Less than a week ago, a small band of friends and strangers gathered for the first ever Sunday Liturgy of Austin Mustard Seed. In a part of the country known for religiosity why would you possibly need another church?
1. Austin is growing like crazy.
It feels like 2/3rds of the current Austin skyline was not here when I moved to town in 2006. According to Forbes, Austin will grow at a rate of 6.1% between now and 2016. There’s just no way the existing churches can handle that alone.
2. Austinites aren’t necessarily Texans.
Dr. Joshua Long, author of Wierd City, said that adopting the catchphrase “Keep Austin Wierd” was the equivalent of the famous “New Collosus” sonnet outside the Statue of Liberty. Austin tells the world “send me your poor and weird masses.” Self-styled outcasts move to Austin to redefine themselves. That means those who make up Austin don’t necessarily have much history with the storied religious culture of Texas.
3. We need more neighborhood churches.
Here’s my theory: the best antidote for consumer church is incarnational communities. When I say “incarnational“, I mean that the church follows the methodology of Jesus: “the Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” Jesus, the eternal Word of God and second person of the Trinity, became a baby. He got calloused hands from working hard labor, spoke Aramaic and ate a lot of locally sourced fish.
There’s a lot of great regional churches. Sometimes the people who live in the same neighborhood as the church building don’t know much about the church other than the traffic jams on Sundays. I’m betting that living the church together in our neighborhoods will make it easier to participate in meaningful community and love our neighbors.
4. Some people are starters.
My favorite reason to start a new church in Austin is simply that some people are called to be “starters”. The New Testament calls them Apostles. In business, they are called entrepreneurs. In some churches, they’re called missionaries. Some people thrive by building on existing systems. Others thrive by starting new things. Church planting is a means of empowering such people to live out their calling.