Megaregions focus the efforts of church multiplication throughout north America. It is necessary to think and act beyond the current boundaries of church polity, organizational capacity, and political borders.
Seeing My Place Through God's Eyes
In January 2014, I was in the middle of prepping for two Spring term courses in urban ministry at Mount Vernon Nazarene University where I teach. At the same time, I was leading twenty students on an trip to Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Chicago so we could explore hidden diversities in Midwestern American cities.
In my research and travels, I found the work of mid-twentieth century sociologist who sought a method for categorizing metropolitan areas throughout history. The largest category is megalopolis. It is really a city of cities. Nothing yet exists like this on earth. The closest image would be from science fiction: Luc Beeson's vision of New York City in 2263 CE from the film entitled The Fifth Element (1997).
During Spring Break, I attended a church multiplication conference in Joplin, Missouri, of all places. I should be used to God working in unexpected places. It was organized by Mark Bane, district superintendent, and Bill Wiesman of the US/Canada region and Dynamic Church Planting International. I have some experience with rapid church multiplication from past work in Benin in 2004 to 2008, so I was familiar with the subject.
I was in Joplin to observe the workshop trainers to help with preparing training materials for the Nazarene Organic Church Network. What I didn't expect was to receive a vision for what God could do in my own area of assignment centered in Ohio.
What happened was the perfect storm of conducting missiological research, honing ideas with students and colleagues, and being open to the spark of the Holy Spirit.
What is the vision? Be a part of raising up 1,000 leaders in 100 networks of organic and established churches to multiply rapidly throughout the Great Lakes Megaregion of the United States.
Scary, I know, but that's the definition of a "God goal": it has to be impossible otherwise we could take the credit. But, it can only be for God's glory:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)
What is a Megaregion?
Another term for a large populated area is a megaregion. In my research I came across the demographic information collected by America 2050. The purpose of the research is to identify contiguous areas of human population to facilitate movement including commerce, transportation, and communication.
Think of a megaregion as one gigantic city and the metro areas as neighborhoods, and towns as streets. In north America there are eleven megaregions of human population, each with a unique angle on ways of being American, linguistic twists, economic possibilities, social struggles, and mix of subcultures.
Questions we considered (and are still wrestling with): What are the demographics of this area? What populations are moving here? What are these people like? Where are the nodal points connecting these populations? What industries are being created for bi-vocational ministry? What are the relational pathways into these areas? What gatekeepers (persons of peace, Luke 10:1-12) do we need to look for in these places? What will the church and its leaders look like in these places?
Relational Pathways into North America's Megaregions
Churches as expressions of the Body of Christ have access to unlimited human relationships and connections, though tangible resources might seem limited, so it is important to see these local churches and their sometimes hidden or obscured interconnectedness as relational pathways for movement.
America 2050's identification of megaregions creates a map of relational pathways for church leaders to enter this part of the world lit up with missional imagination.
The gateway into God's movement in my area, centered in Ohio, is to understand the Great Lakes megaregion--one of the largest in north America. More on this later.