Planting Transformation Communities

I've been pastoring the Rock church for over 8 years as of September 2016. My story and journey can only be described and explained as a work of the Holy Spirit. To this day I would not have imagined that I would be located in the heart of Los Angels in between two growing marketplaces. Our church is experiencing the squeeze of gentrification on neighborhoods that find themselves constantly changing ethnically and economically. On the south side of our church is the historic University of Southern California (USC). On the north side of our church is the hip and vibrant downtown Los Angeles which includes the Staple Center and L.A. Live entertainment spot. 

Where we are located is a peculiar neighborhood known as the historic West Adams district. This neighborhood historically has gone through many changes. It started as the home of Hollywood. This is evidenced by the large victorian style homes. If you drive through our neighborhood you'll find old craftsman homes with 4 to 6 bedrooms. In 1963 the Santa Monica Freeway cut through the heart of West Adams Heights, dividing the neighborhood and obscuring its continuity. In the 1970s the city paved over the red brick streets and removed the ornate street lighting. After the neighborhood’s zoning was changed to a higher density, overzealous developers claimed several mansions for apartment buildings, before the area was down-zoned again. As a result you know have multi-family housing and homelessness spread through the area. Imagine this scene coupled with international students form USC along with mission organizations like Servant Partners and World Impact who have mostly transplants from rural communities living in the neighborhood incarnation-ally. 

Today you will find a mixture of demographics in the area. With the new development happening at USC as well as downtown Los Angeles, many residents are moving in and slowing shifting the neighborhood's identity from what it recently was. I would suspect in the next 10 years the neighborhood that our church sits in will no longer look like it does today. What does any of this history have to do with my church and why I am writing this piece?

In the midst of all of these changes, God still has a work for us to do in bringing about kingdom transformation in the lives of the residents in which we serve. Thinking about what we have been engaged in as a church over the past 8 years has forced me to reflect on what planting a church means versus planting transformational communities. If you had asked me 8 years ago what has God called my wife and I to do, I would have said plant an urban mulit-ethnic church. What does that really mean?

We have churches on every corner right? There are enough churches that have 20 to 80 people in them on any given Sunday. I have matured over the years and have experienced God's favor in my life. We've had baptisms, baby dedications, easter celebrations, bugaboo (Halloween) events, as well as Impact Sunday service days. When I look out at the landscape of my city I'm challenged by the fact that God has not called me to plant a church but to plant a transformational community. Transformational communities have an impact on the city in everyday life and not just sunday morning at 11:00am. 

I would challenge those who are pastoring existing churches or looking to "plant" a church in the future to think of community transformation instead of church planting. Community transformation looks different. The evidence or fruit of planting a transformational community is evidenced by the way in which the people in the city respond to your presence in a particular place. If your church were to no longer exist would the neighborhood even notice?

For the remainder of this post I'd like to talk about transformational communities. 

Planting transformational communities have an impact in seven different areas of life. These areas include education, government, family, media, entertainment, business, and religion. If you want to see the influence of your ministry in the fabric of a city or even a nation you must begin to think in those terms. My idea of transformation starts with education. Education is the key to success which unlocks the doors of opportunity for everyone. Our desire as a church is to bring about Kingdom transformation in neighborhoods that have been forgotten or where the resources have left. 

What would it look like if a church allowed an educational institution to occupy their space during the week. Our buildings sit empty for the most part until Sunday mornings. They become monuments in a neighborhood that people drive by but never enter in. If a church hosted a school it would bring vibrant community members through your doors which allow the unsaved and unchurch to find an entry point to a place they would otherwise pass by on a daily basis. I think as pastors/apostolic leaders we need to begin to see our spaces as a place for multi-use purposes. 

Strategy for Transofrmation through education

The planting of transformational communities strategy takes advantage of a multi-use facility that directly engages the local community in multiple ways:

Multi-Use Property
  1. School Day = Charter School. Rent from Charter school funds ministry activity.  
  2. Evenings = Biblical studies and Professional Education for Adult Learners in Under Resourced Communities 
  3. Weekends = Church Celebration Services and Community Outreach Programs

A Continuous Funding Stream. 

This Strategy provides a continuous funding stream through rental agreement for programs and strategic priorities of the church
  1. Adult small groups and bible studies
  2. Provide money for the development of  urban leaders in your local community
  3. Church Planting Grants and Scholarships for future multiplication
  4. Resources for local church initiatives
  5. Bi-vocational employment opportunities for church planters as administrators, educators, coaches, maintenance and custodians.
This is just the beginning of what a transformational community could look like when approached from this mindset. Just planting a church for the purpose of having worship service on Sundays with your own insulated group of people who look like you, sound like you is not the end goal. The end of the church is to bring about God's shalom in the earth. We don't do that by focusing on what happens for about 2hours on a Sunday. We bring about transformation when we are engaged in every aspect of life in the cities we serve.

This is just part 1 of the seven part reflection about planting transformational communities. 
Peter Watts