Autonomous Church

Since we begin to see Classis Grand Rapids South in terms of gathering about 10,000 people in about 18 autonomous churches, I think that it might help to look at how a similar model is used by many large and growing churches today.

Spring break week and Easter coincided this year, so as we took our family to Fort Walton Beach we’ve decided to look for a church for Easter Sunday. In previous years we worshipped in an Episcopalian Church and in a Baptist Church, so now we wanted to try something different. I did a google search for churches in Fort Walton Beach and among the top entries was Beachside Community Church. Went to the web page of the church and found an attractive interactive web presence.

What attracted us to this church was the ease of navigating through the site: easy to use tabs for Adults, Students, Kids, Giving and Missions.

I opened the tab About Us and found out that while Beachside is an autonomous church it is also a strategic partner of North Point Ministries, which immediately said to me that Andy Stanley is going to preach at this church for the Easter Service.

Indeed, we went to their second Easter Service and Andy Stanley preached the Easter message from Atlanta, being projected on the big screen in an auditorium the church rented in the local Coctaw High School. What was even more interesting is that this church exists as an autonomous church with local leadership, local pastor, but with a teaching pastor that comes to them from Georgia via a video. They take as much as they can from the quality work that Andy Stanley is doing in Atlanta and contextualize it for the people in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The best of all possible worlds.

Shaun Ellis is the lead pastor and he introduced Andy as our “preaching pastor,” and Andy preached a top quality relevant sermon for an unchurched audience, which is an audience Beachside definitely wants to reach.

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