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Joining God to Make a Difference: New Collective Church

Posted: 7/17/19 at 2:00pm. Article by Cameron Lee.

Let’s join God to make a difference.

These words are posted above the door as people leave New Collective Church (NCC), but they are much more than just a graphic.

In 2018, Highlands Fellowship adopted new mission and vision statements. The vision statement started with that same concept of joining God to make a difference through our church, in our community, and around the world.

None of us knew what that would look like when we agreed to this vision of joining God. In the fall of 2018, God was speaking to many staff members about what he wanted to do with the Johnson City campus of Highlands Fellowship.

We had an opportunity to do things differently than ever before.

That campus had existed for about 10 years, in three different locations throughout Johnson City. In the present location, there are approximately 60,000 people who live within a 15-minute drive. There was incredible potential to reach more people with the Good News of Jesus.

As God was speaking to the staff, he was sharing bits and pieces with each of us. These pieces didn’t make sense in and of themselves, but when we came together, we realized that God wanted to do something special and he was already at work. None of us is able to look back and say it was any particular person’s idea, but he was speaking to us collectively. We had an opportunity to do things differently than ever before, to join him, and to truly make a difference.

Last fall, our church went through a restructuring process, in which the forming of the G3 Collective Network began. This network is comprised of five multi-site campuses, regional strategic partner churches, global strategic partner churches (i.e. South Africa, Pakistan, Côte d’Ivoire), and what we would refer to as Fresh Expressions.

In December 2018, we shared this new vision with our church, and that the Johnson City campus would become one of these Fresh Expressions. We would become New Collective Church. We’d have a new name on the outside to communicate all of the changes being made on the inside. In February, while we were making some renovations to the building, we had three launch team gatherings on Sunday mornings, to prepare ourselves for what was about to happen. 

On March 3, 2019, New Collective Church launched, doubling the attendance of the week prior. We have continued to see growth, life change, and new faces every single week, many of which haven’t attended church in years. In the first four months, we’ve seen over 75 people accept Christ, and dozens more take their next steps in their walk with Jesus!

What changed:

For 10 years we had been a multi-site campus of Highlands Fellowship. Our services looked the same at every location—the same songs and the same message, which was sent via satellite to every location from our campus in Abingdon, VA. There was a willingness among the staff, both at the Johnson City campus and at our central office, to do something different to reach people in our community. At NCC, our worship gatherings are now different than Highlands Fellowship, in order to reach the demographic in our specific area. Along with these changes, we also decided to change the name to communicate that God was doing something new.

For years we had been talking and praying about how the church could reach the thousands of local college students around us. As we were preparing to launch as NCC, we were introduced to Kaleb. Kaleb is in his early 20s and was leading a college small group at his house. These students were loving this small group but wanted something more. They asked us to launch what would become the NCC College ministry, which has a large monthly worship gathering and small group gatherings throughout the month. NCC College launched in April—with 100 college students in attendance—and it continues to grow. These college students are also coming on Sunday mornings, inviting their friends and families, volunteering in various ministries, and truly becoming active parts of the church! God used this small group to help us make an impact in the college communities around us.

I’m thankful for a leadership team that is willing to try something new, for a pastor in Mark Estepp who brings a passionate message every week that resonates with the hearts and minds of so many, and for a team of staff and volunteers who are willing to do whatever it takes and expect God to show up every week. We continue to try new things, including efforts in digital engagement to connect with people through podcasts, videos, and more.

When I think of all that has happened at NCC, it was only possible by joining God where he was already at work. Social media, advertising, and talented worship leaders have helped us get to where we are, but none of that would have mattered if we had not first made the decision to join God to make a difference.

Cameron Lee is campus pastor at New Collective Church in Johnson City, TN, a BGAV-participating congregation.