Making Church Matter

Crowne Plaza, Part II

February 7, 2010

Crowne Plaza is two weeks away and we’ve been discussing some questions about what we’re doing.

What we’re doing is hosting a worship service for people in our North Baltimore community who grew up Catholic and no longer go to Church, mostly because they don’t like Church.

Why are we doing it? 
Because there are alot of people in North Baltimore who grew up Catholic and don’t go/don’t like Church. And that bothers us. 

Because Jesus told is to be bothered about people who are far from his Church, he told us to go and make them disciples.

What and why are easy questions compared to how.  How is the really big question, because nothing ever becomes dynamic until how is figured out.  Crowne Plaza is an exercise in how (or how-not-to…we’ll get back to you on that).  Anyway, here are some thoughts helping to shape how we will be “church” at Crowne Plaza, what kind of “church” Crowne Plaza will be.

1. Traditional
Crowne Plaza will be within the tradtion of Orthodox Christianity, and specifically Roman Catholicism. And it will be relying on a traditional form of worship service. There won’t be Mass, no clergy in robes, no organ, no pews. But the order of the service relies on a very old, very Catholic ritual called the “Mass of the Catechumens.” In ancient Christian gatherings, Christians would invite their non-Christian friends for the first half of the Mass (the Bible readings and the message). The guests would leave before the second half (the Liturgy of the Eucharist).
That’s the idea we’re working with.  Using a traditional approach to bring people into association with the tradition of our faith. 

2. Casual, Comfortable, Friendly
Many churches are not friendly, and definitely do not want to be casual or comfortable. But casual, comfortable and friendly don’t have to mean “church-lite” (as we have been accused of being). They can mean accessible.

We believe people seek God because he draws them to himself…and when they walk into Church of the Nativity on Ridgely Road we try to make sure the environment is friendly and, frankly, comfortable and casual. We have lots of people who work hard every weekend to make sure casual, comfortable and friendly are a big part of our culture. But, Church of the Nativity is still a church, in a church building and that, in itself, can seem unfriendly to people who don’t go to church (think of an out of shape person’s comfort level the first time they go to a gym).  We hope Crowne Plaza is a more comfortable environment for people who might not be comfortable in church.

3. Attractive
Like the terms “casual,” “comfortable” and “friendly,” many churches and church people would likewise dismiss “attractive” as a compromise with the world, or just plain unnecessary (maybe even offensive). Sorry if it offends anyone, but its not unnecessary.  Jesus was the most attractive person who ever lived, people liked him even when they were nothing like him (Andy Stanley).  When people who are trying to convince you of the truth of the Gospel are unhappy and unhealthy looking, why would you believe them? I’ve walked out of some churches thinking, if what they say they believe is true, why are they so grumpy looking? If I come back often enough will I start looking grumpy too?

That’s why we want Crowne Plaza (and the people who serve there) to be attractive to outsiders and new comers, so that people can walk in the door and see people just like them (or, better, people they want to be like).  Crowne Plaza needs to be an attractive environment people want to come back to.

4. Excellent
One reason many people stop going to church is because the experience is boring and bad.  Exceeding someone’s expectations in church world isn’t that difficult. Many churches have set the bar so low for so long (and then keep crawling under it) that when people see a church that seems to care about what they do…they’re amazed.  We care deeply about the quality of the Crowne Plaza experience and we want it to be excellent.

5. Emergent
Even though all the statistics seem to be pointing in the opposite direction, we believe the best days for the Church of Christ are ahead.  We believe the Church, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, and local communities of Christ-followers are the greatest possibility for change and renewal that exists in the world today. We believe that God wants to do great things in our generation, if we will go where he is blessing, and not get hung up on the past or worship the status quo.  Crowne Plaza is a step into the emerging, dynamic work of God in our generation.

6. Missional
The Church, by definition, is missional.  But that mission in many places and in many ways gets reduced to the wrong things: the care and comfort of the convinced, or the running of a school, or taking care of old buildings or endless cycles of fundraising projects. The “Great Commission” that Jesus gave his followers is about taking the Gospel to the world, beginning in our own community. Crowne Plaza is a mission to Timonium.

7. Purpose Driven
We have a purpose. We want to see marriages restored. We want to see teenagers embrace God’s plan for their lives, kids excited about their faith, young adults active and engaged in their relationship with God. We want to see addicts free, we want to see the excluded included. We want to see people step out of the pain of their past. We want people whose lives are dominated by anger or depression made healthy. We want people to have better finances, better relationships, better outcomes. We want disciples who make an impact on our community and begin to marshal the vast resources of this community for Christ. We have a purpose…and it’s not to be a country club with a steeple on top.  Crowne Plaza is driven by the purpose God has given us.

Crowne Plaza is a cultural shift, not a tactical addition.  Crowne Plaza makes us a fundamentally different church, at least for the period of our experiment.  Crowne Plaza changes our perspective as well as our practice. It changes the way we are a church in our community. We’re not just multiplying sites and seats, we’re trying to multiply the impact of the Gospel.  

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