Can a mass exodus of mostly millennials from churches lead to a billion global "gatherings" that meet at coffee shops, workplaces, and homes?
Pastor and church planter Jimmie Davidson is counting on it. He is the visionary behind The Brooks Church, designed to help people who are accustomed to watching church services through the Internet or on TV "become people with a church" wherever they meet.
Although The Brooks is a church planting movement, Davidson refers to the groups as gatherings, much like the early church in biblical times. The Brooks officially launches on Thursday, December 3.
"We are trying to bring the church where the church doesn't exist as we raise up people that are not in the game, not using their talents, they are more spectators, and help them be a part of what Christ is doing all over the world," said Davidson, 55, whose bio includes the descriptor "Great Commission Strategist."
"One billion people mobilized, awakened, to host His church where they live, whatever space they have. It's about His movement, it's like streams of the desert, Isaiah 43:18-19. It's the ultimate seeker-sensitive movement," he said.
"Forget the former things, I'm doing something new, like streams in the desert." Isaiah 43:18-19
Davidson told me that the timeline for reaching the 1 billion host milestone is not up to him, it's "up to God." Even so, it appears Davidson is well-equipped to lead and launch The Brooks Church at a time when one-third of millennials say they are unaffiliated with any faith, according to a Pew study released earlier this year.
Davidson's church planting experience includes starting Highlands Fellowship Church in Virginia which grew from a small group study of family and friends to 4,000 people in attendance and multiple sites. He is the founder of the Global Glory of God PEACE House where over 300 international business leaders and pastors have been trained from over 70 nations, "touching tens of millions of lives."
He was also a contributing author in Multi-site Churches: Guidance for the Movement's Next Generation by Scott McConnell.
"During the process" of his ministry work, as Davidson describes it, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren asked him to lead the church's global campus launches. Three years ago, after several months of prayer, he joined Warren's team and became a PEACE Pastor overseeing all global missions including a staff of over 35 as well as thousands of volunteers in carrying out the PEACE Plan which includes "Planting Churches, Equipping Servant Leaders, Assisting the Poor, Caring for the Sick and Educating the Next Generation."
"Two years ago, we [Saddleback] launched three global campuses on three continents in two weeks — Hong Kong, Berlin, and Buenos Aires and then the following year, in the summer, during a hurricane, we launched Manilla," Davidson said. "All of that had led to [the] innovative idea that I'm working on. God has wired me up to be an entrepreneur with an apostolic calling — how do I reach the people who are not being reached."
He says the vision for The Brooks Church is to "launch churches all over the planet through ordinary followers of Jesus, using 21st century technology, the Internet, where 3 billion people are online, with the 1st century idea that Jesus gave us when he said, 'I will build my gathering and the gates of hell will not prevail against me.'"
He added, "The gospel is meant to be seen up close. The online launch can be a little bit misleading because we are using that as a tool, as a platform, but the heart of what we are doing is what the Lord said, 'Do not forsake the gathering of your souls together.' Jesus said if two or three of you meet in my name it will be done by my Father. There's something powerful about people following Jesus gathering, others gathering, God showing up and needs being met."
Pastor Brandon Lyons is coming alongside Davidson and launching The Brooks Church in Echo Park, a densely populated neighborhood in Central Los Angeles. The gathering will be one of The Brooks' first.
Lyons has already assembled a core team, mostly friends, that meets as "more of a casual gathering right now" in his home in Echo Park.
"I don't know of any other church planting movements that have started with the intention of multiplying through the Internet by utilizing partnerships and mentorships with the long term goal of establishing churches within houses and offices all around the world," Lyons said. "I'm excited to see what will happen when we start reaching other people around the world. They will still have The Brooks long term as a partner and coach."
Davidson believes one facet of The Brooks is "about going back so the church can move forward."
"We are talking about a reformation of the church," he said. "There is so much emphasis on big, however, this is not an anti-church movement. I started a church that grew into a megachurch that continues to thrive. I was on staff of a megachurch.
"With so many small and medium size churches closing in America and with so few people attending churches, low percentages around the country, even around the world, billions of people need to be reached with the gospel. This is a reformation of empowering ordinary followers of Jesus because He said we are a kingdom of priests. So, in the 1st century there were gatherings breaking out all over."
Davidson explains that there will be gatherings that outgrow their space and in the process The Brooks can help them.
"We can [suggest], 'Hey, you've got leaders in your group, why doesn't someone open up another gathering in their neighborhood,'" he said. "The other direction is to go to a larger space. We are not putting restrictions on staying in a house."
In regards to leadership roles, he said, "As they gather, the Holy Spirit gives gifts. People that can lead, teach, and more. We want to empower them.
"Hosts can either deliver the message I'm giving or they can work with me to deliver their own message in their own style, their own personality, their own insights … or they can actually bring that message on their own and we will encourage them to do that." People from different language groups can also deliver the message in their own language.
"This is also a movement to empower church planters who launch their churches, but honestly don't have the money."
On the Web: http://www.thebrooks.church.