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Decentralizing Microchurches for the Sake of the Gospel

May 3, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm EDT



The Greenhouse Network had its beginnings in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, a distressed community northwest of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. The disinvestment of the steel industry in the 1980s left three generations of poverty with its attendant social challenges. In 2005, a youth development organization called Aliquippa Impact was birthed out of a 100-year-old Christian and Missionary Alliance Church called The Gospel Tabernacle that had begun to experience renewal. As that organization grew, served the community, and developed young and emerging leaders, lessons were learned about joining Jesus in mission among those experiencing poverty. Over the next decade, a family of non-profit organizations, social impact projects, missional communities, businesses, and church plants began to multiply in Aliquippa and throughout the Pittsburgh region with a special focus on post-industrial river communities.

This movement remained almost entirely organic until its leaders formed it into the Greenhouse Network in 2018. At that time, an incubator called the Greenhouse Lab was initiated at the relational center of the network to provide a service platform (marketing support, financial support, coaching, and training) to support network leaders, help people imagine and start missional initiatives, and provide pathways for the poor to create their own businesses. In 2020, the pandemic accelerated and positioned the network for multiplication. More partnerships were formed with traditional churches who were looking to engage mission in the milieu of the new challenges posed by the pandemic, and the network formed a partnership with the Western Pennsylvania District of The Christian and Missionary Alliance with the goal of exploring how denominations and existing churches might work in synergy with networks to plant more missional outposts and multiply church plants.


The missional conversation in the West has been snowballing for decades. Leslie Newbigin, who is considered by many to be the instigator of this conversation, posed the question in his book Foolishness to the Greeks, “What would be involved in a missionary encounter between the gospel and this whole way of perceiving, thinking, and living that we call ‘modern Western culture’?” We’ve been wrestling with that question for 40 years. Over the last two decades, pioneering efforts in the missional movement have been made with the mixed results expected of early experimentation. Now, mature forms of microchurch movements are emerging. COVID-19 has demonstrated the fragility of the predominant forms of Church, which has created a surging interest in simpler forms of the Church led by ordinary people.  

Of course, microchurch is not a new form of the Church, but the most ancient one. A compelling case can be made that the microchurch is the original design within the pages of the New Testament. In addition, it is also the primary expression of the Church in the most significant disciple making movements on the planet today, in places like India and China. Now is the time for us to return to the microchurch in the West for biblical, cultural, and missiological reasons. 

Join Leadership Network this year for a series of catalytic conversations with leading practitioners. And follow this move of the Spirit that is bringing about the return of the microchurch.


May 3, 2022
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm EDT
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