This past Sunday night we had our annual members' meeting, which was honestly one of the highlights of our 11 years at Southlands thus far. I wanted to communicate in writing to the congregation at large about our annual financial report and also about what I spoke to our members regarding our vision. There are some significant changes on the horizon and I wanted to fill you in on these against the backdrop of the gracious provision and growth God has given to our church. Of course, something of the tone and tenor of the night will be lost from microphone to page, but I do feel that you will benefit from reading the essence of what I communicated if you were not there. If you were there, you may also find it helpful to be able to reflect on what you heard.
A Call to Multiplying Faith
Hebrews 11: 8-12 "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. And so did Isaac and Jacob who inherited the promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations whose architect and builder was God. It was by faith that even Sarah was able to bear a child, though she was barren and too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so, a whole nation came from this one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable sand on the seashore. ”
It is remarkable to see God's generous provision to this church and it is against the backdrop of this provision that I want to cast an expanded vision. I want to invite us to do two things at this time. First, I want to invite us to look up like Abraham, and see the stars of heaven. We are part of the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. We are those descendants, those stars! But God has also promised stars to us. I want us to catch something of God's expansive promise to us as Abraham's children. Second, I want us to be willing to take a step toward risk in the light of this expansive promise to us, because faith has an ongoing appetite for risk.
Terry Virgo unpacked the above passage as follows: “When Abraham was called he obeyed by going out from his secure home to receive an inheritance, though he did not know where he was going. There were no well-worn paths ahead of him and he was the father of all who believed. It seems that static familiarity can constitute danger for the Christian pilgrim. A well-worn track can easily become a rut. God wants us stable in doctrine but mobile in practice."
God wants us stable in doctrine, even stable in our disciplines, but mobile in practice. Thank you all for your amazing stability in doctrine and in the disciplines of fellowship, serving and giving. You are like ballast in the the boat of this church. Your faithful sacrifice keeps us buoyant and upright. We could not do this without you. But here we see a call, not just to stability, but to mobility. Faith does not have an aversion to risky mobility. It refuses to settle. Faith knows the difference between being established and becoming establishment. Abraham and his sons continued to live in tents. These last 5 years have required much risk but it has been greatly rewarded by God. It is easy to lose our appetite for it. But God is calling us to pull up the tent pegs, embrace uncertainty and set off on pilgrimage again, particularly around our vision to be a multiplying church.
A Vision to Multiply Points of Light in the Southland
25 years ago God spoke to Jesse Mason about a vision to multiply points of light in the Southlands*. Some of you who are still here remember when Jesse began to cast this vision around 2002. This conviction precipitated a call to Chris Wienand to help the church to raise up leaders and send them out. In 1996 Chris and Meryl Wienand moved to Christian Chapel of Walnut to take the helm of leadership. Largely because of Jesse's vision, Chris named the church Southlands Church. The church multiplied 12 times in 14 years under Chris’s watch which is remarkable. In 2010 when we were called to lead the church, we pushed pause in multiplication to give ourselves to strengthening pastoral, missional and financial health in the church. My mantra was, "We need to win both home games and away games." This remains my conviction to this day.
In 2012, just before Jesse passed away, he sent me a brief email. “Dear Alan, Ever since the Lord spoke to me about the church multiplying points of light in the Southland, it was like all hell broke loose against us. The church has been in battle ever since. But this morning I woke early and was impressed upon by the Lord to write to you and tell you, 'From this day on it will be easier.'”
This email was a catalyst for us to return to a multiplying call. It has certainly not been easy. In fact it has been costly for us all. But God’s grace has been so clearly upon us as we multiplied 4 times in 4 years. The last year has been about strengthening what has been planted and finding a sustainable rhythm of multiplying from health. Part of our strengthening season has been an expansion of this vision. What would it look like to multiply points of light all over the Southland where not all the multiplication can come from us? We have begun to expand our vision to include strengthening of existing lights as we develop strategic partnerships with like-minded, like-hearted churches.
A Gospel Constellation in the Southland
I was watching a documentary on Marfa, Texas this past week, where the sky is so clear that at night you don’t just see the stars. You see a whole constellation of stars and planets of differing size and proximity and brightness. I believe God wants to multiply a gospel constellation through us in the Southland – an array of lights that are inter-connected.
If Southlands multi-site congregations represent one kind of light in the constellation, I want us to expand our vision to see two other kinds of light in our constellation. One might be called Advance Lights, which refer to our partnership with the other Advance churches in our region and Kingdom Lights, which refers to our strategic partnership with other churches that are not part of Advance not Southlands, particularly churches in the Manna forum.
Let me repeat the array of lights in the constellation.
Southlands-Lights – Continuing to plant and strengthen Southlands multi-site congregations
Advance-Lights – Planting and strengthening Advance partner churches in our region
Kingdom-Lights – Strengthening Churches beyond our network with whom we have a kingdom alliance, especially Manna churches.
This is not about ownership. This is about partnership for the sake of a bigger, brighter constellation, to see darkness pushed back and the light of Christ shining brighter in this beautiful and broken region that we call the Southland. It takes a region-wide church to win a region-wide war. The largeness of the vision requires a loosening of partnership on some levels for greater reach. We are so serious about an expanded vision of multiplication, that we are making some significant changes as we move forwards.
Key Changes on the Horizon
A. Empowered Local Eldership Teams
A new administration for Southlands-lights with four eldership teams led by a Directional Team and served by a Central Services Team. This will enable congregations to give their primary focus to their local pastoral care and mission while still remaining vitally connected to the whole.
B. Manna Church Investment Since last year, this has been the biggest change in our multiplication journey. We are now working with 20 churches across the Southland, investing in their mercy and justice initiatives and training their leaders. Some of these churches may become Advance-Lights or even Southlands-Lights in the future, but this is not the motive for our investment.
C. West Coast Advance Hub There are currently 5 advance partner churches in our region with 2 expressing a desire to step into partnership and multiple churches looking in.
D. Sending the Santiago’s to DC to join Monument Church and for Erik to take up a role as Executive Director of Advance Global
Erik and Celeste have been with us for 11 years. For 8 of those years, Erik has served and led in the role of Executive Pastor. He has been fundamental in building the infrastructure of Southlands. He will now take what he has learned and invested and bring it to our Advance Global story. Celeste has been dynamic in worship leading, in design and in our anti-human trafficking initiatives. They have both brought energy and excellence to Alpha, to our creative events and to our gatherings in preaching and worship leading. They will lend these gifts to the establishing of Monument Church and the growth of Advance as movement. There remains a revolving door in our church – of gospel goodbyes and gospel hellos. This is sad, but this is normal, healthy New Testament Christianity.
E. Commissioning Southlands Fullerton as an autonomous Advance partner church in September
Nick and Karin have served Southlands since 2002 with exemplary sacrifice, conviction and care. Their congregation has grown in stature, and Nick has also grown in capacity and conviction as a leader. He is, as it were, a leader who needs to sit at the head of his own table, and we believe that he and his team will flourish with a more full expression of autonomy. It will also benefit Advance to have another small to medium sized autonomous church, as the churches we are working with are all small. We will continue to work closely together as friends and partners in Advance. This is a year-long process, which h was decided in October and which will launch in September. It is gradual, gracious and celebrated. If we only think in terms of Southlands-lights we will see it as a loss. If we think in terms of Advance-lights, we may lament the loss at one level but we will see it as a kingdom win.
These are all significant and costly changes, but imagine what the next ten years could look like as we join Jesus on his mission to the Southland? We are not fixing a specific number that we are targeting, but for a moment try and imagine 3 Southlands congregations, plus 7 Advance partner churches, plus 20 Manna churches. That is already 30 lights in the Southland with whom we share a close partnership. At this rate and by God's grace, we could be in meaningful partnership with another 100 gospel lights in our region over the next ten years. Can we look up and see a gospel constellation forming in the Southland by God's grace?
Our Next Steps
Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”We don’t see the whole staircase but we want to callus all to take some next steps in our multiplying future.
a. Let's pray for Fullerton as they prepare and plan for their launch.
b. Let's embrace our identity as a multiplying church. This is us. It is costly, but it is vital and it is Biblical. Even if you are passionate about specific ministries like Camp Agape or Rancho Hermosa or prison ministry or children’s ministry or youth or worship, let's approach them from the unique angle of being a multiplying church. God’s grace is on us in a unique way in this regard.
c. Let's continue to give and train and pray towards multiplication.
Pre-emptive answers to possible Questions
a. How do we ensure that this vision for a Gospel Constellation in the Southland does not diminish pastoral health in the church, particularly with the time it will demand from Alan?
The multiplying of the team of elders into four congregational elder teams means that the majority of our elders' time and energy will be spent shepherding their local flocks.We are intent on holding the healthy tension between mission and pastoral care. At Brea we have purposefully added extra pastoral staff in Kirk Randolph returning full-time and JD Senkbile being employed full-time to ensure pastoral care and discipleship go from strength to strength amidst a vision for multiplication. Together with Joel Baker and Ryan Macdonald and 6 other market place elders and wives at Brea and approximately 40 deacons, we have never been better furnished with pastoral care than we are now. While Alan and Rynelle still carry a significant pastoral burden at Brea, their primary role is to care for and develop the large group of leaders God has entrusted to at Brea and the other Southlands congregations.
b. If Southlands Fullerton is becoming autonomous, what does that mean for the other Southlands congregations in the future?
While we celebrate what God is doing in the commissioning of Southlands Fullerton as an autonomous church, we do not want to assume that this move sets a precedent for all Southlands congregations in the future. While we acknowledge that autonomy for other congregations is possible in the future, we do not see it as inevitable. In the mean time, the remaining three congregations are committed to working closely together for the next three years, with the possibility of other Southlands congregations being added during that time. At the three year mark, we will re-assess the effectiveness of our gospel partnership again with the help of external wisdom in the Advance network to see if our administration needs to loosen further or continue as is. This is a journey of committed faithfulness in the midst of uncertainty.
2018 Annual Report
Here is a link to our membership stats, income and expenditure.
2018 Annual Financial and Member Report
Here is a link to our membership stats, income and expenditure.
2018 Annual Financial and Member Report
I do hope this extensive unpacking of our next steps has been helpful to you. We thank God for the vital part you play in our church. God has given us an expansive promise and gracious provision for that promise. Let's be those who inherit it through faith and patience together.
with gratitude in Christ for you,
with gratitude in Christ for you,
*The Southland is the colloquial term for Southern California(SoCal), a region comprising 10 counties with a total population of just under 23 million people.