Friday, April 28, 2006

"Take Your Church from 50 to 500 in No Time!"

So I have a mentor who's been priceless in this weird ministry journey I'm on. He's smart, in love with God, has a heart for people, & a killer skill set. Given all these "props" I'm sending his way, you might be as surprised as I was by my mixed reaction to a recent email he sent me. It went like this ...

... In regards to your church, I see options ... one of which is for us to put a campus pastor at your church and add the resources and leadership to take it from 50 to 500 in no time, reaching tons for Christ ... I can easily see this working ... on Easter we had 1015 people at that off-campus launch we started with 125 people just eighteen months ago ... Of course, the best part of that growth isn't the numbers, but the hundreds of changed lives that are behind them ... I could see that happening there too!

Wow... add the resources and leadership to take it from 50 to 500 in no time.

For the rest of that evening, I couldn't shake the violent whitewater in my head that churned between the appeal of rapid growth, creating a powerful new ministry presence in Montgomery, IL and something else that was whispering things like, What about the community that's here? Do they have a future or are they expendable? Other voices spoke too. Growth is good. If they can't catch the vision, that's their problem! ... But what kind of church would we end up being if this megachurch takes over? Is that who God is calling us to become? Did I mention that I almost candidated for a pastoral position at that off-campus site he mentioned? Yah. Lot's of weird reactions & feelings cranking in my meager mind as all this percolated.

Then I began to realize that we're not just growing ministries or programs or even transformed individuals here at Park Place Baptist Church. We're growing a whole new culture... a new way of doing life. So, can new cultures be created by big resources & takeover formulas? (Uuuh... how well is that plan working in Iraq? Yeeaaaah...) I wonder if 50 to 500 would do little more than suck hundreds of dissatisfied Christians from their existing churches & maybe bring a well-packaged gospel to middle-class, caucasion, consumeristic people who "like what they see." Maybe I'm way off-base on that. I'm just making generalizations based on the other two megachurches I've run with for a combined total of around 20 years.

In all fairness, my friend had other ideas too ... even some wonderful ones! But I'm still reeling from the notion: 50 to 500 ... no time flat! Why am I reacting so strongly against those words? And if we're building something different in the "Emergent Church" then what is it? Are we repackaging the same old glitz & glamor in alternative music & artsy symbols carried by college students in shredded jeans who donate more money to Bono's One Campaign in a month than they do to their local church in an entire year? I wonder if anyone else thinks like me on this. These thoughts have helped me feel thoroughly stuck between Modernity & Postmodernity... between church-growth-formulas & emergent-incense-induced-headaches ... Is that all there is? If so... then how lame are we?

If we're not going to just be about numbers anymore ... then what are going to be we about? Ecumenical social justice? That's not new ... that's liberation theology! So what is our emphasis? Does it flow out of Christ's mission? Does it honor His priorities?

3 comments:

Ordinary Radical said...

Yo bro.

I like focusing on the kingdom of God. That can encompass many things, I know, but nevertheless it seems to be at the heart of the postmodern generation. I think young people want to be actively invloved with their community and socail issues to bring about the Gospel on the "ground floor". I feel we wouldnt have young evangelicals donating to ONE was much as the church if the church actually got involved more proactively, more persistently in social issues.

Like Mother Teresa lived, you reach peoples felt needs and proclaim the Gospel throught hat. Its not liberation theology...because you still need to accept Jesus as Lord. (Acts 2:14).

Just rambling now...Ok. Bye now.

John Lynch said...

I hear ya, brother; but I'm not convinced. It seems more to me that what we're seeing is "liberation-lite" among young Christians today. Liberation theology is all about the "kingdom of God"... of course, those folks believe it is up to the Church to establish the kingdom of God on earth - even through force if necessary! So we're not liberation purists... maybe more Anabaptist, except that we don't like persecution. Hmmm... not modern, not puritan, not liberationist, not dispensational... so what are we? Maybe we're just weinees!

Not you, G. You're laying it all on the line to bring the gospel to those in need. But many of us are. We're weinees who like to complain about how bad the church is but aren't willing to produce dramatic, biblical change. Yeah... we'll do liturgy, light candles, & follow Bono's "Yahweh" in our worship service with a Latin Taize chant. But that seems little more than an interactive, spiritualized coffeeshop to me. Maybe that's why coffeshops are all the rage right now! They're just like our coffeeshop churches - only the coffee's better!

What is the kingdom of God? Perhaps that's where Postmodernity is going so astray. Emergers are working to build something kingdom-like without really understanding what the kingdom's all about? As I understand it, in addition to Lordship & justice... the kingdom of God is really all about family life. Divine family woven in the fabric of divine love functioning with purpose and divine meaning.

For me personally, I don't need another "Holy Grounds" cafe or even a "Cheers" experience (as much as it's used in sermons). I need family. Family who will love & laugh & bleed & suffer & build & celebrate with me. That can't be created in a worship service & it can't be created through social justice campaigns (not that I'm opposed to either).

Ordinary Radical said...

Cool observations John.

I think we are in a phase of postmodernism. Right now, there seems to be heavy reaction against the moderns and their (and I state this very broadly) lack of social concern. Personally, i see at all over the Baby Boomers generation and the postmodern generation sees this and says...but wait...Jesus seemed to be very concerned with the socially marginalized. So, they rebel.

Once the "rebellion" is over and they are more focused and have more weight behind their convictions, I think things will progress in the right direction. Right now postmoderns have far less resources than moderns ($) and since it is a fairly new movement, they are all over the place with no home to speak of. Once the postmodern church is viable and sustainable I believe "deeper" Christianity will follow suit. Its a process, a process much like our own personal walk of sanctification.

Finally, I hesitated to use "deeper" Christianity in my previous paragraph. I do feel postmoderns are deep; at least the ones I personally know. They do need community, they are active in missions, and do hold to essential doctrine. They are YOUNG though, babes in Christ, therefore we need to bare with them. Having said that, I do feel that their social concern is paramount and crucial. I feel the kingdom of God on earth was Jesus. Jesus stood for many things. One of those things was loving your neighbor. Postmoderns exercise this commandment by helping the "least of these".