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WHY START A NEW CHURCH?


PART ONE


Listen to Pastor Jim Feliciano explain why we need a new church.

Click below to hear the audio clip. 4.5 mb size.

Why Another Church Clip (4.5 mb-MP3)

Inclusion ·  Downtown ·  History ·  Ministry ·  Multi-Generational ·  Family ·  Creative ·  Clear ·  Mission


PART TWO

Havenít you always wanted to be a part of a special church? Maybe, you have been a part of a special church in the past and know the excitement that came from being involved in that church community now. Maybe, you are part of a special church community now and want to impart some things that you have seen and/or learned to a new Christian community. In any event, every church should aspire to become a special church community. And, so do we.

Every church should begin with a vision and dream. I have attempted to envision part of that to my limited ability. However, part of the dream of church includes the community. Part of the dream of this church may include you and your dreams. God has placed dreams and visions in order to motivate us to be obedient, i.e. we need to know that it can be better than that. However, only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our love one for another do we begin to see that our dreams were only a poor imitation for Godís design. However, dreams are a start.


1). We must learn to love our enemies.

"You have heard that it was said, ĎLove your neighbor and hate our enemy.í But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

Matthew 5: 43-44




The dream that motivates my family begins with an aching heart. Just listen to the Christian radio stations, our evangelical bookstores, and our supposed "star" preachers. There are clearly the "good guys" and the "bad guys". We are the "good guys"Öchurchgoing, conservative, Republican, hardworking, long-term Americans, from the Midwest or South, Northern European, Protestant, and the list goes on and on. Who are the bad guys? Well, the list is just as longÖliberals, ACLU, immigrants, the "nondeserving" poor, Democrats, non-Northern European, Hollywood/ the liberal media, women's groups, minorities, homosexuals, and the list goes on and on.

We are commanded to love our enemy. As I have listened and read the constant diatribes from our evangelical leaders, something occurred to me. I am the enemy. In fact, unless and until we stop the list of who we hate, we usually end up hating ourselves. That is the problem with enemy lists: they grow until they envelop and destroy us. We become our own enemy. Satan has a big laugh.

This was the root of the Pharisees problem. As we carefully nurture and grow our enemies list, we grow a crop of hatred for ourselves. Likewise, as we learn to love others, we learn to see ourselves and see us as God sees us. Manna will take loving our enemy seriously.

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2). Manna will focus upon the University community and the Downtown community.

"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it."

Luke 19: 41




The heart of major metropolitan areas consists of a number of elements. Two of the major elements are the scholarly or University community and the Downtown. Often, these are exactly the two elements of our community that we ignore as our churches move out to enlist evangelical suburban families. Yet, the heart continues to circulate and pump blood throughout the body. That is, whether we ignore our downtown and scholarly/University communities or not, they will continue to shape our metropolitan areas. Riverside is no different. As our churches move out to the suburbs to avoid the problems and culture of our downtown, the downtown continues to shape our suburbs. Likewise, we should not be surprised that the "liberal" University community continues to effect our suburbs. Yet, we continue to be surprised. After all, didnít we support some weak, para-church ministry. Yet, the para-church was never commanded by our Lord to do the job of the church.

Today, we find that if we ignore the heart, we become lifeless. Manna will continue to have a heart for Riverside: its downtown and its major colleges and Universities, particularly University of California Riverside and Riverside Community College. We intend to engage people in these communities as people we wish to befriend, not as enemies to conquer or hapless "others" to save.

We intend to foster an atmosphere of welcome for these communities, which will include justice ministries, creative arts ministries, theological training, discussion forums, and many other ministries. Godís first task for us was to be fruitful and multiply. The essence of University and downtown communities has always been creativity and fruitfulness. This obedience must be nurtured and encouraged in this church.

However, the city and the University must be faithful to Christ. We at Manna will invite our neighbors, the University and the downtown communities, to live faithfully. This invitation will not come from an external critic full of hatred, but from a friend and an insider. We evangelicals need to repent of our sin of running from the city and the major Universities in favor of our suburban cocoons and Christian schools.

If you wish to truly love Riverside and its people, I invite you to join us downtown and befriend our great colleges and universities. Riverside is the heart of the great Inland Empire. Our downtown and the UCR/RCC community is the heart of Riverside. Jesus wept for the city. Do you weep for the city? If so, join us.

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3). Manna will use the entire history of orthodox Christian expression as a resource for our worship and spiritual practice.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles , and let us run with perseverance the race marked for us."

Hebrews 12: 1




Since Jesusí resurrection, the Christian church spread to every continent. Christians true to the Word and faithful to Jesus have faithfully worshipped over two thousand years throughout the world. Yet, we condemn this or that practice as aberrant or harmful if it isnít our exact practice. If the church is faithful and true and the practice expresses worship in spirit and truth, then this practice is a resource to aid our worship in spirit and truth.

Our churchís worship expressions will be traditional, contemporary, innovative, and experimental. How can that be? "Tradition" comes from Ďtraditio" which comes from Latin and means "tried and true". We have Christians from over two thousand years and from every continent. Ancient traditions can often aid us. Many of these people have lived faithful lives. Isnít that "tried and true". Isnít that tradition?

Our church will be contemporary. The gospel is always contemporary and must be related to contemporary people. Contemporary means the gospel must be related and expressed to modern people in their culture in a comprehensible way. Contemporary in Southern California means that Manna must always be prepared for rapid change. In fact, the only constant in Southern California is change. If Manna looks the same twenty years from today as today, then we have failed to make the gospel come alive for real people. Instead, we will have become a cultural museum.

Manna will be innovative. We live in a culture that prizes innovation. However, innovation is not unfaithfulness. Look up "new song" in a biblical concordance. God pleads for "new songs" many times in scripture. We will worship in spirit and truth. Undoubtedly, some of our practices may be innovative if they come from our heart. Yet, they will be faithful as we are guided by the Word, the Holy Spirit, and the truth of the gospel. "New songs" must be faithful to be true. Also, "new songs" often may simply be old truths and "old songs" rediscovered by modern people.

Manna will be experimental. We will try things with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures from the storehouse of Christian tradition and our illuminated imaginations. We will discard that which is not useful. We will reuse that which aids our worship.

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4). Manna will be built on ministry.

"If you love me, you will obey what I command."

John 14: 15




Most churches are built on the Sunday worship service. The greatest amount of resources are poured into that service. If you are impressed, the church leaders hope you will become convinced to become further involved in the greater life of the church. Real ministry is reserved for the most intense. Often, these are the Christian stars. The rest of the people become consumers and we hope they will support our "church", especially financially.

The church must be built on the service of the whole community, not just the select few. Therefore, the growth strategy for this church community is to build many ministries based upon what the Holy Spirit has placed on the hearts of people in the community. We will use media advertising to reach peopleís heartís desire, which we believe has been implanted by the Spirit. All ministries include a regular communal Bible study and reflection. In this way nurture and service will go hand-in-hand. At Manna "everybody plays". Therefore, church at Manna will be people and their ministries, not a place to go and be entertained.

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5). Manna will be multi-generational.

"See that I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

Malachi 4: 5-6




Age ghettos are anti-Scriptural. Unfortunately, we have created multiple age ghettos in our churches with the excuse that we need them to reach "different" peoples. So, we have age ghettos, race and ethnic ghettos, and gender ghetto churches, i.e. almost all women.

The Apostle John, put it well in 1 John 2:9 when he writes, "Anyone who claims to be in the light, but hates his brother is still in darkness." The essence of hatred in the Greek meant separation. Our separation is hatred. The essence of love is closeness.

Quite frankly, churches that do not reflect to some extent the age and ethnic diversity of a community are failures. Now, I donít mean an exact demographic match, but when I see an all-white or all-young or all-old church in a very diverse community as ours, then something is very wrong. The numbers and income are not the indica of success but the faithfulness that will be reflected in who we see involved with our church community.

However, we will not pander to any age group or ethnic group. Instead, we will challenge all people not to agree on some common ground hammered out between them but the higher ground of obedience. The crucial question in a church is not what I like but what God demands from us.

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6). Manna will be a family friendly church.

"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Ephesians 5: 21




Manna will focus on valuing family, rather than family values. We sit in the unenviable position today where the evangelical family is weaker than the family outside the church. George Barnaís well-documented 1998 study confirmed this. What we have done through our seminars, family advice books, and marriage advice industry is to raise the bar as to what constitutes a minimally acceptable Christian family. We have become modern day family Pharisees that caused Jesus to condemn them for causing their converts to become twice the sons of hell. (Matthew 23: 15). The Christian family industry has placed a burden on many families today that is unbearable. A good Christian family should only have one wage earner, the children should be home schooled or sent to Christian schools, and, of course, you should go to the marriage enrichment weekends and send your kids to Christian camps. Finally, you should make sure that you take your spouse out at least once a month. Do you know what that costs? And, did anyone in the Christian family advice industry let anyone know that the number one reason for divorce is money?

First, to be a family friendly church, we will strive to be low cost. In a prior church, we ran three night childrenís camps for thirty dollars or less. And, we provided full scholarships for over half the children. How? Come be a part of this and find out. We ran a womanís retreat weekend at a beach city for less than thirty dollars. How? Come be a part and find out.

Secondly, we look for opportunities for families to worship together, not apart. We will have baby holders and babies will be welcomed in the service. Parents will be encouraged to allow their children over third grade to remain in the worship service, although a separate childrenís time will be available. However, studies have shown that the leading factor determining whether your youth will remain in church after his/her high school days is whether he or she worshipped together with his or her family. That is right. Kids out of family worship stay out. We will attempt to reduce the time that families are apart. I have preached with kids making paper airplanes with the bulletins and babies crying. People without children can get used to it. Finally, given time, both you and your children over third grade can learn to adjust to worshipping together.

Finally, the Bible commends family results, not processes. That is, the Bible will tell a man to love his wife as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5: 25) However, it will not tell us how to do that. That is our jobs. There is no one way to be a loving family. Every family is unique. Christian marriages are falling apart at rates faster than the general population, in part, this is true because we have forced our marriages to live up to false standards. In doing so, we have ignored Jesusís command that what God has brought together in marriage, let no man pull apart. Go read Matthew 19: 1-12 and think about it.

Now, we do not consider divorce to be the unpardonable sin, but, yes, divorce is evidence of failure and must be cause for repentance. Yet, Manna consist solely of sinners who need to repent and that includes the writer of this document. So, if you have been divorced, you are just one of us who need to repent. Yet, all too often we continue to justify ourselves when we need to repent. As Jesus made it clear in Matthew 19, the cause of every divorce is ultimately a hard heart of one or both parties. And, there are times when the sin of part of a multi-person unit will effect the whole unit. National sin is that way. I am guilty of the sins of our country even if I did not support or vote for the officials doing those sins. Not everything in life is individual.

What constitutes family has always varied according to culture. Manna will focus on valuing family. We will value each family as unique and treat it accordingly. No one family model will ever be pushed as "the Christian family". Instead, Biblical result will be emphasized. We will let the Holy Spirit guide us as to how we love each other to become a more godly family. And, we will never give up on any family as being beyond Godís grace and repair.

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7). Manna will be creative.

"Sing to the Lord a new songÖ"

Isaiah 42: 10


 

Our first job, both before the fall and after, was to be fruitful and multiply. Part of being fruitful is being creative. The full gamut of creative arts will be central to our church life: art, music, poetry, photography, painting, video and film, dance, and drama will be encouraged. Any art form will be welcomed and encouraged. (Genesis 1 and Exodus 31: 3-4) Creativity and the arts will be ingrained in who we are. It will not be just something we do.

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8). Manna will clear up misconceptions about Christianity.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

1 Peter 3: 15



People have misconceptions about the Christian faith. Many of those misconceptions come from us. Manna will take apologetics seriously. We will have formal training and forums in that area. However, it is most important to take the Scripture seriously. If we do not have evidence of any hope within us, no one will be interested in us or our reasons. Any apologetic must be loving, gentle, and respectful. People being preached at or beaten over the head with a Bible is wrong. Part of our constant and consistent training will emphasize personal or relational apologetics. Making friends because you want to be their friend is step one. Love is not conditioned upon them meeting our terms or agreeing to our condition. That is, we do not stop being friends, because they wonít become a Christian.

We overcome misconceptions in two ways. First, we live lives that truly show Jesus Christ and give lie to things theyíve heard. Secondly, in a gentle and respectful manner, we are able to explain the reason that we are different. That is it. We donít argue people into the kingdom by our superior logic and knowledge.

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9). Manna will be mission minded.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28: 19-20




In Riverside being mission-oriented is missional. It is being outward and other oriented. If we do so, we will reach all the nations. Why? Quite frankly, all the nations are right here. We will not have a separate mission department, because the whole church will be mission. For our "foreign mission" responsibility, we will work with our large international community, including many foreign language churches. We will use our skills and resources with people who are from those cultures to reach those cultures. We are told to "make disciples".

Because of this missionÖ

    • Those who are part of the church will be taught how to be serious disciples (apprentices) of Jesus. This involves representing Jesus to others.
    • Those in the church will be taught how to be serious students of the Scriptures. This involves life knowledge, not just conceptual knowledge. This churchís leadership is committed to teaching the Scripture at a deep and total level.
    • We will serve each other to create true community.
    • We will value family.
    • Our hearts will break for those who have not experienced Godís grace through Jesus. We will learn to see people the way Jesus did.
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