Orchards Over Trees
Posted on November 16, 2021 8:00 AM by Brad Cunningham
“We have abandoned the regional megachurch model. Instead of trying to grow and become the largest oak tree we can possibly be where we can be seen from miles around and we can tout all the people sitting under the shade of our branches, we want to instead be an orchard with as many gospel outposts planted as possible.”
Those are the words I shared with our church publicly in casting a vision for a multi-site church strategy. We have also publicly communicated that our desire was to cap our attendance at our Liberty Township location at 1200-1500. Each time we approach that number, our vision would be to deploy people to start a new campus or strengthen an existing campus located in the community they live in.The vision is not the growth of Liberty Heights Church, the vision is the spread of the gospel further and faster.
As the church has grown larger over the past ten years – we have felt the tensions that often come with larger churches. Relationships are harder to develop. Fewer people can get to know the staff and vice versa. Keeping people from being anonymous almost becomes impossible. Getting people connected to groups and ministry becomes increasingly complex. We started noticing this as we grew past 800 several years ago and certainly when we grew past 1,000.
The New Testament Church was familial in nature, but the larger a church becomes, the harder it is to feel like family. Unfortunately, the trade off in local church ministry is that if you want a high level of excellence – choose a large church. If you want lots of access to the staff and more of a family feel – choose a smaller church. We believe an intentional multi-site strategy truly can offer the best of both worlds. It allows people to be on mission with their actual neighbors through community-based churches instead of large, regional mega churches. It is an intentional move away from attractional into missional.
Multi-site provides the evangelistic impact of a new church plant, but guards it from a lack of resources that often serve as the catalyst to the failure of church plants. Only 4 out of 10 church plants survive and one of the leading causes of failure is the lack of resources related to people and money. Our Orchard Initiative sends both from our original location, that is led by a campus pastor, through live preaching – but he also receives the resources and encouragement from a larger team dynamic.
--Brad Cunningham pastors Liberty Heights Church and its four satellite campuses based in Liberty Township, Ohio.