So Jane and I have taken a quick post Christmas break in warm and sunny Orlando. Unlike last year’s escape, the temperature is actually nice, it hit 81F/ 27C yesterday! Unfortunately the traffic is like double last year, perhaps a sign of an improving economy or just good weather, or both, but I digress …
Let’s get to the point. Yeah, I do church on vacation. I love the church and I love God’s people. In times past the location of a good church has influenced where a vacation might happen! It’s the only way I get to experience church as a casual attender. I love the opportunity to experience the diversity of how God’s people worship and work out their local and global mission. There’s always something I can learn. So often God uses these times to speak directly to me. And I must admit so often it causes me to appreciate the amazing church family I’m a part of and how we approach worship and mission.
So this morning Jane and I connected with Summit Church, a multi-site community whose main campus meets in a renovated twin screen movie theatre in an older area to the northeast of downtown. Currently 2,500 strong, Summit was founded in 2002 by now 30-something Isaac Hunter and two of his friends dating back to their teen years. As 18-year-olds, this trio began to dream about creating a church that would truly reach people with the love of Christ, the hope of the Gospel and love each other well in the process. They held onto that dream and are finding themselves on an amazing ride orchestrated by the hand of God.
Now the church community I’m a part of, Redwood Park, has a somewhat unique flavour that impacts it’s Sunday worship experience and approach to mission that is not found elsewhere as often as we at Redwood might expect. Our desire for a passionate worship experience that is relevant and inviting to people who are not yet committed Christ followers combined with our missional focus to see God’s invisible Kingdom made visible in a way that draws more and more to personal faith in Christ, seems basic but it’s not always all that easy to find.
My sense is that Summit shares many of these same values. One of my take-homes from Summit is their “jobSERVE” program where they are seeking to work with the unemployed and underemployed in their lower income location by offering resume coaching, mentoring and counseling in job attainment skills. This might be something we at Redwood should consider.
Unlike Redwood whose demographic is well spread over all age groups, Summit’s demographic is highly skewed towards 30-somethings with young families. The tight worship band has a definite 30-something appeal. The low key, dry humoured Isaac Hunter has a speaking style that is engaging to the under 40 crowed. One of the reasons his speaking works is because it’s not typical of most large successful evangelical churches. Hence in contrast to Redwood, this results in a lot, if not most of the growth coming from evangelically raised young adults looking for a more authentic grace oriented church with a pumped but not charismatic worship experience. Like Redwood, NT Wright is clearly a respected theologian at this church.
While Isaac speaks very well of his father Joel, who is the Senior Pastor of the mega 12,000 strong multi-site Northland Church, this is clearly not his father’s church. There are similarities for sure, but Summit is clearly further down the road of eliminating those things in evangelical culture that cause so many unchurched folk to run in the opposite direction. Summit seems to understand the balance between the Gospel as good news for individuals who need to experience Christ personally, and the Gospel as good news for our neighbourhoods, cities and world as a whole.
But what really struck me is that three 18-year-old devoted Christ followers had a dream together and didn’t let go of it. They have allowed God to use them to break through so much traditional evangelical church culture that can be such a turn off for the younger generation apart from Christ, creating a fresh expression of church bringing God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. May God raise up a few 18-year-olds around Redwood with such vision and passion to do church and extend God’s kingdom in a way that is relevant to the next generation.
So if you happen to be visiting Mickey and the Orlando area sometime, don’t forget to include church in your schedule. And a church well worth the visit would be Summit: http://www.summitconnect.org/ Check out their founding story here at vimeo.