What we’re doing is a bit of uncharted territory–Southpoint is just one month away from “un-multisiting.” After 13 years of being “one church in two locations” we’re ready to release the Allen Park campus to become independent on Labor Day. Churches & entire denominations will sometimes “split” over doctrinal or moral issues. It’s not usually planned, & can be quite contentious. Much harm is done when there’s such division that it leads to a split. If you’ve ever been part of a church split, you know. But that’s not what’s happening in our church. This is something that’s being planned & blessed. It’s a separation but not a split.
Our challenge is that we don’t really have models to look to concerning how to do this. While many churches over the past few years have plunged into going multisite, I’m aware of only a handful of multisite churches that have released their campuses on purpose. It seems the few who have though were much larger & spread apart over entire regions. Both of our campuses are local within a 20-minute drive. The preachers & the elders rotate. The staffs meet together monthly. The congregations have worshipped together (though rarely). We’ve all known each other for years. It would be so much easier to just stay together. This is all uncomfortable & awkward–but needed.
My last Sunday preaching at Allen Park will be August 13, which will also be Mark’s last Sunday at Trenton. I first announced this publicly back in April, & wrote about it in one of my “Unleavened Brett” blogs. I talked about how we’d already been through this kind of thing 4 years earlier when we released our third campus with a blessing, but also with reluctance because it was done more unexpectedly & quickly due to a difference in direction they were heading. It was only 4 years old, smaller in attendance, without elders, & without a facility. Since departing its doctrinal stances changed as well.
Ever since then, I’ve been ready to release Allen Park too when it was ready–that is, when Mark was ready & elders were in place. When a campus has a solid preacher, elders, & can be self-sufficient, then why the need to remain multisite? So in January when Mark said he was ready, we set things in motion. The new church in Allen Park will have a new name (Hope City), but it’s the same congregation with the same staff & members. The 3 “new” elders will include a current Southpoint elder (Dean), Mark, & another current staff member (Trent). The new church will have the same beliefs & bylaws as Southpoint, but will likely have different style, focuses, missions, & activities.
We now have several years of experience witnessing the downsides of multisite nationally. I think it can still be good when it’s done locally (not spread out over counties & regions & states & nations), & with the purpose to release them once they’re fully established. Otherwise, it can become just a denominational structure with outside centralized control over congregations. I believe biblically each congregation should be independent when it has its own elders (overseers, shepherds). When you have established congregations, “multi-site” becomes a bit of a misnomer because it’s really a collection of churches under one administration–functioning as separate churches, but still calling themselves “one.”
So, soon Southpoint will be back to being one church in one location. But we’re excited about rebuilding with all of the new things launching on September 10th & being introduced over the coming months (new mission statement, logo, principles, strategies, focuses, website, classes/groups/events/experiences). That’s what I’ve been working on during my July study break. But what’s not changing are the beliefs & mission we’ve always had which come straight from Scripture! We’ll still be focused on seeing as many people as possible come to Christ & become more like Christ. We want to see the church keep growing as we faithfully teach Scripture to ground people in sound doctrine so they can be equipped for Christ-centered lives. We want to help families disciple their children more effectively. We’d like to help plant an independent church somewhere in the country within the next 5 years.
We need your prayers, involvement, service & support to make this happen. I hope you’ll view this next stage & new season as an opportunity to give yourself fully to the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58)! Take advantage of every opportunity to get in to worship, get into the Word, & get out in the world to make disciples!