"Acts 29 is a church planting network I had the honor of co-founding with Presbyterian Pastor David Nicholas in 1998, when Mars Hill Church was small, disorganized, broke, and seeking to greatly out-punch its weight class."
Church Planting – it's all the rage among the 'missional' crowd, especially those in the Acts 29 Network. We are beginning a series in which we will take an indepth look at a midwestern church that attempted to clone itself according to A29's DNA. What happened to this well-established congregation will call into question whether Acts 29 is planting or decimating churches. More on that toward the end of the post…
In case you have ever wondered (as we have) how Acts 29 came into existence, here is some interesting information.
How and when did Acts 29 begin? (link)
Acts 29 was founded in 2000 with Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle when it was about 200 in attendance and David Nicholas, a Presbyterian pastor (now retired) of a large church in Boca Raton, Florida. They formed the network to plant qualified, entrepreneurial men who held to a reformed soteriology (salvation) and were willing to engage urban cities with the gospel.
So did Acts 29 begin in 1998 (as Mark Driscoll indicated in the above quote) or in 2000? Inquiring minds want to know…
Somehow your glam blog queens missed the fact that Mark Driscoll co-founded Acts 29 with Dr. David Nicholas (who died on January 25, 2011). Who was Dr. Nicholas? Here is some pertinent information in the Sun Sentinel at the time of his death.
The Rev. Nicholas died of cardiac arrest at Boca Raton Community Hospital the night of Jan. 25, a day after teaching a seminar for 25 ministers. He was 79.
During his decades at Spanish River, the Rev. Nicholas oversaw the establishment of a lively, contemporary worship style that helped grow weekend attendance to 1,700. The church also launched a counseling center with seven counselors and a school with 560 students.
Under the Rev. Nicholas' supervision, Spanish River fostered 250 churches in 11 countries, plus 40 orphanages in Haiti, Chad and Malawi. After his pastorate, he founded an organization called Church Planting Network to concentrate on forming congregations.
"David's life is marked by great work," said the Rev. Tommy Kiedis, who succeeded him at Spanish River. "His passion was always spreading the message of Jesus around the world."
The Boca Raton Tribune stated the following about Dr. David Nicholas (link):
Dr. Nicholas started the church in 1967 with a small group of people meeting in an empty storefront and continued to serve there for 42 years.
Under Dr. Nicholas’ leadership, SRC planted more than 200 churches in the United States and around the world, according to the SRC website.
Dr. Nicholas also co-founded the Acts 29 Network “He was an incredible supporter of our church and mentor to me and our pastors,” said Chan Kilgore, Acts 29 board member and planter of CrossPointe Church in Orlando.
Pastor Mark Driscoll founded the Acts 29 Network with Dr. Nicholas in 2000. He was influential in starting many current Acts 29 churches, and provided much support for many church planters.
And here is an excerpt from the tribute to Dr. David Nicholas on the Acts 29 website: (link)
Nicholas was influential in starting many current Acts 29 churches, and provided much support for many of our church planters.
“As a young church planter, Dr. David Nicholas was very generous to me with both finances and wisdom,” Driscoll wrote. “I often thank God for the massive investment that he has made in my life and ministry, as well as hundreds of other church planters. Though we miss him, it will be exciting one day in eternity to see the lasting legacy of the fruit of his long and faithful ministry.
I found this comment by Robert (over on another blog) fascinating:
Just FYI: Driscoll did not found Acts 29.
It was founded by a Florida pastor, Dr. David Nicholas, who passed away last year. Dr. Nicholas’ organization helped fund some of Driscoll’s early church-planting activities, and at some point, Driscoll took over the organization from Dr. Nicholas. The history is unclear as to how Driscoll did this, whether it was a friendly or hostile takeover. We will probably never know the truth.
In case you'd like to read more about the co-founder of Acts 29, there was an interview in Christianity Today with Dr. Nicholas shortly before his death.
As we begin to take a closer look at the Acts 29 network, this is how they describe their mission:
The mission of Acts 29 is to band together churches, which, for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, plant new churches and replant dead and dying churches around the world. This work is done in obedience to the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20), with the goal of seeing millions of lives changed by the power of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Our vision is to be a Spirit-empowered network of churches, united on mission to reach all people groups for the glory of God, planting churches that in turn plant more churches. If God has called you to plant or replant a church, apply to Acts 29 and our pastors will shepherd you in that journey. As a member, you will be in relationship with other planters through assessment, training, and support as we strive to continue planting church-planting churches.
Here is a video featuring Matt Chandler, the current president of Acts 29 who succeeded Mark Driscoll:
According to its website, here are some statistics that describe Acts 29 as of 2013 (link):
482 Churches within Acts 29
142,932 People attending Acts 29 churches
61 Countries supported through the work of Acts 29 churches
6 Continents represented by Acts 29 churches
18 Denominations represented within Acts 29
10,026 Baptisms at Acts 29 churches in 2012
97.9% Planter success rate
$18M Given to church planting initiatives in 2012
273 Church planters sent out in 2012
That all sounds well and good, but we are greatly concerned that a ministry which appears to have had a promising start may be resorting to bully tactics to duplicate itself.
Allow us to introduce you to church planter Kevin Galloway, who was featured on the Acts 29 website several years ago. Here is some of what he shared:
Briefly describe your story of your call to plant a church
I was called to help lead a large existing church into and through the deep change needed to help transform it into a missional church.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in planting your church (and/or currently facing)?
The biggest challenges faced were that of folks resisting changes to an established 30 year old church. Many of those folks ultimately left to attend churches that offered them more of what they were used to, thus making room for people coming to faith for the very first time. This addition of new believers in contrast to membership shifts and transfers has forced us to a deeper discipleship and formation praxis for new believers as well as those who have known Jesus for years.
How did you become involved with Acts 29? What have been the biggest benefits of being in the network?
I became familiar with A29 as I have followed Mars Hill and The Resurgence on the web. The Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago allowed me to meet and speak with Tyler Powell and other A29 pastors which led to a phone call with Scott Thomas and a subsequent trip to Seattle to meet with Scott and Tyler. They have been such a great help to me and the Countryside community already!
It's important to stress that Countryside Community Church was a non-denominational church with a successful 30 year history prior to the retirement of its founding pastor. The church likely had the largest auditorium in the area with a seating capacity of around 1,400. From what we understand, attendance was so large that there were two services.
Kevin Galloway, who had no seminary training, was hired as the music minister a couple of years before the founding pastor retired. Galloway, who has a liberal arts degree, worked as a police officer prior to joining the Countryside staff.
Galloway, the founding pastor's successor, began to transform Countryside to match Acts 29's DNA. Women were ushered out of leadership positions, ministries like Celebrate Recovery and a food pantry were terminated, reformed theology was forced upon the congregation, and Mark Driscoll's books were promoted. To attract new Christians, the church was being transformed into a 'missional' church; however, there was a steady stream of parishioners (some long-time members) who left their beloved church. Something was terribly wrong in this once vibrant congregation!
Galloway (and the other church leaders) then re-planted Countryside Christian Church and changed its name to 'Christ Church'. The News Dispatch featured an article Countryside to celebrate new name, location which called attention to the transformation. Here is a portion of that piece:
Countryside Christian Church marks the next phase of its rebirth Sunday, complete with a new name and location.
Now known as Christ Church, the congregation of about 400 active members will begin meeting at AMC ShowPlace Theater behind Meijer. The arrangement is through a lease agreement where the church can use theaters 13 and 14 – the multiplex’s largest rooms – for Sunday worship.
“This isn’t a rare thing,” Lead Pastor Kevin Galloway said Friday. “AMC has churches across the country who use their theaters.”
Much of what congregation members appreciated about Countryside services will be part of Christ Church at AMC. The praise band will remain a key part of services, while parishioners will be met by greeters and guest services. Nursery care will be available.
The congregation officially revealed its plan to seek a new location this past summer, citing many factors, from the need to repay the church’s mortgage to the economy and a change in the church’s mission.
Galloway also told The News-Dispatch in July the congregation’s building at 7056 W. County Road 450 North seats about 1,400, but save for holidays and special occasions, the sanctuary often is not filled for Sunday worship.
There were some interesting comments posted under this article, which help shed some light on what happened (see below).
Nonni wrote on Sep 10, 2011 11:30 PM:
" Moving to a movie theatre? Celebrating??? Who are you to kid? This is not call for celebration! Many of your members are deeply saddened by this. THEY'RE LOSING THEIR HOME! But then again, it seems those "running the show" don't really care about their people! "
Marty wrote on Sep 11, 2011 1:14 PM:
" I was a member of Country side for over 20 years and find it distressing that this has happened. The leaders of the church do not listen to their church body. Shame on them! Once leadership changed…things went downhill. "
Follower of Jesus wrote on Sep 14, 2011 11:25 PM:
" I am one who is conflicted during this whole thing. On the one hand I want to tell those that are lamenting over the loss of their building to get over it. On the other hand, as a former member there and a long time member of the LaPorte Community, I totally understand the pain and mourning that is going on right now. What you have here is more than a Church that has "sold" its building, what you have is a Church that has essentially been hijacked by a leadership that has not the slightest touch with reality, nor any real concern for it's flock. This event is the result of the systematic alienation of almost 1000 people in this community. There were times when Countryside numbered nearly 1200-1300 strong on a Sunday Morning. Now there are just 400 left. Churches split and compress all the time because of needed change. This is not one of those times. "
We will be sharing more details about what happened in our upcoming post. In the meantime, you might be interested to know that Christ Church, which met in a movie theater initially, is now meeting in an older church that had been vacated. To give you a glimpse into the health of this Acts 29 church, here is an excerpt from Kevin Galloway's most recent blog post:
While we are experiencing significant numeric growth as a local church, we face a disturbing statistic. Christ Church has grown by approximately 100% over the last year with steady growth over the summer months. What is disturbing is that only 40% of our regular worship gathering attenders show up each week.
So is this a vibrant, growing church or a church in crisis?
To reveal the other side of the Countryside Christian Church story, we have some former members who intend to lay it on the line about what happened to this Acts 29 church re-plant in Michigan City, Indiana.
In our upcoming posts, we will be exploring a number of issues including:
– Bait and Switch theology
– Inappropriate use of church credit cards
– Church funds being spent on liquor and
Saks (not a typo!)Nordstrom.
Stay tuned as we examine the underbelly of an Acts 29 church…
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 10:1-11:16 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 Psalm 56:1-13 Proverbs 23:6-8