Friday, September 21, 2007


My world is not the same as it used to be. It's a lot bigger in some ways, and a lot smaller in other ways. Just when I was getting my head around being a multi-site church, CTK became a multi-national church, with branches developing rapidly in far off places like India and Africa. Virtually overnight the complexion of CTK has changed, from being a northwest-Washington-funky-USA-church-in-more-than-one-place-kind-of-thing, to being a world-wide-multi-ethnic-multi-racial-mini-movement-kind-of-thing. As has typically been the case, I am trying to get my thoughts to catch up to what God is doing in this story. But this time, the shifts are huge, and we all have to get our heads around them.

1. Shift in demographics. CTK began in rurban communities like Mount Vernon, Washington. By rurban I mean a blend between rural and urban. Mount Vernon is not exactly rural, but it's close. It is surrounded by fields and farms. Mount Vernon is not exactly urban, but it's close. The number one employer in the area is Boeing and many residents drive more than an hour to work in the city of Seattle. Now the CTK story is more prevalent in densely populated urban areas like Johannesberg, South Africa or Nairobi, Kenya, or Secundarabad, India. While we used to talk about small groups spreading from community to community, we now talk about small groups spreading from complex to complex.

2. Shift in funding. Over the years, the outreach of CTK has been funded in a fairly typical way. Folks who have been attending one of our Worship Centers in Washington State have given their tithes and offerings, and these funds have been used to support full-time pastors, and to "pay it forward" to support new works in neighboring communities. Now far more of our pastors are self-supported, or serve voluntarily. In more places than not, resources are scarce or non-existent. Yet the message is going out with more velocity and power than ever before. Obviously, money is not as critical to the spread of Christ's kingdom as we might have thought.

3. Shift in color. Ok, I know. White is not a color. It's the absence of color. But it has been what we've been working with. Actually, we've been looking at a very pasty shade of white, because of the consistent cloud cover over the Pacific Northwest. Now, all of sudden, there is a lot of color in the CTK story; shades of tan, brown and black. If you are white, you are now in a minority in the CTK story. I think we're all going to enjoy the palette of colors with which God is working.

4. Shift in language. Last week, the CTK mission, vision and value statements were translated for the first time into French for a new leader in Ivory Coast. This is the sort of thing we're going to be doing a lot more of. There are now CTK small groups and Worship Centers in a variety of languages, and the variety is only going to increase. English is still the business language of the world, but in some countries in which CTK is moving, there are hundreds of tribal languages being spoken. Translation is going to be a major enterprise going forward.

5. Shift in social architecture. For years, it has been my prayer that we would have more people convened in small groups in any given week than who attend one of our worship services. More "house to house" than "temple courts." Frankly, just when I had started to give up on this dream ever happening in my corner of the world, God showed up and radically altered the playing field. While in America we seem to be in a rush to "go public" in many third world countries small groups are being planted with no immediate plans to convene in a public space. They are validating what I have preached all along: the small group IS the church.

Why is God taking our story overseas? I'm not sure. But I'm fairly certain that the answer has to do more with what God is wanting to teach us, than with what God is wanting to teach them.

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