Channel Church began with a vision to go from Berkeley to the ends of the earth. The quest for multiplication was always a passion; however, early on, we focused on a church growth model rather than kingdom multiplication. As a result, the church grew multifaceted without actually multiplying churches.
Members longed to live out their unique calling of God in their circle of influence.
Although the ministries and outreach worked to be outward-focused, the impact on the community outside the church facility was minimal. The limitation of one physical location also reduced the kingdom impact in the Bay Area and beyond. Members longed to live out their unique calling of God in their circle of influence. Still, the existing church model at the time promoted the idea of complacency rather than missional living. Hence, God’s people were not released as disciple-makers and kingdom multipliers in their own context. For this reason, Channel Church transitioned from a traditionally structured church to a disciple-making, kingdom multiplication movement.
A New Vision and Mission
In 2018, God led the leaders of Channel Church through a moment of epiphany during discipleship training led by Curtis Sergeant. God revealed His heart of growing people rather than growing an organization. As a result, the leadership team gathered to revisit and redefine Channel’s vision and mission. They decided the vision should be “Till All Nations Worship” with a mission to:
1. Intentional Disciple-Making
2. Missional Living
3. Gathering and Scattering
4. Healthy Multiplication
After finalizing the vision and mission of the church, leaders spent the following two months casting the vision for disciple-making and multiplication. The first discipleship cohort began in November of 2018 with the attempt to recruit and train the early adopters.
The transition occurred in 2019, marked by persistent questioning, lobbying, and compromises. On April 6, 2019, the leaders united in praying and actively seeking divine confirmation. Meanwhile, corporate listening, prayer, mourning, reasoning, and reflection took place on various occasions among different languages and affinity groups of the Channel. All these formal and informal meetings helped members to embrace the past and anticipate the future.
It was a remarkably difficult year. Three out of four Channel congregations underwent a reconstruction of their worship services to adopt the new model; however, all three communities have since struggled to sustain. Inevitably, most members and even some core leaders of the church left due to different missiological convictions and theology. Others remained for relational reasons rather than for kingdom purposes. Most people had yet to see the kingdom vision, but they stayed because they believed in the body of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
All these transitions were tough but necessary because of what God is anticipating in Channel’s future.
After a long discerning period, one of the largest congregations decided to start a new traditional-modeled church in 2020 within the Channel network. All these transitions were tough but necessary because of what God is anticipating in Channel’s future. Despite the brutal deconstruction of the church without signs of a promising future, leaders were constantly reminded by God, who declares, “Are you building your kingdom or My Kingdom? Because if it is My Kingdom, I want to build it My Way.”
A big celebration and commissioning worship took place on November 23, 2019. All represented tribes and nations of Channel came together to give thanks for what God had done in the past and to anticipate what God would do in the future. This last worship at the Berkeley facility marked the end of the old season and the beginning of the new phase.
Channel Church was officially renamed Channel Church Network to emphasize the church’s autonomy while embracing the missional unity of one body in Christ. Members went through a paradigm shift from referring to the church as one physical facility in Berkeley, California, to a more abstract yet Biblical understanding of the church as the embodiment of Christ in the local community. The church officially moved out of the facility on November 30, 2019.
Under the new network umbrella, one of the congregations of Channel launched a new church in Castro Valley called Channel East Bay. Four simple churches emerged from the previous discipleship groups when the decentralization took place. These churches continue to meet in the respective homes of the disciples across the Bay Area. They come together weekly with a collective focus to love God, love others, make disciples, and honor Jesus as King.
It was indeed an eye-opening experience as members of Channel witnessed the plentiful harvest
As Channel Church moved out of the facility in Berkeley, California, members began to engage in the neighborhoods where they live to bring about Kingdom impact. In Richmond, California, for example, members reached out to their communities to perform the house of peace search. They went out to do prayer walking regularly. Through the engagement, members met the residents, immigrants, and refugees from many different cultures and groups, such as Yemenis, Palestinians, Pakistanis, Turks, Berbers, Algerians, Afghans, Jordanians, Nepalis, and Laotians. It was indeed an eye-opening experience as members of Channel witnessed the plentiful harvest and the world’s mission opportunities right in their backyard. Through the experimentation of church decentralization, members of Channel witnessed the power of segmentation in a reticulated movement.
A team of leaders from Channel Network went to South India to train leaders on movement principles in January 2020. The team also traveled to several remote villages in the deep jungles to evangelize, pray, and search for houses of peace. People came to faith, and at least eleven churches were planted. As the team returned from South India, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and California declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020. Two weeks later, a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order was issued. Many traditional churches reluctantly shut their doors without knowing what was coming next. For most traditional churches, Sunday gatherings were eventually pushed online.
Had the church not obeyed the Lord and taken a leap of faith to move out, they would still have been paying the vacant facility’s monthly lease.
It was through the pandemic, however, that members of Channel were able to understand God’s provision and protection. Because the church had moved out of the rented facility three months before the mandatory lockdown, there was no financial burden. Had the church not obeyed the Lord and taken a leap of faith to move out, they would still have been paying the vacant facility’s monthly lease. The fact that Channel Church had been decentralized and moved away from one physical location also meant that members could continue to meet as simple churches in various areas in the comfort of private homes throughout the week. In short, as a network of simple churches, Channel Church Network was able to thrive even during the global pandemic.
Still, many looked online for community and resources during the pandemic. For that reason, Channel leaders adopted the “media to movement” strategy, which mobilizes individuals who seek community and discipleship online and helps start training across the globe. At least thirty individuals have attended Channel’s online discipleship training since 2019. Some of the attendees were even from Nigeria, India, and China. One of the churches Channel helped start through the online training was in Atlanta. This church in Atlanta was able to evangelize with their family in Mexico, eventually baptizing and discipling them in Mexico.
The work God is doing through the Channel Network continues. Multiple streams and generations of churches have been started, expanding into four to five streams of churches, reaching as deep as four generations, with about twenty groups emerging. At least eleven people groups and eight languages are represented, plus various socioeconomic segments of society, from young professionals to new immigrants and marginalized communities.
Dori Yuen is the Executive Director of Channel Network and currently serves as a City Missionary in North America. As a former church planter of Channel Church, she is presently soliciting partners with a passion for starting churches and training disciple-makers in their communities. She is also a strong advocate for overseas missions and leads teams to India, Lebanon, Mexico, Uganda, and South America.