International (MNN) — What should a local church look like? Are there standards that must be kept in the way a worship service is designed or in the way programs are structured?
It’s a question Ann Stiegerwald and her team at Christian Associates International ask every day as they start organic models of church around the world. But before a church is even planted, Ann says this is key. “We try to shift the conversation away from church to Jesus; church can be a multitude of experiences, but Jesus is really the center of Christianity.”
Stiegerwald says where the conversation starts varies greatly by region. “What you’re finding in Northern Europe, for example, is a post-modern, post-Christian environment: people who are actually a generation or two removed from Christian experience and have very little knowledge of the Christian faith.”
In Southern Europe, religious and political oppression historically have resulted in a view of institutionalized church that isn’t always positive. “They have vestiges of experience–perhaps they have been to a baptism or a wedding–but there can be resentment and hurt.”
With a model that focuses on the person of Jesus Christ as its priority, Christian Associates then invites the communities they serve to be part of the design of the local church. Decoupage Church is one of those churches. Located in an artisan neighborhood in Madrid, Decoupage embraces the subculture of the community, and leaders help members see God’s character through that creativity.
The idea of allowing churches to be started in a more organic fashion takes time, and Stiegerwald says much has been learned over the years. “I think one of the main things we’ve learned is that we need to get ourselves out of the way, as Westerners, pretty quickly and identify leaders–then support them, raise them up because they need to contextualize whatever we’re doing in a form that’s meaningful.”
Christian Associates has more than 70 church-planting projects in 60 different urban areas around the world. Learn more about their ministry vision and plans for the future at ChristianAssociates.org.