From 1995 – 1997 I worked at a church in a suburb twenty miles west of Washington D.C. Most everyone worked in the city, and the commute took over an hour. Our church offered small groups and some people participated, but it was difficult for most. People were consumed with their jobs. And even if they were able to leave work at 5:00 (a big if) they pulled into their driveways around 6:30 because of the commute. Eating dinner and getting the family ready so you could show up at someone’s home by 7:00 was an ordeal. It was an ordeal many weren’t willing to go through.
In 1997 I moved to Virginia Beach to start a new church called Forefront. The church outside of Washington D.C. has grown rapidly, but it wasn’t in Virginia Beach. We decided to live there and learn the town for ten months before launching the church. We discovered that people in Virginia Beach worked in Virginia Beach. Commutes were 10 or 15 minutes long. Work wasn’t the obsession and so most clocked out at 5:00. Having to do dinner and get ready for small group at 7:00, when you get home at 5:15? No problem. So our church focused much of our disciple making efforts in the small group setting. 70% of our adults (and close to 100% of our kids and teens) were in groups, and so it worked.
In 2009 I moved to Las Vegas to start a new church called Verve. Our church in Virginia Beach had been successful, so I now knew how to start a church. However, I didn’t know Las Vegas. Really, what I knew was how to start a church in Virginia Beach. We decided to live in Vegas for at least a year and study the people and culture there. If we didn’t we could have a problem – our past success. A past success that might not apply to our new location.
I’ll tell you how we went about investigating life in Vegas in a few days, but for now a question for you: In the book Church Unique, Will Mancini writes about how your “local predicament” is a necessary element in the vision for your church. Have you studied the culture God has put your church in? How in tune are you with the local predicament? Is your vision impacted by it?