In every city, every town, every community, every neighborhood, there are places where the good news of Jesus Christ is never heard. There are individuals and entire families who feel lost in the world and are without hope. The local church has been called to reach these people with the message of the gospel: that God offers salvation through the reconciling death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Here is what we know: Planting, replanting, and shepherding a local church can be discouraging and exhausting. This is not only true for pastors, but for other leaders and members of any church. The reality is that there is opposition from many sides. Leaders get burned out and congregations age. Over the long haul, it becomes difficult to stay fired up and encouraged in reaching the lost and making joyful, passionate disciples of Jesus. Sadly, as a result, increasing numbers of churches all across our country and around the world are closing their doors in the very communities where the gospel is needed the most.
This should break our hearts.
Is there a better way? A more effective way? A more joyful, healthy, sustainable, truly cooperative way of leading and multiplying local churches?
These are some of the questions we began to ask and wrestle with several years ago in the dreaming stages of what has become The Calvary Family of Churches (CFC).
I am asked often about the CFC from pastors and leaders who are interested in learning more about who we are and how we function. While as an organization we are always seeking to grow and mature, and while we still feel in many ways as though we are just getting started, let me attempt to give a basic overview of some of the nuts and bolts of the CFC and how it all works.
What exactly is the Calvary Family of Churches?
The CFC is not one church in many different locations, but rather a family of independent (autonomous) and inter-dependent local churches that work together for the sake of Gospel advancement. Under the local leadership of pastors/elders (we use these terms interchangeably for the same biblical office), this family of churches seeks to love, support, and equip one another through intentional partnership. Together we practice radical cooperation and encouragement towards our common vision:
To make Jesus non-ignorable in our communities and to the ends of the earth.
We recognize that we live in a world full of people who are searching for life, for joy, and for hope, but they are searching for these things in people, places, and activities that can never truly deliver them. And all the while – they are ignoring Jesus, the only One who can truly rescue them from sin and provide them with eternal life, joy, and hope. This vision of making Jesus non-ignorable in the lives of people is what drives everything we do as the CFC.
So, how are CFC churches aligned?
How are they connected?
What do they share?
What do they not share?
These are great questions that we get asked often. To help ensure alignment of our churches joining in this effort to make Jesus non-ignorable, we believe it is critical that each congregation agree on the foundational elements of what is required to be a Calvary Church, staying vitally committed and accountable to the following things. While I won’t take the time here to give all of the reasons and rationale for why we chose these and not others, know that much thought, discussion, and prayer went into the CFC landing on the following:
Each Calvary congregation includes “Calvary Church” in its name.
e.g., Calvary Church Englewood
Family Vision and Mission
Each church shares the following vision and mission:
Vision: To make Jesus non-ignorable in ________ and to the ends of the earth.
Mission: To glorify God by making joyful, passionate disciples of Jesus.
Each Church agrees with and subscribes to the following doctrinal positions:
Family Core Commitments
Each Church upholds these four elements as essential elements of their ministry:
Each Church is aligned with, and committed to, a shared theological and philosophical understanding of:
1. Biblical Theology
2. Shepherd Leadership
3. God-centered Worship
4. Expositional Preaching
5. Healthy Families
6. Authentic Relationships
8. Missional Living
9. Diverse Community
Each Church shall function as a Jesus-ruled, Elder-led, and Congregationally-affirmed Church. Each Church is subject to the control of no denominational body, but it recognizes and sustains voluntary cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and other church networks.
How does the Calvary Family of Churches work together?
As mentioned before, CFC churches are fully autonomous, yet interdependent of one another. This interdependent relationship finds its primary expression through the Board of Elders. Comprised of the lead pastor and one other pastor from each church, the Board of Elders meets each month to provide a forum for ongoing accountability, encouragement, and support. These meetings are also a time for prayerful, big-picture visioning and strategic planning for the family of churches. The Board of Elders helps to lead and facilitate church planting, replants, adoptions and the ongoing connection and care between Calvary congregations.
Again, we believe in practicing radical cooperation in our vision to make Jesus non-ignorable. We recognize the extraordinary value in working together to aggressively plant, replant, and adopt local churches for the sake of the Kingdom and the fame of Christ. These are the three avenues to becoming a member of the Calvary Family of Churches. A brief explanation of each:
Calvary Churches are active in planting churches and these plants are always initiated by the elders of a sending Calvary Church and established with the intention of becoming self-sustaining in time.
These are opportunities in which a dying church comes to the understanding that they have declined to the point that they will have to soon close their doors. They are open to a complete reworking of ministry philosophy adopting the guidelines for becoming a Calvary Church.
These are opportunities in which an existing church wants to become part of the Calvary Family of Churches. This may be initiated by a church that is declining or plateaued and wants to partner with the Calvary Family of Churches for support of varying degrees.
It is important to note thatCalvary Church plants, replants, and adoptions progressively move towards maturity by becoming self-governing, self-sustaining, and self-replicating. The goal for a maturing church plant, replant, or adoption is to eventually become a peer of its sending church and become self-governing, self-sustaining, and self-replicating:
By God's grace, each Calvary Church will launch with a plurality of elders and will move towards adding 2-3 new elders in 2 years. These local elders will be responsible for feeding, leading, knowing, and protecting the flock. Each Calvary Church will also move towards becoming a self-governing membership body, which will affirm elder guidance through member-populated personnel and budget/finance committees, along with voting on governance, church budget, new members, excommunicating/releasing members, hiring of ministry directors, and the appointment of elders.
Installation of Elders and Deacons
Regular Members meetings (Business and Annual)
Finance and Personnel Committees
Each Calvary Church will move towards decreasing financial support from its sending church, other Calvary Churches, and outside support/partnership sources, with a goal of becoming financially self-sustaining by year five.
Supported by congregational giving
Independent budgeting, bank accounts, and church giving to denomination/networks
No longer reliant on external funding
The CFC is committed to planting churches that plant churches. Therefore, by God's grace, each Calvary Church that is planted will seek to plant a new church within five years of launch. When the opportunity arises for multiple Calvary Churches to send leaders and people to launch a new Calvary Church, the churches will work together under the leadership of their elders, the CFC Board of Elders, and the Lead Planting Pastor to identify, equip, and send a Launch Team/Core Group to launch the new Calvary Church.
How Does CFC Membership Work?
To maintain membership in the Calvary Family of Churches, each individual
Church must agree to the following:
Annual Reporting and Membership Renewal
Each Church must annually (and at other times required by the CFC) present reports as established by the CFC (e.g., membership, financials, etc.). Further, there is a Membership Covenant that must be renewed annually.
Branding and Media Guidelines
Each Church will agree to Branding and Media Guidelines as a member of the Calvary Family of Churches.
What are the benefits of being part of the Calvary Family of Churches?
This is another question that is often asked by pastors and leaders I meet. To be honest, it is hard to put into words the joy and blessing of being part of a family of churches like this. Of course, that is my bias! So, in an attempt to get at some of the benefits of being part of the CFC, I asked our current CFC lead pastors to share how they would respond to this question. Here are some of their responses (in no particular order):
Text messages of encouragement
Consistency of gathering
Place to unload/honest support
Systems that highlight the Gospel & don’t overtake the Gospel
Simplicity in mission/vision
Good to be part of a winning team & see bigger kingdom impact
Praying with & for each other
Encouragement & counsel during difficult times
Learning from each other
Organizational support for churches in all situations (plants, replants, adoptions)
Shared resources (financial, curriculum, people, etc.)
Resourcing each other
Formal & informal coaching & care
Being around people in similar circumstances/situations
The Calvary National Conference
Spirit-led flexibility as a team
Comradery/band of brothers
Helping practically to take steps in progress & put plans into action
Encouragement & exhortation (Hebrews 3:13)
Living by radical faith as a group
Not-reinventing the wheel
Spurring one another on towards love & good deeds
Pieces of the puzzle are gathered
Strength for longevity in ministry
Support in hard times
Being part of a bigger vision/family gives perspective, support & freedom
Life-giving & it overflows into leading other parts of ministry (elders, etc.)
Values different types of leaders & different types/sizes of churches
Clear alignment of core convictions
Different kinds of people have a place here
Not in competition with each other
Leadership development pipeline/cohorts
Shared process/pipeline for equipping leaders & churches
These are some of the benefits, or better yet, blessings, of being part of the CFC. Is the CFC perfect? Absolutely not! In fact, we know we can and must grow in everything that we do. And our prayer is that the Lord will do just that in us!
That He will continue to grow and mature us as a family of churches for His glory.
That He will always keep us humble and joyful in this shared calling of Gospel ministry.
That ultimately, Jesus Christ would be made non-ignorable in our communities and to the ends of the earth!
If you are interested in learning more about The Calvary Family of Churches, check out our web-site at thecalvary.org.