It includes the following seven denominations and others like them: Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and American Baptist.
These denominations, including Methodist, have been declining since the 1960s. When you take a hard look at the numbers, it’s depressing. Of the mainline denominations, the largest is Methodist. And Resurrection is among the largest Methodist congregations. So we have a special heart for these denominations and their congregations. We long to see them remember their calling, reverse their decline, and return to missional effectiveness.
My wife is a Disciples of Christ (DOC) church planter. Because of that, I’m privileged to see the DOC’s 6 year-old church planting initiative from the inside. This initiative has been very effective, to the point that it’s starting to have a real, positive impact denomination-wide. A few years ago I was personally involved in efforts to revitalize a 60 year-old DOC church. Let me tell you, that was difficult work and it produced only minimal fruit. While church planting is very, very challenging, the DOC experience suggests it is a better strategy for denominational renewal than any program I’ve seen for revitalizing existing congregations.
Up to now, Resurrection’s primary mainline renewal effort has been our conferencing ministry. We hold one main conference each year, Leadership Institute, and host a number of other conferences for the Methodist denomination and other mainline groups such as the Beeson Institute of Asbury Seminary. This is a great ministry and I’m certain it has produced some excellent fruit, yet it seems to me that church planting will be even more important in fulfilling our mainline renewal vision.
Last year, we began by starting our first satellite campus, Resurrection West. Just a few weeks ago, our senior pastor, Adam Hamilton, asked me to start working on plans for an Internet Campus for Resurrection, as one of several other satellite campus locations we are planning. I’m very excited about this, but I also recognize a number of huge challenges. I’ll continue to post and, no doubt, ask questions as we work through the issues. Any of you with experience doing an Internet campus, let me know. I’m very interested to hear your strategy and how it’s going.