Most of us have seen the little letters printed on the passenger side mirror of cars that say “Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear?” These mirrors are not flat; they are convex-shaped for the purpose of giving a wider view. This shape allows the driver to see more objects, such as passing cars, because the wide angle mirror shrinks them, thus, objects seem closer than they appear.
This a metaphor for the church today, because if we are not careful, our view of those around us can become distorted in a similar way. Life is filled with the mundane and then something always seems to come along which shakes us, amazes us, or sobers us. Our intention when we started Northstar Church was to be intentional about accomplishing the mission of Jesus Christ. It can be tempting at times to just “go with the flow”, to “settle in” and to adopt a routine that falls into the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” category. Northstar is the opposite. We have always tried to step outside the box of familiarity and and proactively seek the opportunities God gives us. The challenge is to be prepared for those opportunities amidst the busyness of life. The driver’s rearview mirror allows us to focus on a meaningful view, but misses the broader view. The passenger “mirror,” while allowing the broader view of life, can give you a false sense of security. “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear” is a reminder for us to maintain a proper perspective. The Bold Love Initiative is designed to fund that proper perspective by focusing on the region and the world, but also reminding us that Panama City is closer than it appears.
I would like to spend a few moments talking about how Bold Love will impact what we are doing as a church in the Panama City area. Since a large percentage of Bold Love monies will be used to fund several new satellite locations in the Panama City area, I will focus on that.
First a quick reminder. God is bringing more people to our doors than we can handle, especially at the 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. services. At those services we simply do not have enough space. The question then becomes whether you should send people away, build a bigger facility, multiply services or plant a new campus. Sending people away is not on option. Building a bigger facility would burden the church financially for years. Multiplying services is an option, but one we have already exercised. Looking at the issue from an entirely pragmatic side, adding additional campuses is the easiest and cheapest way to deal with a space problem because it allows us to continue growing and reaching people without being limited by the size of a sanctuary. It is also by far the quickest solution.
I want to say something very important right here. Please don’t miss this. Adding additional campuses is not about being “bigger,” it is about providing more opportunities. Nor is adding campuses the Northstar vision by itself, but rather a vehicle or strategy to achieve that vision. An additional campus is just a way of re-assigning the physical boundaries of our church. The church ‘happens’ at more than one location. Geography is no longer the defining factor.
It enables us to move to areas of new growth and stay at our current site at the same time. What excites me about what we are doing is this: additional campuses provide small church intimacy with large church resources. Campuses like East Bay feel like smaller churches in smaller venues, but at the same time offer the quality of worship, teaching and ministry of a larger church. As a result, I believe Northstar can grow larger and smaller simultaneously, blending the strength that our size offers with the comfort and convenience of smaller, closer venues. So, adding new campuses is a ‘means’ towards an ‘end’ not an ‘end’ in itself. It keeps us from capping the growth we are already experiencing.
Let me give you a few more pragmatic benefits of opening up additional Northstar campuses. In the Bold Love meetings I showed you a map of the area where our current members and attenders live. If you did not see it, the area is pretty expansive and in many cases requires a significant drive to get to the main campus. Additional campuses allows us to take Northstar to the people rather than asking them to drive in from further and further distances. The further a person travels to their church, the less likely they are to attend regularly, volunteer for a ministry or invite a friend. By bringing a Northstar campus closer to people living further away, you provide an opportunity for them to increase their level of commitment and participation.
Also, existing members and regular attenders who live a long way from the main campus can stay connected to Northstar by simply moving to a closer location.
Of course, getting out of the church building and engaging the community in a new location can be scary and intimidating for many of us. And yet, there is no better way to learn about the needs, the culture, and the people in your local community than by actually being there and meeting with them and talking to them.
Some people have the Field of Dreams philosophy of build it and they will come – that we simply need to add a Northstar sign to a building and “poof” you have a thriving church. There is a lot more to it than that. The Bold Love initiative will provide us the money to ensure we are doing it right. This is not like rolling out a McDonald’s franchise. It’s not cookie-cutter church. Each location will be different, while at the same time share an overall Northstar ‘identity’ or ‘DNA’ through our common mission, vision, values and leadership team.
We leaned a great deal from the opening of the East Bay campus and we would use that model. Each new location will have its own band and the message would be a live simulcast piped in from our current location and played on life-size TVs.
In closing, all seat backs and tray tables must be in their upright position. Fasten your seat belts because objects in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.