Continuing in my thoughts on church planting is this simple thought. I might even use the word adjure as a stronger form of request. DO NOT use another’s method for establishing a church. I made this mistake not once, not twice, but MANY times in my past ministry efforts. It’s easy to do. You walk into a Christian bookstore these days and you’ll find all sorts of helpful kits and curriculum designed to foster a new system of building a church. The premise is “It worked in this large/small area, it can work for YOU!” Of course the caveat is that each of these ‘systems’ state within their text that this will be ‘hard work’ and that you have to be committed to the task in order for it to succeed. What these experts do not realize is that by saying these things (which all sound good because if you’re serving Jesus you want to work hard right?) they have unknowingly built into their ‘system’ the idea of failure and this failure is what Satan uses to speak to the church ‘planter’ (I’m not even sure I like this term anymore) about his shortcomings. Ultimately, when this new ‘system’ doesn’t work (and it will NOT for many) it must be that you didn’t work hard enough, weren’t smart enough, and shouldn’t be doing this in the first place.
I purchased several of these ‘systems’. As a manager and someone who had seen and been a part of success in the business world, I wanted badly to emulate that on a spiritual level. My motive was right. I knew how to do it. I had done it before. I just needed to find a way to tap into the model that best fit my community and I was set. My own denomination’s church planting agency had flown many of us in for seminars on how to incorporate ideas such as the five fingered ‘FAITH’ acronym for winning the lost, how to set up a daycare in your church to attract families and later, how to use another acronym, LYNTYS, to basically do the same things. None of these were bad on the surface. In fact, good ideas could be gleaned from any of them. The problem was that the methods were another man’s. The ‘system’ might work for them but God has called you in your unique ability to establish something different. This idea is different from the business world where business practices can be modeled and a system transferred (with only slight adjustments) and if the individual has the acumen and work ethic, can expect some measure of success. This doesn’t work in the church world…Despite what some will tell you, it doesn’t.
Make no mistake, you CAN emulate another’s system. In the 90’s everyone wanted to model their discipleship methods after Rick Warren’s baseball diamond. Now, I can find multiple copies of his “Purpose Driven Church” on the used bookstore shelves for a buck or less. His method was amazingly good…for him. But you have to be unique! Which leads me to something I wrote earlier in this series. These methods are great and can be used with profit if you mine them for ideas and not for a system or method. But you cannot do this until you’ve wrestled with God’s call and his way of wanting to use you. Until you get a passion for your unique work in this grand plan of God’s, you will be a potential victim of the church planting industry. If you succumb, you may actually build a group, have some worldly successes, but in the end you will fail. I’m not saying you MIGHT fail. I’m saying you WILL fail. God wants to do something different in each of us. Sure there are standards in His Word but Paul’s method of establishing ‘churches’ was different from Peter’s and both were different than that of Thomas, John, Philip, Nathaniel, and the rest of the disciples who were dispersed to other parts of the World to spread the gospel. There’s nothing wrong with reviewing ideas, talking to mentors, and finding others who are doing the same thing to understand the joys and pitfalls you may find yourself in. But make the journey distinctly your own. Take time to read God’s Word over and over again. Keep a notebook, pray, and seek guidance and then, launch out with just you and your spouse (if you’re married) and then build something great for Jesus!