Mission Centers and Large Churches | Nazarene Presence in the SoCal Megaregion (1895-2015)
I use the term "mission center" in a specific manner. I believe there are some churches that are geared not to stockpile believers in a single building but rather these centers are meant to send believers into the surrounding communities. These churches are going to see many called into equipping ministries, maybe even full time. They will host training seminars, family workshops, and marriage retreats. They will hire multiple pastors, staff and support employees. They will generously give toward global missionary efforts, and maybe even produce resources that smaller congregations can use. Mark Bane, I think, would call these "high impact" churches.
It is also notable that one-third of the churches on the SoCal megaregion are less than 45 in worship attendance, and only ten percent are more than 250 in attendance. There is a heavy burden for these mission centers to be centers of training and support WITHIN the megaregion.
I do not believe it is a missional responsibility to make larger churches of the smaller ones, however. These small churches are outposts, serving communities and neighborhoods where a larger one cannot go. More of these smaller churches means: rapid multiplication will more likely happen, more leaders will be identified, more disciples made, more compassionate ministries will engage and transform communities, more widespread influence will be felt locally through Nazarene presence.
Remember that there will be 15 million more people living in the SoCal megaregion in 2050. Add the seven million from the Arizona Sun megaregion and it's now 22,000,000. Using the Southern Baptist metric of one church presence in a population of 10,000, it will take nearly 2,000 more local congregations, in addition to what is already there, just to be minimally present in this part of the world. In the next thirty years. The mission centers and smaller organic churches will need to work together strategically to make an impact in Southern California.
Just a small side note that Riverside, California is about 160 miles (300 km) from Porterville, CA in the north to Ensenada, Mexico in the south. It is only 60 miles from the coastline. It might be a good place for gathering, training, and sending. If you've been through this area, the new highways and construction projects reveal that there are others that also see the value in this location.
And, here's a personal note. For the past year, I have wondered why Pastor Kevin McDonald left central Kansas for Gateway Church of the Nazarene in Murrieta, California, located just south of Riverside. I first met him at a DCPI training in Joplin, Missouri. I've heard his miraculous story, we've all seen him create Level 5 multiplying churches. I trust that he is led of God, therefore I have also trusted his judgment in making this move. I realized now after this week that Kevin has simply followed God into the geographic center of, and the gateway into, the Southern California megaregion. I cannot imagine a better place for Pastor Kevin to be than right where he is.
In my study of the Great Lakes megaregion, I included a slide on large churches in the Great Lakes megaregion, so I have also added one below. The ratios of membership and worship are quite similar between the Great Lakes and SoCal.
Just imagine for a minute, seriously take 60 second to stop and imagine the the ramifications of the scope of responsibility held by these four large churches for the mission of the church "to make disciples in the nations." Every month more than ten percent of Nazarenes in Southern California attends four churches, hears one of four pastors preach, worships together in one of four ways, gains the ability to think theologically about what it means to be Christian, and enters into the mission of the denomination because of four local churches.
I mean, these things probably happen, and I'm probably overselling the influence to some extent, but the possibility of influence rests in these four gatherings every week. The four churches below show that they are discipling, or potentially discipling, one of every ten Nazarenes in the SoCal megaregion.
These four churches also have a history, and it would be a wonderful thing to hear the stories behind the people that have entered faith and served through these congregations over the years. Between them, these local churches are older congregations with an average of 75 years of active ministry between them. There are lessons to be learned from these places and people.