FCP 11 | Steve Pike, Urban Islands Project

January 13, 2022


    Seven years ago, Steve Pike was the founding leader of the Church Multiplication Network for the Assemblies of God. CMN was assisting the start up of about 400 new churches a year. The logical thing for him to do was to stay in that role and ride it out to retirement.

    However, his vantage point gave him a front row seat to the church’s general lack of missional intentionality to the residents of city neighborhoods. He sees the problem in a nutshell—as the density of the population goes up, the presence of the Church goes down. This should not be. How could we set in motion a need appropriate response to the missional need of our cities?

    Steve felt compelled to devote his entire attention toward “cracking the code” being the Church in the city. The journey led him to an unexpected discovery—cities are where the general culture is being created. If we can figure out how to be the vigorous church in the city, we unlock the keys to being the vigorous church of the future everywhere—dense urban neighborhoods, struggling public housing projects, first ring suburbs, forgotten rural communities and yes, even suburbs.

    Listen to Episode 11 of the podcast and access the show notes below.

    Future Church Insights:

    1. Steve talks about how the conventional model of church planting doesn’t work everywhere.
    Steve noticed that conventional church planting didn’t work as well, or maybe not at all in the harder places and especially urban places. He felt troubled by this – particularly as urban populations were starting to grow.

    2. Steve walks through his process of identifying and obeying God’s call to start Urban Islands Project
    Steve says he felt called to urban places, but he really took time to confirm God’s call, seek wise counsel from friends and associates, and pray together and separately with his wife.

    3. Steve addresses the way church plants in urban areas can become sustainable outside of relying on tithes.
    Steve talks through different funding models and the importance of having a business plan in place in order to sustain a church plant three to five years out.

    Goals and Desired Outcomes of Urban Islands Project

    • Complement sending organizations (denominations, networks, churches, etc.) who want to activate in hard urban places but are unsure how to proceed.
    • Facilitate at least 10 cohorts per year.
    • Identify emerging models that can serve as a framework/guideline for future church starters in similar contexts.
    • Develop an online community of 1000+ individuals exploring or acting on a call to an urban place.



    More of a reader? Download the transcription here.

    Key Quotes from the episode from Steve Pike:

    “I started to see trends and something began to really trouble me. And that was the conventional approach, which I believe in. I’m not against starting churches, the way that it became sort of the dominant methodology back in the day, which was kind of the big launched model, go in, go strong. That was how we started most of the churches. But what I noticed was that that didn’t work as well, or maybe not at all in the harder places and especially urban places. And it was troubling to me at the same time that urban populations were starting to grow.” (3:28)

    “I think the big contrast is when you think of about the conventional approach to starting the church, it was based on some assumptions that are not generally present in an urban community or even a rural community. I mean, what we’re discovering, I’ve started calling it the hard places, the places where the conventional doesn’t work. And for the conventional to be effective, it requires a leader who’s able to lead that kind of an approach which it’s generally more complex. It requires a leader who’s wired a certain way.” (22:18)

    “It’s the three self church self-sustaining, self-governing, self propagating. That’s sort of the golden principle is like, that’s how you do a church. But the idea self sustaining got narrowed down to it’s got to be tithes and offerings. That’s the right way for a church to be done. Well, we started realizing, “Wait a minute, that is actually limiting the potential, the financial potential of a church and it’ll never work in an urban community.” And so, we suggest that there are five categories of potential revenue that need to be cultivated in order for a church to be sustainable. And those need to be cultivated upfront early on, not after thought.” (27:33)

    “And the idea, I like co-vocational because I was always concerned about bi-vocational because it’s sort of implied, you’re going to split yourself in half. The word bi is actually one, it’s two halves. And the idea that somebody could give like 40 hours a week to a job and 40 hours a week to a church. I mean, you got to burn it out later, pretty fast, but co-vocational is doing something that is cooperative or complementary to the effort of starting a faith community that generates some revenue to increase the financial security and sustainability of your family and your church.” (31:36)

    Related Articles