It can start in a coffee shop, a conversation and an invitation. Numerous church planters are developing new faith communities across the Northern Illinois Conference. In 2009, under the bold initiative of Harvest 2020, 30 new faith communities were launched to strengthen the future of the church’s future in Northern Illinois. The vision of Harvest 2020 is to plant 100 new faith communities by the year 2020. Today over 2,000 additional disciples are engaged in worship and witness through the first round of new faith community plantings.
During a celebration of the United Methodist’s missions and ministries Sunday evening, Central Texas Conference Bishop Mike Lowry highlighted one of Harvest 2020’s success stories. Holding up a brick, he said people no longer talk about brick-and-mortar churches when considering to start a new church. He pointed to Urban Village Church in Chicago which he said is “people-focused before being property focused. They don’t have plans to own a building or plans to purchase one, rather they go where ever people gather to share the gospel.”
Urban Village launched its third location last October with the help of a Starbucks manager turned church planter, Brittany Isaac. She is a 2011 graduate of the Institute for Congregational Development, and says she can feel the excitement and energy as over 100 people come to worship every Sunday. Isaac already sees the congregation living out the message of being “bold, inclusive and relevant” and says there’s a place at Urban Village for everyone. “I see myself equipping many folks for the work of ministry with the understanding that they are taking their baptismal covenant seriously. Whether it be moving chairs on a Sunday morning or serving communion to meeting with someone having a difficult time or leading a small group, they are living out this life of ministry.” Urban Village is hoping to launch a fourth site soon.
Bishop Lowry said “grass-roots” examples such as Urban Village are “evangelism at its best.”
He added that cookie-cutter approaches simply do not work. “Each of these new places for new people has their own unique fingerprint, but the common DNA is the sharing of the gospel of Christ’s grace in love, justice and mercy, meeting people where they are,” he said.
At the Northern Illinois Annual Conference in June, 20 more new faith communities will be commissioned. Plans are underway to launch several African American and Hispanic new plants as well as ways to reach out to immigrant populations through a French Speaking African plan, and Polish, Chinese, Laotian and Mongolian ministries.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung says he’s grateful to the continuing support from clergy and conference leaders who “acknowledge that the future of the church is strengthened through the work of creating new places, for new people in new ways.” To learn more visit www.umcnic.org/harvest2020.