Campus Vision: A Narrative Arc
In fall 2002, Matt Chandler sat in The Village Grill restaurant with a group of leaders from Highland Village First Baptist Church. The table was covered in butcher paper and some crayons became his instrument to provide a picture of his vision for the church.
He drew a simple illustration of a circle with several lines emanating from it. At the end of each line was another circle.
The circle represented churches. Matt’s vision for Highland Village First Baptist Church was for it to be a church that planted churches for the glory of God. The Great Commission of Jesus Christ in Matthew 28 compelled this vision.
As Matt assumed the pastorate and HVFBC became known as The Village, it is interesting to consider how this vision has taken shape. The Lord has closed some doors and opened others. As the Lord brought numeric growth, there were decisions that had to be made regarding how The Village would steward this growth. Would we build one large building to house everyone or would we steward it another way?
During a season of prayer and fasting in 2007, called “Venture,” the Lord brought clarity. As we were gifted with what is now known as the Denton campus, the decision to not build one large building was made. The Lord guided our hand and decided a direction for us. At this juncture in the life of the church, we moved toward multi-‐site rather than one large site.
The church has steadily added campuses over the years. In 2009, the Lord graciously provided the Dallas campus. In 2013, we opened our fourth campus in Fort Worth. We continue to look to God’s provision for a campus near Plano. Each campus is under the leadership of a campus pastor, who also serves on the elder board.
The story of God’s work at The Village continues as we sense His call for us to pray about possibly utilizing multi-‐site to establish, strengthen and launch churches. It seems that a next step in the church’s collective burden to plant churches may be for the Denton campus to transition from being a campus to becoming an autonomous church.
Campus Transitions: Reasons and Rationale
Life Cycles and Multiplication
Linda Ellis, a popular American poet, brings attention to the most important mark on any tombstone: the dash. Oftentimes overlooked, if even noticed at all, the dash subtly rests between the birth date and the day of dying. This simple punctuation mark represents the narrative of a unique life—a fingerprint of sorts stamping the stone with a story to be told. As one story fades into the recesses of memories and histories, another is being made and constructed. The cycle of life continues.
The cyclical nature of life depends on one factor: multiplication. All living things must multiply to perpetuate; thus, a failure to multiply is ultimately a failure to exist. When multiplication fades or ends, the cycle either slowly dissipates or comes to an abrupt halt. This principle proves true for humanity, organizations and, especially, churches.
The normative experience of humanity starts with birth, is followed by gradual growth, maturity and multiplication through children, and eventually ends with death. Organizational and church life cycles work similarly. They begin with the inception of an idea or a calling and then grow. Maturity and multiplication must soon follow, or extinction inevitably will.
The metaphor of children and the new life they represent aptly fits for the Church. It is a healthy and biblical expectation for churches to multiply at various levels. Multiplication occurs as disciples, compelled by the person and work of Jesus Christ, make new disciples, but it should also occur as churches start new churches.
Multi-Site: Prudent Church Planting and Multiplication
Over the last couple of decades, various movements in the American church coalesced to generate a new wave of multiplication. The church has enjoyed a new gospel centrality, producing a fresh missional passion, a resurgence of the Great Commission and newly energized local and global church planting efforts. One recent movement in particular, the multi-‐site church movement, continues to enjoy expansion and growth as churches extend their reach through multiple venues and locations. It is with deep humility and gratitude before the Lord that we recognize The Village’s blessing to be a small part in many of these movements. We have certainly received the blessings of these various movements.
Everything, from the biblical mandate to multiply to the normative life cycle of growth and maturity to the existing platform of multi-‐site campuses, stirs a growing conviction within the leadership of The Village Church to consider an opportunity unique to multi-‐site churches. Specifically, we see an opportunity to use the multi-‐ site strategy as a prudent form of church planting and multiplication.
We want to establish campuses and strengthen them with solid gospel-‐driven leaders. This is true regardless of the future direction of multi-‐site at The Village. But we are also prayerfully considering how we might transition a healthy campus into a healthy autonomous church. In short, we would prayerfully consider this when it seems right to the Holy Sprit and us (Acts 15:28). This principle serves church leaders in the decision-‐making process. A confluence of unity among the church’s leadership and affirmation of the Holy Spirit presses the church forward. Sometimes God uses clear and objective signposts to follow, but other times He uses the subjective sense and collective biblical wisdom to lead a church into the unknown. Either direction takes convictional courage.
The elders sense that the Denton campus is in a position to seriously consider this opportunity, but we want to invite the church to prayerfully consider it with us. At this point, the focus of the discussion is on the Denton campus and not the other campuses.
This transition would modify The Village’s current approach and strategy resulting in significant implications for the entire church. Rather than interpreting this transition as a critique of the typical multi‐site approach, it should be understood as capitalizing on an opportunity. More directly, it is leveraging the typical multi-‐site approach to, instead, plant more churches.
Celebrating Maturity and Multiplication
The Village Church seeks to unleash leadership and celebrate the growth of a campus into maturity and multiplication. Transitioning healthy campuses to autonomous churches also reinforces to the entire membership the biblical mandate to multiply through concrete actions. This is a strong and tangible action that demonstrates one way a church can multiply. As a parent celebrates the leaving of children, the church has the opportunity to celebrate a campus becoming a church. What is celebrated is cultivated. The greater hope is to have young churches growing with a burden to sprout new growth and continue the life cycle.
Campus Transitions: Questions and Answers
Please keep in mind that we are trying to provide helpful information based on the discussions that the elders, executive staff, The Village staff and the Denton campus deacons have had at this point in the process. Though we have a growing conviction around this transition, there is not a definitive decision at this time. Rather, we are inviting you to pray with us around this opportunity.
The questions and answers below reflect the current discussion and are meant to be helpful in your prayer process.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all of the relevant questions and answers. We have given considerable prayer and attention to this proposed transition but recognize many of the actual challenges ahead we cannot foresee. Our hope is that these questions will better prepare you to pray in the coming days. We also trust that the corporate prayer process will reveal questions that we have not yet addressed or considered.
What is compelling this change?
It seems that the Holy Spirit is compelling this change. This began as a conversation several years ago and has matured into a growing conviction. The elders have been discussing this at various levels and with varying intensity over the last couple of years. We are leaning heavily on the words of Acts 15:28: “It seems good to us and the Holy Spirit” in this situation.
The years of conversation and prayer led to a unanimous vote at a recent elder meeting to prayerfully widen the conversation about this possible transition of the Denton campus into an autonomous church. Since this time, the executive team, The Village Church staff and Denton deacons have affirmed that the next step is take this before the church for prayerful consideration.
What is the overall gain?
Sometimes the economics of the kingdom don’t match our economic sensibilities. We read about a shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to search for the one that is lost. Jesus praises Mary when she pours an entire bottle of expensive perfume on His feet. A widow is told that her two coins are more valuable than the contributions of the wealthy. A farmer pays the same wages to workers who put in different hours. At other times, armies are dwindled from thousands to hundreds to make a point, while loaves of bread and fish are multiplied. Kingdom economics don’t always work well on a typical balance sheet.
Although this is a spiritual decision, not a mathematical one, we do see several positive gains with this transition:
What is the timeline for this transition?
We anticipate a timeline of 12‐18 months, following an affirmative vote. This amount of time would allow our elders, staff and church to prepare accordingly for the transition. Regardless, the timeline will not be rushed to assure we handle this move with care and detail.
What if a significant group of Covenant Members from the Denton campus do not vote in favor of the transition?
If this is the case, we will not move forward with the transition as of right now, but we will continue to teach and preach out of our growing conviction to multiply the gospel and use the multi-site model as a strategy for planting healthy churches.
Will Covenant Members from other campuses vote on the transition?
Covenant Members from other campuses will not vote on the decision for Denton to become an autonomous church. However, if the Denton campus votes in favor of the transition, then members from other campuses will vote on the transfer of assets— the building, equipment, etc.—to the new church in Denton. We will, though, be asking our members and attendees across all campuses to be praying about the transition.
Is the transition an experiment or are we committed to this strategy for all campuses?
No, it is not an experiment. We have a growing conviction to see the gospel multiplied and to use the multi-site model as a strategy for church planting. We also believe this strategy gives our church the opportunity to use Matt Chandler’s gift of preaching and gathering to raise up strong, gospel-centered churches. With that said, there is no definitive timeline in place to transition other existing campuses into autonomous churches.
What is the financial commitment to the Denton church?
While we want to continue to encourage the members of the Denton campus to faithfully give, The Village Church is committed to financially supporting the Denton church for three years from their launching out—in a way similar to how they are supported now. The Village Church and the Denton church would continue to evaluate the needs on an on-going basis.
For example, if there were an affirmative vote in mid-2014, then the transition would likely take place in 2016. At this point, the three-year financial commitment would start.
What are the staffing implications of this change for the Denton campus?
The current Denton staff would be invited to stay and participate in this transition. Please keep in mind that there are no guarantees of what the future will bring. This is true whether we serve in Denton, Flower Mound or anywhere else.
Also, a new church would mean new benefit packages, etc. We have not investigated all these changes at this point.
Some staff members might not be inclined to stay in Denton. Although we would not be able to ensure continued employment at The Village Church, each person is welcome to have these conversations, and we will make case-by-case decisions.
What does this mean for all current and future campuses?
Given that this is a growing conviction, we will continue to prayerfully and patiently explore how this affects current and future campuses.
If it should seem good to the Holy Spirit and us, we would prayerfully explore the next steps for any particular campus. Should we move in a similar direction for a specific campus, then we would prayerfully and patiently move in this direction looking for three key indicators: 1) the man, 2) the leadership and 3) the membership. Does the campus pastor have the conviction and calling to lead a church? Is the leadership of the campus (elders, deacons and staff) prepared for the transition? Does the membership affirm the direction and are they committed to this new mission?
We have strong desires to start new campuses. They would be started with the wisdom of past experience and prayerful hope that, in due time, if it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us, they will transition to become separate churches. We will move prudently, prayerfully and faithfully, one step at a time, and learn as we go.
Will Ministry Services like the Communication, Facilities and Production continue to serve the new church in Denton?
Yes, the Denton church would initially utilize Ministry Services. These services would continue to be available moving forward. Over time, the continued use of ministry services would be a decision of the Denton leadership as they address the needs of the church.
Will there be a network or formal relationship between the new church in Denton and The Village Church?
Yes, we will create a network that holds one statement of faith, including our doctrine and distinctives, but leaves freedom in the philosophy and practice of ministry for campuses that become separate churches. The network will only consist of The Village Church, its campuses and campuses that transition into autonomous churches. Other churches and church plants will not be eligible to apply, in hopes of the network staying small and functioning like a family.
Network churches will benefit from the familial relationships with The Village Church and its campuses. It will also benefit through the availability of shared resources, including curriculum and Ministry Services.
What can members expect with the new church?
The vast majority of what members experience now would remain the same. It is important to remember that Beau Hughes and the staff of the Denton campus have had an integral part in leading and shaping the philosophy of The Village Church.
There are no foreseeable changes in ministry philosophy, etc. That said, the Denton church would have the latitude, under the leadership of their elder board, to prayerfully change and shape the church, as they deem needed and necessary to faithfully fulfill the call to make disciples.
The most notable change would be in preaching. Matt Chandler would no longer be the primary communicator in Denton. Beau Hughes would begin to transition into this role in Denton. The music trajectory in Denton would remain the same.
Would there be a new and different membership process and covenant?
There are no foreseeable changes in view, but please refer to the question above.
What would become of current missionary support and strategic partnerships like Campus Outreach?
The new church in Denton would continue to support the missionaries that have been sent out from the Denton campus.
Campus Outreach would stay with The Village Church but maintain their offices and leadership in Denton. There would be no noticeable changes with Campus Outreach.
The ministry partnerships with Epiphany Fellowship and Casa de Libertad would also remain in place.
What would the name of the new church be?
At this point, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse. If it becomes clear that this is the direction the Lord is moving The Village Church and the Denton campus, then we will work on names.
What are the next steps in this process?
At this point, this is an invitation for you to prayerfully consider what is before us as a church. The Lord has graced us with a church culture that is healthy enough to have these conversations. Regardless of what is next, this needs to be understood as a time for celebration.
Following this, we want to continue to prudently increase the number of people who are praying and discerning with us. We already invited the Denton campus staff and deacons into the conversation. On January 5, Matt Chandler will preach at the Denton campus to share about the transition, and other campuses will find out that same day from their campus pastors. To honor the Denton campus, we will not discuss the transition during Saturday night services (January 4) in Flower Mound.
We’ll also discuss and pray about the transition at our special Night of Worship on Friday, January 10, at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. In the spring, Matt will preach through the book of Acts, establishing a theology for multiplication and church planting.
If the Lord continues to give this direction favor, then we envision a season of corporate prayer and fasting for the entire church, similar to Venture in 2007. At this point, we have no set date for a formal vote from the Denton campus.