In his last sermon at Redemption Christian Church, Drew Thurman describes several dreams our team has for the upcoming plant. Watch to learn more about:
Well, it appears we know where we are moving. Drumroll, please...
It's Waltham (WAWL-tham).
After several trips and a lot of study, it appears Waltham will be the choice of where we will be planting Renaissance Christian Church. It is a unique community on the fringes of the city; one that is going through a major transition. Historically, Waltham was a blue collar city full of factories and working class people, and also one that was a social service center for those not going to downtown Boston for such needs. Thus, the hub of Waltham still features lots of diversity and is full of need. Ethnic restaurants and grocery stores are in store fronts everywhere on Moody Street, the hub of the city life. Lower income housing and poverty are obvious needs that are visible in areas of the community.
At the same time, Waltham is an up and coming city. The population has surged over the last 15 years, and continues to do so (while also becoming increasingly secular). Besides being perfectly positioned in proximity to downtown for those commuting, it also has seen a major rise in tech start-ups due to its positioning at the corner of I-90 and I-95. Dozens of software and cybersecurity companies have made Waltham home, meaning young professionals are moving into the community at an unprecedented rate. Combine this with the two universities, Bentley and Brandeis, that call it home (Lasell and Boston College nearby), and you have the exact kind of community we went to Boston to find.
There are only a couple of English-speaking, Gospel-preaching churches in the community, which we've already connected with. We met briefly with the team at one of them who opened their doors to us and even encouraged us to come to Waltham. The lead minister upon meeting us actually said, “You’ll hear some church folks tell you there are too many churches here. They are wrong. We need so many more Gospel-preaching churches in this part of the city. I hope you’ll come.” How's that for an invitation?
So, be praying for our team as we begin the process of relocation. Both the Thurmans and the Rasches are currently trying to sell their homes and find new living situations in Waltham. We move out this summer! Let the adventure begin...
Our sending network announced a new online giving platform today. You can now designate gifts and setup recurring giving, all while using a much more user friendly platform than before. Follow the instructions below to support Renaissance. Thanks!
Watch the video above to hear the latest about what is happening at Renaissance. A few highlights:
Well, one of our family's favorite movies is We Bought A Zoo. The film, inspired by true events, tells the story of Benjamin Mee, a widowed father of two trying to pave a new path for his family after his wife’s untimely death. This search for a fresh start leads them to their eclectic dream home, which just so happens to be connected to a zoo, Rosemoor Wildlife Park.
Despite the fact that zoo has been closed for some time, that the staff is disenfranchised, and that Mee has absolutely zero experience running such an operation, he quits his job and takes on the challenge of trying to reopen the zoo with his kids. It’s an adventure that, if you haven’t seen the movie, is worth the two hours of your time.
Recently my wife Breanna and I were rewatching the film when she said something rather interesting. She looked over and pointed out, “This sure feels a lot like church planting.” It was a poignant observation and one that made me realize the numerous parallels as I watched the rest of the film.
In fact, one, in particular, stands out. In the middle of the movie, there’s a scene where the head zookeeper, Kelly, interrogates Mee on why he would make such a seemingly crazy decision to take over Rosemoor. She states, “I have a question for you. You’re some random dude from the city, no one in the zoo community has ever heard of you. You know nothing about animals and you moved your family into a dump. What kind of regular person up and buys a place like this?...Why Benjamin, why did you buy this place?” His response is as captivating as it is simplistic: “Why not?”
On almost a daily basis we face similar questioning. From the non-believer to the avid church-goer, we get peppered with bewildered curiosity:
“Why would you move your family into the city?”
“Why not move near family? Why go to Boston when you know no one there?”
“Why leave a good church, nice house and good jobs to struggle in the exorbitant cost of living in the Northeast?”
“Why risk it all to start something in a place where few churches seem to work or thrive?”
Our response is simple...why not?
It’s not that these questions are lacking legitimacy or are without merit. In fact, to be honest, we asked ourselves many of these questions in the early stages of deciding to relocate to Boston to start a church. Our evaluators at our church planting assessment tested us with these questions to see how we’d hold up. From a purely practical vantage point, the “why” questions are only natural. Two non-New Englander couples, who’ve never planted a church before, are moving to a city far from familiarity, to start a church in one of the hardest locations on the continent to do so. The “why” makes sense.
But the further we explored the depths of following Christ, our calling as Christians and our limited time on this earth, our minds quickly shifted from “why” to “why not.” In essence, we ran out of excuses.
Why not be faithful to The Great Commission?
Why not go where the need is the greatest when the workers are few?
Why not trust a God who promises to provide when we are faithful?
Why not risk it all when we don’t get to keep any of this anyhow?
Why not lay down our lives when we don’t get to hold onto them anyway?
The more we asked these questions, the more we realized that choosing the comforts of the here and now are just as big (if not bigger) of a risk as the adventure of going.
Please understand, this isn’t minimizing our call and our heartbeat for Boston that we feel God has placed deep inside us. This just means we’re going not viewing it as a risk but as a normal, Kingdom-minded thing to do. That while it won’t be easy, we know easy isn’t what we’ve been called to as Christ-followers.
So, as we begin to transition and move here in a few months, we’re going with the attitude of “why not.” One where we are less worried about all the excuses or reasons it doesn’t make sense and are instead more worried about letting those things keep us from helping people find Jesus. We believe it’s time that a whole generation of Christ-followers feel the same way about going to places like New England, and we want to help lead the charge.
Bring on 2018!
Watch the video above to hear the latest about what is happening at Renaissance. A few highlights:
One of the things I have taken for granted in the process of announcing our departure to Boston in 2018 to plant Renaissance Christian Church, is that people actually know what church planting is (and will look like in a post-Christian society). On a daily basis, as I engage in conversations with interested people and parties about what we are doing, I am bombarded with questions that remind me how foreign church planting is for the average person. I hear things like:
"So, do you have a church building picked out?"
"It's going to look like our church, right?"
"Are there several hundred people joining your church or is this starting from scratch?"
So with this in mind, let me take time to address a few things about our future endeavor. Hopefully, such clarification will help you understand what you are supporting, and what you should be praying about. While we are still in the early stages of fundraising and planning, with some things still in-flux, here are a few things we know for sure....
1. This is pioneering work.
Despite its rich history as the epicenter of American Christianity, Boston and New England as a whole now is the biggest mission field in our country. Like Western Europe, Canada and other places in the U.S before it, this area has moved beyond the Christian faith. The Biblical story that once shaped culture is no longer the narrative that gives meaning to life.
This means the church has faded to the margin of society and in some places is border line extinct. In other words, vibrant, Christ-centered churches are needed. So, through Restoration House Ministries, we are looking to start a church where the church is needed most. In fact, in October our entire team will be visiting Boston for a week to officially select which neighborhood/city within Boston we will be planting the church. Through the help of demographic studies and the expertise of other RHM church planters, we have narrowed it down to three communities. We will be excited to officially have our landing spot after that trip.
So as you can probably guess, this means moving into the neighborhood, building relationships, loving people, serving the community and eventually starting a church service from scratch. Church planting is pioneering work, in fact it has been since the Apostle Paul was planting churches in the first century world.
Missiologist Michael Frost compares church planters to that of weeds. Another word for weeds is pioneer plants according to horticulturalists. Frost states, "Weeds have to be the hardiest, most courageous, the pioneer plants, the first ones in." Despite being plucked, sprayed and nuked, they grow strong roots in this foreign culture and eventually, make way for more. While maybe not the most flattering of images, Frost says church planters do the same work. In many ways, that's our goal. Pioneer the Gospel through love, grace and serving (a.k.a. making deep roots). Our dream is that Renaissance would be so intertwined in our neighborhoods and community that they would grieve if we left.
2. This is urban-focused work.
The aforementioned Apostle Paul was the first great church planter. He pioneered the Gospel throughout the known world in the first century by focusing on urban areas. Tim Keller notes of Paul: "The greatest missionary in history, St. Paul, had a rather simple, two-fold strategy. First, he went into the largest city of the region (cf. Acts 16:9,12), and second, he planted churches in each city (cf. Titus 1:5)."
This vision has never been more applicable. Studies show that around half the world's population lives in cities. The current trends show that 70% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. Urbanization is current reality the church must become awakened to.
Thus, when we began to approach a Boston church plant, our focus quickly moved to the city. Not that suburban dwellers are any less in need of the Gospel, but cities are the epicenter of influence. This is definitely the case with Boston. It is the hub of life in New England, and thanks to its 50-plus colleges and universities within the city, it is a globally influential city. We wanted to be close to that action, and all three of the communities and neighborhoods we are looking at are within I-95 (connected to public transit) and closely attached to the city itself. This means an urban church that will look much different than the very suburban brand of Christianity that has become so prevalent in current culture.
3. This is unconventional work.
Building on that previous statement, the work we will be doing will not look like what many have known and become familiar with within church culture. While we will not compromise truth or the importance of the Gospel, our methodologies will be based on the context we are planting in. Just like mission work in a cross-cultural context, we will be molding our methods to the culture of Boston.
While much of this is still to be decided after we pick the exact community we will be in and we get our boots on the ground, we already know that there will be things that won't look like what many of our supporters are familiar with. For instance: we'll be renting a commercial space for our gatherings, we likely won't have an office and will be mobile, and our foundation will be relational community and not programs in a building. Hopefully, you already get a flavor and feel for how different this is.
Again, hopefully such clarification will help you understand what you are supporting, and what you should be praying about. This is difficult, innovative work and we covet your prayers as we begin to engage in it. Let the adventure begin!