Published by Mission Leader on 07 Oct 2008 at 02:50 am
Nathan Cook and his wife Kim are graduates of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. They have one son, Caleb, and are adopting a child from Thailand. Together they have started four house churches in the Binghampton community of Memphis, TN. Nathan is currently the director for Christ Community Ministries, a ministry dedicated to preparing people for incarnational ministry among the urban poor and unreached people of the world. Nathan is also an elder at Christ Community Church.
1. As a native Memphian, how have you seen God at work over the past decade?
I have seen more of a commitment from people to pray for our city and for our city leaders. I think that because of this, God is beginning to shake us of our complacency. There are a growing number of people who want to make Memphis a better place and are willing to put their time, money and talents on the line to see it happen. In the six years that Kim and I have been living in Binghampton, we have seen our neighbors come together to make the community stronger. Some of the residents who have lived in Binghampton all of their lives are providing leadership to our neighborhood associations. This growth in leadership has been complemented by fifty families who have relocated to the Binghampton community for the purpose of living out an intentional Christian witness. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I am encouraged that God is moving us to be more faithful in how we live out the gospel.
2. You were raised in what many would call a traditional church environment and even worked on staff for several years at that church. You are now a strong advocate for house church . . . Why the change and why should others care about house church?
I grew up attending Christ Methodist Church here in Memphis. Christ Methodist was and is a great church. They have always been strong in missions and have provided great leadership with the community development that is taking place in Binghampton. I was blessed to have several men from that church invest their lives in me. I would not be where I am today without them, and without their commitment to discipleship. So, I don’t think that there is one right “form” of church. There are many models that can and do work, mega churches, community churches, and house churches, just to name a few. I am committed to the house church model because I think that it works best for what we are trying to accomplish, namely planting churches among the unreached people of the earth and empowering the poor among us. Since we do not have a staff, buildings, or programs to maintain, all of our resources can be spent on developing missionaries and empowering the poor. The house church model also forces us to develop leaders for church growth. In a mega church or community church you can get away with one leader for every 100-200 people in your congregation. In our house churches we need one leader for every 10-20 people. If we are not constantly working to develop our leadership, our house church will plateau, decline, and die out much faster than a traditional church. Some people might say that is a weakness of the house church. I think that it is a strength. It provides a built in accountability system for leadership development. As leadership goes, so goes the church.
3. Tell us a little bit about Christ Community’s uniqueness related to the poor and the world.
There are about 100 people who participate in our four house churches now. Two of the house churches are bi-lingual, conducting services in English and Swahili. Almost all of the people who participate live 3-4 blocks from their house church. We have made an intentional effort to live in close community with our neighbors and with one another. We have also been able to send missionaries from our church to work among unreached peoples in several countries throughout North Africa, Central and Southeast Asia. I don’t know if any of this is unique or not, but it is who we are.
4. What vision do you have for Christ Community over the next 5 years?
Our main task in the next five years is to do a better job of developing indigenous leaders. We want our house churches to be a reflection of our community. Since we live in a multiethnic community, that will only happen as we are able to make disciples of the nations that God has brought to our front door.
5. Memphis is one of the nation’s leaders in crime, murder, poor education, infant mortality, unhealthy living, and single parent homes. What have you seen in the last year that brings hope?
I have been encouraged to learn that there are people who are passionate about wanting to see a tangible expression of God’s kingdom in our city, and I have been a part of some very promising conversations lately with Christian leaders who want to address these specific problems that you mentioned head on. There also seems to be more of a willingness to work together than I have experienced in the past. But in order to make any significant progress, we need to continue to pray that God will marshall resources and provide us with people who are willing to embrace the personal sacrifices needed to accomplish great things for God.