The Bluegrass Network, Explained
Read below for an explanation of the Bluegrass Network.
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Every June, our pastoral team retreats for a week to plan and pray over the next year. This June was a little different. Instead of focusing on this year, we focused on many years to come. We wanted to answer one simple question: Where’s this thing heading?
When I say “this thing” I mean the huge umbrella that is the Glory of Christ and the Good of the Bluegrass. Under the banner of that vision, of course, are our two flourishing campuses (soon to be two churches) and all that entails; but there is so much more. Expansive campus ministry work via RUF and Campus Outreach; Trinity Christian Academy with enrollment at an all-time high and preparing to build its own campus; an annual conference offering our community a much-needed Christian perspective on important issues of our day; international mission partnerships bearing fruit around the world; heck, even Kentucky Sports Radio has given us a platform to speak to the Bluegrass. And these are just some of the official initiatives. Only eternity will tell of TCPC’s greatest impact—you living your individual life for Christ and the Bluegrass.
It’s impossible to quantify, and quite frankly, overwhelming in the best sense of the term. But where’s it all heading? This was the question we wrestled with the most. I suppose that too is impossible to quantify, outside of the new heavens and the new earth itself. But is there something here and now that could bind all of our efforts together and become a much-needed goal of our much-celebrated vision, the glory of Christ and the good of the Bluegrass?
After much prayer and dialogue our answer to that question is The Bluegrass Network.
What Is the Bluegrass Network?
A collaborative movement of PCA churches that exist for the glory of Christ and the good of the Bluegrass.
What Is the Purpose of the Bluegrass Network?
First and foremost, more churches. There will be secondary efforts and benefits to the network, but the “collaborative movement” we speak of is ultimately a church planting movement. The reason church planting will hold primacy within the network is that we firmly believe this is the most effective and Biblical way to reach the Bluegrass. Instead of a regional church that just gets bigger and bigger, we think the ideal number for TCPC is between 800-1000. Therefore, like we did with our downtown campus, we want to multiply to other locations rather than grow beyond 1000. But we believe those locations must then become particularized (in the PCA “particularized” means an independent self-sustaining church under the authority of its own session) churches that are likewise joining us in the effort of multiplication. Therefore, this will be the main purpose of the network—filling the Bluegrass with churches that exist for the glory of Christ and the good of the Bluegrass.
What are the Requirements of the Bluegrass Network?
Simply put, money and people. Every church within the network will be devoting a percentage of their budget to fund future church planting efforts while also raising up members and leadership to fill future church plants. Essentially, we are pooling our resources (money and people) together to plant more churches. As the network grows these resources will only compound, multiply, and lead to more churches.
What are the Benefits of the Bluegrass Network?
Outside the primary benefit of working together for the glorious task of church planting, the Bluegrass Network will enable us to maintain collaboration while also prioritizing particularization. Throughout the centuries, God has blessed countless church planting strategies and we have learned from many of these. But what we are attempting to do is harmonize the two most prevalent models we see at work in today’s evangelical landscape. The first is to remain one united church by adding different campuses. The second is to plant separate individual churches that exist on their own. We see advantages and disadvantages to both, and what we are trying to accomplish with the Bluegrass Network is an expansion strategy that hopefully combines the advantages while minimizing the disadvantages.
The Network will allow each church the ability to form its own leadership, identity, culture, distinctives, and all the other important qualities of a true local church. But it will also keep us united together in the common work of church planting in the Bluegrass.
The Network will additionally offer secondary collaborative opportunities. For example, when our downtown campus particularizes in March, they have already stated they would prefer our church administrator to continue to handle needs such as payroll and bookkeeping. Therefore, they will be paying us an administrative fee from their budget to make use of those services. When it comes to my role, TCPC will, of course, continue to be the place I serve as lead pastor and preacher, but I will also be thinking, strategizing, writing, and teaching as somewhat of a “thought leader” of the network. And there are larger projects that network churches can collaborate together on, such as The Good of the Bluegrass Conference, as well as future ventures we are dreaming of, such as a counseling center that serves the entire network. These are all examples of secondary benefits, but the primary task and central requirement is to collectively steward our resources for planting more churches.
What are the steps to establish the Network?
On an institutional level those efforts are underway. Most significantly, on March 24 our downtown campus will particularize and immediately begin participating as a network church. Likewise, the wheels are already in motion for our next campus that will become our next church.
But it is very important to us that this not remain an institutional dream without individual applications. We are challenging every single person who calls TCPC home to do their part in making this network a reality. Institutional growth is dependent upon individual growth, and so although this year was the year of defining the long-term institutional goal, we want it to become the year of short-term individual goals. Your practical commitments this year will reap the harvest of the Bluegrass Network for years to come.
What are we asking from you this year?
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. We believe that your individual commitment to three simple and practical challenges will lead to the institutional growth required to form the Bluegrass Network:
We are asking everyone to share 1 by-faith prayer request that we can be praying for. What is 1 thing you are asking the Lord to do in your life this year? For example, we do this as a staff every year and this year my request is this: “I pray I would use my gifts to intentionally disciple my sons and lead my wife.” This prayer request was born out of a season of conviction where I was concerned that my gifts were being used in every area except my home, and I wanted to recommit myself to being the pastor/visionary of my family before being the pastor/visionary of anything else. What’s yours? What is God stirring or convicting? What is 1 thing we can repeatedly bring before the Lord on your behalf.
We are asking everyone to make 2 by-faith sacrificial commitments, one being financial and one being spiritual. For example, this year Abby and I are committed to increasing our monthly offering to the church by $150. We already tithe to TCPC as well as support other organizations we are passionate about, but we have committed to make sacrificial adjustments to give an extra $150 a month to the church. What about you? What is your financial commitment this year? Is it to finally tithe to your local church? Is it to give above and beyond your tithe in ways that scare you? I had one young person share with me about selling her artwork to give to the church. That’s as pleasing to the Lord as someone writing a check to get us out of debt! It’s less about the amount and more about it being a by-faith sacrificial commitment.
My spiritual commitment is an act of repentance. I was recently confronted by some dear brothers, and it has led to a realization that I am very ashamed of. I have a tendency to be so far-sighted as a visionary that I miss the very people in front of me. My mind is always going a million miles a minute, thinking and dreaming about the next idea, such that people don’t feel loved and valued in my presence. It’s certainly not my intention or my heart, but I can come across as aloof, unapproachable, or even downright arrogant. This is not fitting a follower of Jesus, who was the ultimate visionary (the redemption of the entire cosmos) but was at the same time fully and lovingly present with every individual he encountered as though they were the only person he ever knew. So, my commitment this year is simple: Slow down and be present. (By the way, perhaps many of you reading this have felt that from me. If so, I’m very sorry, and as you can tell I’m committed to working on it.) How about you? What is your spiritual commitment for this year? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a repentance commitment like mine. One person told me she is committing to memorizing the Westminster Shorter Catechisms this year. Awesome! What is a by-faith spiritual commitment that you are giving yourself to this year?
We are asking everyone to intentionally cultivate 3 by-faith relationships with non-Christian friends. By all means, share the gospel with as many people as you can, but I have discovered that if evangelism is left open-ended then evangelism doesn’t tend to happen. I also understand that it may feel strange to intentionally select and name those you are seeking to share the gospel with, because it feels like you are turning people into projects. But I want to be clear that the project is love. Jesus was incredibly intentional, so intentional that before the foundations of the world He “named” you as His project of salvation. But though He is intentional, His intentionality is perfectly genuine, and this should be our aim as well. You are choosing three people to love, not three people to manipulate. Three people to invite into your home, to listen to, pray for, answer questions, and yes whimsically share the love of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Intentionality does not equate to insincerity; it ensures that we will actually be sincere in reaching out to those who need the love of Christ.
If you’re anything like me, then evangelism doesn’t come naturally. The desire is certainly there, but it seems to get lost in a million other demands on my life. Of course, I’m open to those providential opportunities, like when I recently shared the gospel with my Uber driver, but making time for evangelistic relationships is a real struggle for me. I need intentionality and accountability, and so I’m doing it this year. I’m going to name three people I feel like God is calling me to make room for in my life to pray, love, serve, and yes, tell them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you join me? Prayerfully choose three people that you will by-faith pursue in the name of gospel love.
So that’s it. We’ve made it as easy as 1, 2, 3. Or perhaps I should say the cross of 1, 2, 3. Because although we’ve made it simple, I think we can all agree it won’t be easy. That’s why we are asking you to actually share your commitments, so that we can pray for you and help you. The only people who will have access to your answers are your pastors. If we need to involve other people in helping you, we will not do that without your permission. But please take this challenge seriously. We are asking everyone who calls TCPC home to join us in their 1, 2, 3 commitments, and let’s see what the Lord does!
The future is exciting: A Bluegrass Network of churches that exist for the glory of Christ and the good of the Bluegrass! But the path to get there is a Calvary journey—all of us together sowing the seeds of sacrificial commitments that will reap the harvest of a future network.
For Christ and the Bluegrass,