Innovative Church Leaders Move Into the Neighborhood

WASHINGTON - Jesus moved into the neighborhood, according to the Gospel of John. So, innovative church leaders today are moving into the culture.

For Granger Community Church in Indiana, that means conducting sermon series on popular TV show "24" or box office hit "Spider-Man 3."

"We can't afford to be out of touch with our culture," said Tim Stevens, executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Indiana, at the second annual Buzz Conference in Washington.

On another level, it means breaking the rules when so many churches are trying to stay inbounds.

Granger broke the rules when his church plastered billboards around the local city, which stirred debate among Christians and a media storm. went out of bounds when it launched the multi-site movement, which includes an internet campus for worship services. And Life Church's senior pastor, Craig Groeschel, broke the rules when he went into bars to meet "the sick" and tell them about Jesus.

"We have to care more about reaching people than about obeying man's stupid rules because that's what they are," said Groeschel.

"Innovative" is a term largely used to describe these churches that are at the forefront of creative and cutting edge ideas when it comes to growing a church and its impact. Some may label them as part of emerging church movement as they are trying to reach emerging generations and those right in their community who don't know Jesus Christ. Emerging churches are often criticized for breaking traditional church rules when drawing people by appealing to the culture.

But Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington and host of the Buzz Conference, doesn't like labels because they come with stereotypes. And new ideas will likely "offend Pharisees," as Groeschel put it. What new idea is hated today, however, will be embraced tomorrow, according to Groeschel.

"I consider it one of my greatest honors to be one of the people that so many people hate because of the multi-site movement," he told a crowd of nearly 300 pastors and church leaders. Groeschel believes that years or decades from now, when churches are emptying out, the multi-site model will be one of the ways that God uses to carry on His message.

Groeschel's, which currently has 11 church campuses across the nation where attendants listen to Groeschel preach live from Edmond, Okla., through live video feed, was named this year the most innovative church in the nation by Outreach magazine. But he doesn't give himself credit for the multi-site model, the 18,000 total weekly attendants or innovative ideas. In fact, he discourages such credit.

"We can't be impressed with ourselves," he said. "We must become less impressed with our latest program, less impressed with our latest website, and less impressed with our own what we call creative idea and become more focused on becoming less and making Jesus more in everything that we do."

He went further to reject building attendance to a megachurch size being defined as success.

"We need to stop trying so hard to build attendance and we need to think about building the Church," he said as he encouraged pastors to redefine success. "When we redefine it and say 'look at how many people are being lost (rather than counting those being saved),' that's going to change everything." and a host of other cutting-edge nondenominational and independent churches are not aiming to copy strategies or models that churches already created and have been successful at reaching more people for Christ. Instead, they're aiming for a road untraveled.

"If we're going to reach the world, we're going to have to sit in the smoking section," Groeschel stated plainly.

"In order to reach those that no one else is reaching, we will have to do things that no one else is doing," he said.

For today's innovative churches, that means moving into the neighborhood, breaking the rules, offending Pharisees and redefining success so that the world can know Christ.

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