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  • Frank Wooden

Tapping The Entrepreneurial Spirit of The West Coast For The World

I spent my early years living in San Jose, CA at the beginning of the tech revolution. I can remember looking at silicon wafers under a microscope as a child. I now live in San Diego- home to a thriving biotech industry. While more than one person has predicted the demise of California, the state has an entrepreneurial spirit throughout its history- Silicon Valley and biotech are just two examples- that allows it to continually re-invent itself.

Today’s Silicon Valley was once the wheat capital of the United States. Before wheat, it was gold that brought people to California. Later it was oil, agriculture, movie making, aerospace, entertainment, biotech and more. If California were a sovereign nation, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world!

Beyond California, the entire West Coast functions as an innovation hub. From Vancouver, British Colombia to San Diego, CA- the world has benefited from West Coast tech, art, and commerce. I tell the story that if I were to visit a third world country and pull out my iPhone, people would recognize it immediately and their children would be familiar with at least one Disney movie.

There is one current area where the West Coast now lags in contributing to the betterment of the world- the impact of its churches. Historically, there is a rich heritage of the West Coast’s influence in this area. The Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles brought what is considered a second Pentecost to the world. Pastor Aimee Semple McPherson and Angelus Temple in Los Angeles (founded in 1923) had a worldwide impact. Later, churches such as Garden Grove Community Church and Pastor Robert Schuller, Costa Mesa Calvary Chapel and Pastor Chuck Smith, Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Pastor John Wimber, Lake Forest Saddleback Church and Pastor Rick Warren, Seattle Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll had a global impact.

These churches, through their innovation in reaching the unchurch, were known throughout the world along with their pastors. But some of these leaders have passed away, others have retired and in at least one case- suffered a tarnished reputation.

It is time to once again tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of the West Coast for the good of the world, this time led by its churches.

We’re in the era of the rise of regional church planting organizations that leverage the commonalities of their region. For the West Coast- these commonalities are innovation and entrepreneurship; where churches that plant churches collaborate with other like-minded churches and smaller regional organizations join together with other similar organizations. As churches and smaller organizations cooperate work hand in hand, they coalesce into a regional movement, one that has a growing impact and influence.

What could this look like?

1. Include Disruptive Thinkers.

Too often, church planting movements start with the mission to reach the unchurched but then pivot into making small tweaks to a process that has passed its expiration date. Administrating the process is not the goal, changing the world for Jesus is.

Disruptive thinkers, at first glance, seem to be contrarians because they question the process. “Why do we do what we do the way we do?” “How come we don’t try this instead?” It takes an environment of allowing these questions to be asked in order for change to occur and a movement to catch wind and take off.

Disruptive thinkers need to come to the table with a critical eye, not a critical spirit. They must have respect for those who have paved the way while pushing past out of date methods.

2. Find the Collaborators.

If we are in the era of regional church planting organizations, then God must be behind it. The Spirit is stirring up individuals who need to discover each other and then work together.

Habakkuk 2:2 (NLT) says, Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.

Today’s runner or herald is the one who looks for others who are tuned into God’s message. Your tribe may be a denomination or regional affiliation. This is why it is so important to collaborate inside and outside your tribe. If it is God, confirmation will be internal (within the tribe) and external (beyond).

As I talk about a West Coast planting movement, I have found people within my circle of peers and also outside of it with whom this message resonates with. These become the collaborators.

3. Do The Hard Work of an Organizer.

In social work, the role of the organizer is to move people beyond just interest and agreement to taking action steps. People will nod their heads at what you say and go back to doing what they’ve always been doing without an organizer.

A regional church planting movement, arising out of the entrepreneurial spirit of the West Coast, needs organizers. It needs people who will convene meetings and do behind the scenes leg work.

I had an opportunity to work as an organizer earlier this Spring by staging a one-day event called The Lobby in Los Angeles. We invited disruptive thinkers, we collaborated with anyone who was interested, and our team staged a successful event.

Movements begin with disrupters, grow through collaborators, and are established through organizers. The world needs all three of these things to happen from the West Coast’s spiritual leaders.

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