Recently, I came across a great book about a network of microchurches and disciple-makers in Tampa, Florida. Brian Sanders, one of the architects of the Tampa Underground movement, makes this observation about his exodus from the traditional church,
In the end, we did not choose to leave behind traditional forms of church simply because we were frustrated (although at times we were). We left because we were alive with the hope of the kingdom of God at work in and through the people of God. We were not seeing this hope in the churches we attended, even though we played by the rules. We were involved in everything they told us to get involved in. We went to the services, attended the classes, even taught the classes and led the services. But in the end, we could not escape the nagging, burning belief that there was more to the church of Jesus Christ than what we were experiencing in our classes and services. We were not trying to be obstinate or petulant. On the contrary, we had a childlike belief that, in spite of all we were seeing, the church could yet be something beautiful and potent. We believed that something greater was possible (Sanders, 2018).
Brian Sanders does a great job articulating the thoughts and feelings of many men and women who love the church but are no longer willing to pursue and participate in a form of church that does not equip, empower, and release the people of God to do the work of God. I agree with Sanders and others that the church can be so much more. I believe that the church should be alive with the hope of Jesus Christ and that hope should spread (with great enthusiasm) to the broken and hurting men, women, and children who encounter the hope-filled church.
Like Sanders, I was fully invested in the prevailing model of church that was built on creating unforgettable events and environments to get as many people as possible to attend weekend services and mid-week programming. I did this believing that success was predicated upon the number of people in the building on Sunday mornings and tithing buckets full of money. I bought into all the church growth hype, and in true American fashion, I believed that bigger is better.
In 2019, something began to stir in me, and I felt a dissatisfaction with the status quo that led me to (re)discover what Jesus desired from me and his church—part of the journey involved asking tough questions about why we do what we do. We began to ask: Are we accomplishing the mission of God? What is church? Are we seeing transformed lives? Are we following a biblical pattern? These questions lead us to make a significant shift in our paradigm. Ultimately, as the Lord led us, we decided to sell our building and pursue a biblical and simple form of church.
Brian Sanders defines the church as “a group of people: In consistent, devoted, and surrendered relationship to Jesus Christ, Totally accountable and connected to each other, and Engaged in his mission, making disciples and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God (Sanders 2018).” Notice the simplicity and the power found in this definition.
1. The church should be a group of people that are, first and foremost, devoted to and surrendered to King Jesus.
2. The church should be accountable to one another and connected deeper than once a month. This is a picture of a true biblical community, men and women holding one another to be obedient disciples of Jesus in a community full of love, grace, and truth.
3. The church should actively bring the Kingdom of God (hope in Christ) to the broken and hurting in our communities. The church should share the good news of Jesus, make disciples, and plant microchurches.
Our journey has led us to pursue a simple form of church that embodies the above definition. If this resonates with you, join us as we seek to grow in our obedience to Jesus, our love for one another, and our passion for the mission of God.
Sanders, Brian. Underground Church (Exponential Series) Zondervan. Kindle Edition.