Note to Church Planters–Speed Kills.

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

The American church planting myth is that if you get a cool band together, preach relevant sermons laced with pop culture references and meet in an odd place like a bar then people will flock to your church.  The myth teaches that in a matter of months, you will have a mega church, a book deal and maybe even…gasp…a short piece on you by a secular media outlet!

I fell prey to that myth.  Revolution Church launched with no fanfare (we were too cool for “marketing”) but grew steadily to over a hundred people a week in a small town in only a matter of months.  I was dumb enough to believe that if we just did church differently then people would show up, which would force the hand of the Holy Spirit, and our folks would make the ancient Christian martyrs look like Joel Osteen!  We would storm the streets of Portsmouth and glory and honor would…well…eventually make its way to God!

I now see how foolish that was and really wish I could hit alt/control/delete or find a DeLorean with a flux capacitor to begin again (note that near effortless ’80’s pop culture reference…not many can pull that off!). 

Back in the day, when I was a political hack, I remember watching the documentary The War Room about how eccentric strategist James Carville and his bunch led Bill Clinton into the White House.  A sign hung prominently in campaign headquarters reading, “Speed Kills!”  The campaign heads wanted to remind the staff that to take a breath and reflect on any given task before jumping right in because in politics the slightest gaffe could wreck the entire enterprise.

I have come to believe that speed kills church plants as well. 

Christian Schwartz lists eight qualities of healthy churches in his book Natural Church Development and one of them is “empowering leadership.”  Schwartz argues that healthy churches focus on helping the laity identify their gifts and empower them to put them to work for the Kingdom of God–this is a difficult task.  Yet, it is a manageable one with twenty or thirty members of a core group.  It is a very, very difficult task for bi-vocational pastors to pull off with more than one hundred and fifty in attendance.  .

If I could do it all over again, I would spend my time identifying the spiritual gifts of Revolution’s core members, training them and letting them loose on the darkness that has enveloped our little city of Portsmouth.

Revolution’s leadership is attempting to do this now but, as we are already twice the size of an average American church, it is a little like holding a comet by the tail.  We hope and pray that God will forgive us our rashness and help us to empower others to ministry. 

In a few months, we will pay for three of our members to begin CCEF’s Biblical counseling training and help three others prepare for ministering to the drug addicts who haunt the East End of Portsmouth before they move in to the area in our attempt to “re-neighbor” the worst few blocks within a hundred miles.  We hope that God will bless us our efforts to slowly build a critical mass of well-trained disciples that reach the tipping point of reclaiming our hometown for Christ and to His honor and glory. 

If potential church planters are reading this, stop thinking about music and crowds and start praying about empowering your people to ministry.  Create a system of healing, so that when hurting people enter your church they find a community of committed, empowered and wise disciples ready to help them.  Forget about the limelight and focus like a laser on how best to shine the light of Christ into the darkness. 

Pray, empower and remember…speed kills!

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