I have pastored Nuevo Community Church for the past 21 years. This year we are changing the name of the church to “Olive Grove Church.” The reason we are changing our name is not simply to be trendy but we feel the need to start a new chapter in the life of the church based on the following philosophy of ministry. I decided to put this on the blog for those of you who are presently a part of NCC to highlight our direction and give a foundation statement for the name change. For those of you not a part of NCC I would love to hear your thoughts.
In order to carry out our mission and purpose,
“Nuevo Community Church exists to glorify God by equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. The result is that every man, woman and child has the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel and accept or reject Jesus as their personal Savior”
the following proposal and philosophy of ministry is presented for discussion, emendation, approval, and implementation.
The Scriptures often use the picture of trees, fields, harvest and fruit as the metaphor for both growth and community. The following is a short list:
- Psalm 1:3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
- Jeremiah 17:8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
- Isaiah 44:4 And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.’
- John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
- Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This picture of organic growth is an important one for the purposes of the church. Can we make a jump from the metaphor to structure in the church without violating the sense of the text? An affirmative answer reveals an attractive model for personal and corporate growth and reproduction in the church context.
The Believer as a Tree and the Church as a Stream
The Bible often mixes its metaphors. I will take some liberties with this practice to try and paint a picture of church importance and structure.
The godly man is pictured as a tree growing by streams of water. The result is that the tree is strong and fruitful. Water in the Scriptures often signifies the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The believers proximity to the Spirit is the source of sustenance, strength and growth. The Holy Spirit’s main focus of ministry is not purely individualized, rather it is concentrated in the body of Christ, the church.
So the logical jump is the godly man grows when he is attached to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in His church. We believe this to be true and so our other ministry purpose statements reflect this:
“Nuevo Community Church exists to glorify God by equipping the saints for the spiritual service of worship. The result is that every man woman and child who is part of the church in Nuevo will be: Transformed by the renewing their mind; Fulfilling their purpose as a chosen vessel; Called to the praise of the glory of His grace; Cultivating a lifestyle and attitude that are filled with thankfulness.”
“Nuevo Community Church exists to glorify God by equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Every man, woman and child who is part of the church in Nuevo will be conformed to the image of Christ and to: Attain to the unity of the faith and Arrive at maturity in Christ by growing in the knowledge of the Son of God.”
The method by which God has designed Christian growth is for the believer to be in active fellowship with His Spirit and His Body, the church.
The Church as a Tree and Stream
As we broaden our focus outward to the ministry and growth of the church, we have a choice. To continue with the model or to introduce a new one.
This is the discussion that the Elders of NCC have needed to have in light of the purchase of land and the possibility of growth: How will our growth be managed? What will it look like?
The typical growth model these days is to just get bigger in one location. Big churches are seen as healthy churches. So we have a Saddleback, Harvest, Revival, etc. Buying a large piece of property may have communicated to some that our growth model would be this particular one. But from the beginning I have tried to discourage that model. We spoke about a campus that housed ministry as opposed to simply being a large meeting place.
“According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, 94% of all existing churches have less than 500 attendees, and two-thirds of these have less than one hundred. Churches of more than two thousand attendees represent less than one half of one percent of all churches in America.”# This reality speaks to our own view of the future and seeing the value of the smaller church model as more reproducible, more likely to produce discipleship context and community, more likely to encourage initiative-style evangelism.
The philosophy proposed here is that church size and location should have primary geographic Great Commission responsibilities. The primary outreach focus of the local church should be an area within reasonable geographic reach of the main meeting place. In our case: Nuevo-Lakeview-Juniper Flats-Romoland- Perris. An approximate 5 mile radius is the target size.
As far as church size (this is not a dictum and there could be exceptions) it seems that 500-750 people provides a good limitation on the upper end. So the range of people is somewhere in the vicinity of 150-750 for the ideal functioning of a local church.
What is being proposed here is first the adoption of the mission of the local body at NCC to take primary responsibility for the gospel ministry in Nuevo. Second, the embracing the planting of churches to form a “grove” of churches. Our growth and focus is never limited in the Bible to simply our immediate neighborhood; Jerusalem formed a center that led to the uttermost parts of the earth. And so we desire to be global in focus. But we also want to reach our Judea and Samaria. In fact, the vision encompasses a network of Olive Grove Church sites throughout the 215/60/15 corridor and triangle. These Churches that would take primary responsibility for their 5 mile radius.
Our perennial problem is implementation. I am proposing that we spend a good percentage of our energy as a church and board to putting feet to this proposal.
What’s next? The who, what, where, and why questions need to be augmented by the how and when.