Last week, all three churches gathered for a family meeting. It was an amazing time of worship, prayer, updates and stories from all three churches and a refocusing and a vision for where we're headed this year.
2015 was an incredible year at Anthem Church. It was characterized by the “deeper” theme that guided us through our first Anthem Summit. We saw a growing desire in the church to deepen our faith, deepen our obedience and deepen our worship.
This was our first full year in the facility at Arcturus and like a new pair of jeans, it feels like we are finally starting to break it in. We launched Anthem Ventura and helped Imago Dei in Downey get started. We set out on a journey to understand the best way to lead a growing family of churches, taking a team to South Africa to learn from some of our friends overseas. We have begun the process of implementing a new way of doing church together that we shared at our meeting, and will be walking out int he year to come.
There we're a few big discussion items we had together, and we wanted to provide a brief update for those who weren't there.
Family of churches vs. multisite
Over the last year this team has been trying to figure out a form of eldership that best represents the Scriptures and helps to facilitate being one family but having churches in multiple communities.
2 Timothy 2:2 is Paul’s instruction that the Gospel be reproduced into the lives of the next generation. We see our responsibility is not only to exist as a body together, but to be perpetually, constantly reproducing the Gospel into the lives of others.
We are marked by a culture of reproducing on every level. Our greatest opportunity to extend the reach of the Gospel and continue to mobilize Christ followers is to reproduce at all levels: volunteers, leaders, community groups and churches. We place a high value on apprenticeship, and encourage each of our leaders to be training up the next generation of leaders.
For the first 6 years of Anthem’s history, this has meant being a “multi-site” church, one church meeting in different locations: Camarillo and Thousand Oaks. As we started prayerfully preparing to send Bert and Sherry to launch our Ventura campus, we had to wrestle with he nature of the church itself.
Being spread across the county, we came to the conclusion that we could not faithfully walk out the commands of eldership and the church continuing to be one church in multiple locations, for the simple fact that elders in Thousand Oaks would not know the body in Ventura, or the body in Camarillo would not know the elders from Ventura, etc.
What this has meant for us, is we have slowly and deliberately been making the transition from a multi-site church, to a family of churches. Instead of being one church in multiple locations, we are a family of churches doing life and mission together, choosing to share things like leadership, resources, media and finances.
While this may seem like a subtle difference to some, it’s is actually quite profound. This has meant the church structure has changed. There is not one central elder team overseeing various campuses; rather, there are multiple elder teams that work together to shepherd the flock they’ve been entrusted. The reason this process has been and will continue to be slow, is because we do not want to rush developing and seeking out new elders. As God grows his church, he is bringing the right leaders into place. Because this transition will take some time, the churches Anthem Camarillo and Anthem Ventura are under the leadership of Kevin Bailey and Bert Alcorn, respectively, submitting to the collective elders, most of which are a part of Anthem Thousand Oaks. As God raises up elders at each church, those churches will become more independent in terms of governance, but will continue to seek unity, consensus and deference with the other churches.
If this sounds a bit messy, it’s because it is. But family usually is. While honoring the call to be a reproducing church, we are earnestly seeking to model the most frequently used analogy for the church: a family. This is something we will fight for relentlessly, and we ask you to pray with and for us as we seek to obey the commission to make disciples by planting churches.
We shared some financial highlights from 2015 and our proposed budget for the year ahead. If you have questions regarding church finances, please email email@example.com.
Intro To Membership
Over the last year or so, we have gone back to the drawing board, and with fresh eyes really sought what membership has meant for Anthem. We taught on it about 3 months ago, and we are really excited to have our first ‘Intro to Membership’ across all three churches in just a few weeks.
Joining a church is much more than joining a social club or gathering. Membership at Anthem reflects the biblical command to do live with one another in a way that demonstrates Jesus to this world.
In joining with the other members at Anthem Church, you are committing yourself to taking responsibility for the other members, using your time, abilities, money and spiritual gifts to encourage, edify and equip them for works of service. You are also submitting yourself to the other members, including the elders, being accountable to them in your own pursuit of Jesus and receiving encouragement, edification and equipping from them. (Romans 12:5-8, 12:13, 13:13-14, Ephesians 4:11-12, 4:25, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17, 1 Peter 4:10)
Jonathan Leeman, in his book “Church Membership”, which we highly recommend, says:
"From the non-Christian’s standpoint, a local church is a voluntary association. No one has to join. From the standpoint of the Christian life, however, it’s not. Once you choose Christ, you must choose his people, too. It’s a package deal. Choose the Father and the Son and you have to choose the whole family—which you do through a local church." (Church Membership, Leeman, Jonathan, 2012)
This concept may carry baggage, past experience, or even just some unknowns for people. So instead of a “class” everyone sits through, hears the information, checks off the box, and get’s added to the list, we designed ‘Intro to Membership’ to be a bit more interactive, to search the scriptures together about membership, wrestle with it, and provide a safe place for us to ask questions and work out, together, what it means to belong to Anthem Church.
Our goal for these three weeks is to establish common ground. We believe that membership in the body of Christ is about more than belonging to an organization, you are becoming the local church called Anthem. In the same way that we saw local churches in Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica and many other communities in the early days of the church, we are the ongoing expression of Jesus’ mission, the universal body of Christ (the Church) expressed in local gathering.
Each week, we will unpack biblical truths about belonging in the body of Christ and have some conversations and discussion around those topics. At the end of the three weeks, those who have prayerfully considered membership and have committed to become part of the Anthem family will be recommended to the elders of Anthem.
Over the last year, we have journeyed together through Hebrews, 1 John, our annual Generosity series, our series on The Church, Anthem Ventura taught through Foundations as their launch series, Advent, and we just wrapped up our money series.
In the coming year, along with some time around the Easter season and our annual Generosity series in September, we will be unpacking and studying through two book together: Nehemiah and Matthew. We start Nehemiah this week at all three churches, and in late Spring we will start in on our journey through the gospel of Matthew.
A Few Questions
At the end of our family meeting we did a Q&A and were not able to make it through all of the questions that were texted in. So here are the most asked questions that didn't get an immediate answer:
1. In this new Family of Churches what are we choosing to share between the churches?
This is something we are definitely still working out and seeking to do well, but our posture is always seeking what's most beneficial for each church, and so far, choosing to share more often than not has been our default.
The big buckets of things we're sharing are: teaching, media / websites, resources, big events, expertise, and elder oversight (elder oversight and shepherding has been a big reasons for this shift, but in the transition, the team is still gathering to pray and discuss all three churches).
2. How has the division of responsibility and leadership changed (or stayed the same) in this new form?
What has been the biggest change, is the increase role of teaching and vision for Bert in Ventura and Kevin in Camarillo, and Matt moving from Lead Pastor of Anthem Church to Lead Pastor of Anthem Thousand Oaks. While there is still a great deal of influence and relationship that is there, organizationally, Matt, Kevin and Bert are the lead pastors at their churches. But, things like Kevin's heart and vision for community life and Matt's vision and gifting for teaching, for example, are areas in which we are choosing to be together to benefit from each other. Ryan Hinkle will now be our only staff member who provides oversight for each of the three churches as our Central Operations Director. The structure and form of our staff and volunteer teams are staying largely unchanged.
3. What does Eldership look like for the three churches over the next few years?
We are moving very, very slowly here, not wanting to rush things like pastor/elder development, but we do have a group of faithful, Godly men and their wives who are walking through a development process for Anthem Thousand Oaks.
Lord willing, we are looking to bring our first new round of pastor/elders in Camarillo in the next 1-2 years, and 2-3 years in Ventura. Over the course of this transition from one centralized team, to three teams, there will be a high level of connectedness, relationship, deference and mutual submission, especially for the churches that do not have a pastor/elder team yet.
4. What is our hope and vision for the increase represented in our proposed budget?
As we are journeying into a new season together as a family, part of the increase we believe the Lord is leading us into is our new church in Ventura, some expanded mission opportunities locally and globally, and some potential staff hires we are praying for, including pastoral care and support in Thousand Oaks, creative and communications to support all three churches, admin support and a potential apprentice pastor in Ventura.
5. What are ways I can engage the church in a greater way?
Anthem has always been an "all hands on deck" kind of church, and there are always opportunities to engage and participate in a deeper way. Here are a few different ways:
- Jump into Intro to Membership and become apart of the family of Anthem. This is a great next step for those who might attend and are looking to become the family of Anthem.
- Start serving in a ministry. From kids, to first impressions, students, media and worship (and a whole lot more) there are lots of areas to serve the body. If you haven't started serving, or would like to dive deeper, talk with someone at the info area on a Sunday, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Start giving. If you are apart of Anthem church and are not giving toward the mission here, this is a great way to demonstrate your trust in God and how he is working in and through his church, and to join in where God is taking us this year.
- Join a Community Group. If you've been attending on a Sunday, but have not yet joined a community group, they are a space to be known and loved because the gospel is real, and you are invited to jump in right away! It's the place of our primary care and support at Anthem, and it really is the lifeblood of Anthem.
- Pray for your church, its leaders, members, mission and every person who might walk through our doors. Prayer is so crucial to the life and mission of Anthem, and we depend on the prayers of each and every person!
There are plenty of other ways to engage in a greater way at your church, so prayerfully consider what that might look like for you and reach out to one of the pastor/elders, community groups leaders, or team leads to learn more!
6. If I have questions, thoughts, concerns or encouragements, what can I do?
If you have any other questions, please email email@example.com or get some time with a pastor/elder at your church and we would love to chat with you!
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God did amazing things in and through Anthem in 2015 and we are so excited for what He has in store for us this year. Please continue to pray for Anthem, its leaders, volunteers, members and those who will walk through our doors this year. We've ever aware of our need for the grace of God, and know that if anything of significance is going to happen, it will be birthed through prayer.