Friday, November 23, 2012

An Organizational Leader Wrestles with the New Movemental Leadership Role

The following email was sent out from David Wittenberg who leads the Innovation Workgroup, a consulting firm. As you can imagine my view of leadership and his have different viewpoints and it is quite refreshing to see him wrestle with movemental leadership ideas in an honest and transparent manner. Thought you all might find this helpful...

Here's a link to a short article by Neil Cole. As you know, I'm a big fan of Neil's. He promotes disciple-making and church multiplication more than convert-making and congregation growth.

In this piece, he contrasts movement-based leadership -- a growing trend in the church -- with organization-based leadership -- the current model in most churches. As a business person and a self-styled visionary leader, I felt like arguing with Neil on a few of his recommendations. He wants leaders to empower their followers to develop many, individual visions, whereas I prefer leaders to develop and promote a single vision for an organization. He wants to move away from strategic (controlling) leadership whose goal is to direct the organization toward a predetermined outcome, and replace it with process (order-imposing) leadership that leaves the outcome undefined. I prefer the strategic view for both business and personal reasons (according to the MBTI system, I'm type ENTJ, the "field marshal").

As I reflected on my objections, I was reminded of our model leader. Jesus started a movement, not an organization. While he set an overarching objective for the church -- to make disciples -- he did not communicate a unique vision of church life, nor did he impose on us a list of objectives for the various jobs and functions inside the church. Rather, he left each of us to seek and find our own vision with regard to our place in the body and our ministry. Instead of a church-building strategy with well-defined benchmarks or outcomes, Jesus focused more on the people and the process. Upon reflection, I had to accept, grudgingly, that Neil was on to something with his recommendations.

I'm sure that God has a role in his church for visionaries and strategists like me. I'm sure that he loves to use large congregations and controlling managers, as well. Neil Cole, in this piece, mentions that his new book on Church Transfusion is meant to add movement-style leadership within the context of the current structure, not to replace the current structure. This comment makes his views a bit easier for me to accept and appreciate.

I hope that you will take a couple of minutes to review the article and that it will be useful to you. As always, your comments are most welcome.

Here's the URL:

Love and blessings,

David Wittenberg
The Innovation Workgroup

Below I am including the graphic from the article mentioned that contrasts the old command and control view of leadership with the new movmental...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Foolishness Gets People Killed in Benghazi

Let me see if I understand this...

According to internal State Department emails obtained by the LA Times on April 6, 2012 Libyan security guards assigned to protect the US compound in Benghazi attempted to detonate a bomb in said compound.

The ambassador requested US security forces and was denied by Washington who said that they were to rely on Libyan security forces for protection...the same type that attempted to blow up the compound? Those who attempted the bombing were released within a week by law "enforcement" officials, but the security guard that fired a warning round in the air to stop them was prosecuted. All this happened before the September 11 attack that killed 4 Americans.

My question: What on earth would lead the administration to believe that we could trust Libyan security forces to protect our people over there after all this information?

On September 11th a military strike by Libyans was launched against our compound there killing four Americans including our ambassador J Christopher Stevens.

We have photographic evidence of who led the attack against the US Benghazi compound but we are prevented from doing anything about it and the Libyan officials have not issued any sort of arrest warrant or anything close. Our own investigators were not allowed to enter the compound until three weeks after the attack well after all evidence has gone cold.

I repeat: what on earth would lead the administration to believe that we could trust Libyan security forces to protect our people? This is foolishness and in this case it got people killed.

Source: "Libya IDs leader of attack" LA Times Thur October 18, 2012 p. A9

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A New Name & Logo Isn't Enough, The Church Needs a Transfusion

Five men sat around a table talking late into the night about the name of our church. Would we remain Grace Brethren Church or become Grace Fellowship? It isn’t that big of a difference now as I look back, but in the moment it seemed so important. 

This was in the mid-1990s in a suburb outside the Los Angeles area. The five consisted of three young men in their early thirties, including myself, and two middle-aged men that were actually fathers of the other two younger guys. I remember we had heated discussions on our elder board. I was the pastor of this more established congregational church, and I wanted to bring change. We were thinking that if we changed our name, got a fresh logo, and cast a bigger vision, the church would become healthier and more attractive and would grow. We wanted a new identity in the community. One elder opposed this thought, but we wouldn’t let him stop us. We pushed this new vision through, and the elder later excused himself from our leadership team and the church, but we got what we wanted. We changed the name, the logo, the vision—but not the church.

Years later, I have a different view of what brings change to a church. My new view is born from much more experience and admittedly many mistakes. I don’t think an established church needs a transition to be healthy and vital. What is truly needed is more than a transition; it needs a transfusion of healthy DNA found in the blood of Jesus and nothing less. 

Someone once described changing a church’s name, structure, or programs to fix the problems it faces as much like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic—futile and meaning- less in altering the outcome. 

Church is not an organization or an institution but an organism, a living body. An organization can transition. An organism grows, matures, reproduces, and dies. The thought that we can fix a church by hiring a new staff member or plugging in a new program is ridiculous. Simply changing direction with clever goals and a capital giving campaign is not going to transform a congregation but merely send the same ailing church down a new path. 

To learn how an established church can receive a transfuion of organic life check out our latest book Church Transfusion

Friday, October 5, 2012

Old vs New Leadership: A Study in Contrast

Someone wisely pointed out that our organizations are perfectly designed for the results that we are currently seeing. More of the same will only produce more of the same.

Today there is something new happening. With the advance of technology making the world flatter and mass communication easier we are rediscovering movements. Bestselling authors are pointing us to a more movemental paradigm of how to lead. The Tipping Point (Gladwell), The Starfish and the Spider (Brafman/Beckstrom) and Tribes (Godin) point us toward a new way of leading as well as organizational principles that defy the status quo and break open new ways that are actually quite ancient. Jesus and Paul both catalyzed this sort of movemental influence in the first century. My own books Organic Church (Jesus) and Journeys (Paul) describe how these masterful leaders ignited movements. I address many the specifics of movements by answering the most common questions I get asked in my book Church 3.0

In our new book Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I go to great lengths to adjust the leadership paradigm in order to release healthy movemental influence within an established church context. 

A few things are obvious. You cannot lead the way you have always done so in the past and expect different results. What brought success in the old form of influence will actually bring failure in the new. Drawing a crowd and dispersing a people movement are exactly the opposite sort of task. You can suck water in a straw or you can blow air out, but you can't do both at the same time. You cannot continue pursuing what once made you a success in the old way of influence and expect to be successful in the new.

The way you attract people, train them and organize them all must change. The old standard of what is success must be replaced.

In this spirit I have compiled a chart contrasting the old and the new ways of influence:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Church Transfusion Process: An Overview

Throughout the second part of our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I elaborate on the things we find necessary to bring organic transfusion to a church. Below is simply a general overall process for you to think through. This is not a formal five-step plan. It is simply a bird’s-eye view of the process of transfusion. To bring transfusion to a church body, we suggest that you follow this simple progressive pattern.

1. See it. Change agents and innovators must see the potential of a transfused church. They must understand and envision an organic body functioning in complete connection with the Head. If we cannot re-imagine what can be we will just tolerate what is.

2. Want it. If there is going to be a contagion of health within the body, then those who would spread the healthy DNA must want it badly enough to endure the process necessary to bring complete change to a congregation. It must be birthed first as a passion in the leader’s own heart before it becomes transfusion in the leader’s church.

3. Pray for it. The passion for this change needs to be such that it often becomes the subject of your prayers. “Prayer,” as someone once said, “is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” If you want it badly enough, you will pray for it passionately. If you find you haven’t been praying for it, perhaps that means you don’t really want it badly enough yet.

4. Pay for it. There is a cost to change, and not to tell you this up front would be misleading. If a fully functioning body, with each part connected to the Head and reaching out into the world with the transformative gospel, is indeed worthwhile, you will pay the price necessary to see it happen. People who are comfortable with the way things have been will resist the changes. Doing church organically may mean less financial security for leadership. Leaders who have developed a reputation for their expertise may find that the new changes mean that their importance is lessened as they must become equippers of others rather than specialized leaders on which the church depends. These are but a few of the costs that some will have to face. Count the cost up front, which is what Jesus taught; then if it is worth it, pay for it.

5. Do it. Make it happen. It will come about in phases, not all at once. It will start small and slow, but if things are done right, it will increase in speed and breadth of transformation over time. You must first live as a connected member of Christ’s body before you can ask others to do the same. Personal transformation precedes community transformation. Live it out yourself first.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Way to Live is to Die

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right. Unfortunately this is often is at odds with the Church as well. In these blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. This is the sixth and final one: The way to live is to die.

In God’s kingdom resurrection is meant to be the way to life. In church transfusion we must die to our old ways if we hope to exist in new resurrected ways. This truth is universal and applies to us as individuals and to us as a collective—the church. All change begins with a death. A church that is unwilling to risk death is simply unwilling to live by faith in Christ. Resurrection power is available only to the person or church that is willing to die.

Jesus went on to say, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39b).

Why is death to self so important? Consider this: without death, you cannot have a resurrection. Without death, there would not be any gospel or salvation or even life itself. Perhaps it is time that we embrace a theology of death.

This is what a theology of death looks like:

Die daily to who we are and what we want.
Empowering others, not self, is our life.
Accept risk as normative.
Theology is not just knowledge but practice.
Hold tight to Christ and loosely to everything else.

Unless we are willing to die, we will not live. It is that simple. Death is the path to life. Conversely, holding on to life appears to be the path to death. We are to die to self because it is the only way we can live for Jesus. We can only have one master. Either we will live for ourselves or we will live for Jesus. This is why we must put ourselves to death every day.

Our cultural mind-set in the West places the individual first and foremost. We read verses that use the second person plural and apply them to ourselves as individuals when in fact they are addressed to a community as a whole rather than to us alone.

There are many cultures, however, that do not see the world that way. They immediately regard life as a community first and an individual second.

The words of Jesus having to do with death are most commonly applied to the individual disciple. And granted, the verse should be applied in this way. We have found, though, that the truth in His words is universal and applies to any organization made up of disciples, such as a church.

Death is no longer our enemy, for there is no sting in death anymore. When we place our faith in our own efforts to maintain the life of the church, we have already passed into a place of dying. We of all people should be ready to embrace death as if our life depended on it—because it does. Jesus said, “Whoever clings to his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake gains it.” We follow Jesus to the cross or we do not follow Him at all.

All church transfusion begins with the concept of death. The churches that are more ready to die are the healthier churches. In most churches and ministries of the West, leadership is focused on self- preservation and keeping things going. Decisions are based on how the outcome will help the church continue. Those who are in self-preservation mode are dead already; they just don’t know it yet. As our friend Lance Ford once said, “You need more than buy-in to change a church; you need die-in.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Way to Be First is to Be Last.

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right. Unfortunately this is often is at odds with the Church as well. In these blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. This is the fifth: The way to be first is to be last.

It is the American way to push and pull yourself to the top of the ladder. We have annual articles in our Christian magazines ranking our successes as the fastest growing churches or the largest churches. We even occasionally have lists of the fifty most influential people.

Jesus was never impressed with these things. He clearly says that the way to be first is to become the last. Most of the church growth occurring in America is merely transfer growth at the expense of other churches. The current mood of Christendom is that of competition, where each church is striving to grow with little to no regard for the church that is losing its members to the growing church.

Jesus did not come to gain permission and empowerment but to give it away. He said, “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Those who would follow Christ must follow His example.

Empowerment is not just for leaders; it is also for congregations. Imagine what would happen if the Brethren church in your town were more concerned with the success of the Baptist church. What would happen to the spiritual climate of a city if the local Presbyterian church were praying for the success of the Pentecostal church and vice versa? I cannot help but believe that if the churches that make up the body of Christ, the one body of Christ, were to empower and lift up one another rather than attempt to ride each other’s failure into their own success, a whole town or city would be transformed. The gospel would not just be preached but demonstrated in power. This can happen when a congregation is willing to take up its cross and die. Perhaps your church should lead the way.

In church transfusion, the leadership needs not to pursue being above others but to lift others up. In fact, if a church were more concerned with the success of the church around the corner than its own success, we firmly believe that God would honor such a church with fruitfulness. Test us on this; we dare you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Way to Becoming Rich is to Give Everything Away

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right. Unfortunately this is often is at odds with the Church as well. In these blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. This is the fourth: The way to becoming rich is to give everything away.

The more you cling to, the less you will have. Greed is not the way to have plenty in God’s kingdom. The more generous one is, the more true riches one will have. One who has nothing to lose is a dangerous person.

In a world divided only by those who feel entitled to their wealth and those who feel entitled for their fair share of the other person's wealth, the church is meant to stand as a model of love and generosity. Unfortunately, we have not fulfilled that role very often, but instead have become greedy rather than generous. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” When a church starts to accumulate things and hold on to them as prizes worth defending or preserving, they will quickly find that their affection and provision is not found in Christ but in the maintenance and management of possessions and property.

So much greed, selfishness, and stinginess in the kingdom of God is excused under the banner of “good stewardship.” We believe that the tighter you hold on to Christ, the looser your grip on other things will be. There is an absolute and direct corollary between these two opposites. The harder you cling to things, the less you are holding on to Christ. If you find that as a church you have a difficult time giving away the use of facilities or equipment, perhaps that means you are not holding on to Christ with enough faith.

We know of a senior pastor of a church in our area who, after refurbishing the facilities with fresh paint and new carpet, stood before the congregation with a cup of coffee. To the shock and sighs of the congregation, he then intentionally poured its con- tents directly onto the new carpet, creating a dark puddle and a permanent stain. He said to the church that the carpet can go to hell but he didn’t want the kids in the neighborhood to have to. The people outside the walls are far more important than the carpet inside of them. They left the stain as a permanent reminder that the mission is not in the building, but outside in the streets. We must not let our grasp of material things keep us from the mission we are actually called to and then excuse it under the banner of being good stewards.

We believe with all our hearts that a church that is overtly generous with all the resources it has been blessed with will always have enough to do whatever God has called it to. We also believe that greater resources come to the churches that are generous. A generous church is one that Jesus will want to increase and multiply. A greedy church is one that He will not want more of.

We would all agree that Jesus was a faithful steward, right? Well, I think we should take a second look at his financial practices. He had a band of followers who were responsible men for the most part. He even had a professional bookkeeper-accountant who served as a tax collector on His team. When Christ chose someone to be responsible for the purse, He chose the only untrustworthy thief on the team. We do not believe that this was an accident or a blind spot on His part. The way Jesus views money and the way the church views money are two very different things.

Jesus never placed His faith in His financial balance; he placed it in His Father, and we should all do likewise. It is safe to assume that if God has blessed your congregation with some property, it is so that you can bless others, for that is His nature and way (Gen. 12: 1–3). It has been estimated that only 15 cents of every dollar received by a church is actually spent to benefit those outside its own membership.1 Of course, that 15 cents includes money spent on all mission work that is to reach people who will hopefully become members of the church, so the percentage that is intentionally spent on people never expected to darken the door of the church is even less.

We find that churches that allow multiple congregations to use their facilities are not as clean or ordered—but are far more beautiful. Those that do so without charge are the most beautiful, and both of us have aspired to that kind of generosity in ministry.

In church transfusion we have found over and over again that the church that holds loosely to all its assets and gives generously is the church that is healthy and is one that God would prefer to multiply.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Way to Be Strong is to Become Weak

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right and often is at odds with the Church as well. In these blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. This is the third: the way to be strong is to become weak.

Success can often become your greatest hindrance in a church. Does that sound strange? The spiritual truth is clear in the Scriptures: the stronger we are, the weaker we become spiritually. True spiritual strength comes in weakness. Success is sometimes a tool of the devil that spawns pride, self-sufficiency, and an inability to learn anything new. A person (or church) that acknowledges his/her weakness is more likely to turn to God for help. One who is self-sufficient is further from dependence on God for the fulfillment of needs. "Success" and all it entails creates a false sense of importance and masks our worst deficiencies.

Perhaps the worst part of this "success" scenario is the delusion. The pastor feels good about his or her popularity and thinks all must be well because so many people come to here his/her sermon each week. The people also feel good with the “success” and the fact that their felt needs are being met, so they too believe this must be right. Both parties are happy with this scenario; therefore, it must be good, and God must be pleased. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It is possible as a church to think you are doing well when in fact you are very sick and near death. Of the seven letters to churches that Jesus sent in Revelation 2–3, almost half of the churches suffered from a form of self-deception, two in a negative way and a third in a positive manner.

To the church of Sardis, Jesus dictated to John the apostle, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.”

To the church of Laodicea Jesus said, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Even in a positive way a church can think it is worse off than it really is. To the church of Smyrna He wrote, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich).’” Some churches that do not appear "successful" by the standards of the world feel inferior even when they are actually truly healthy and strong.

The worst part of self-deception is that by very definition, you do not think that you have a problem. Because you do not recognize the problem, whatever the illness is, you believe you are healthy and successful, and all the while you are evaluating and celebrating or perhaps bemoaning the wrong things. Because things that need correction go unaddressed, problems progress from bad to worse, and through it all everyone feels happy and content. If you knew you were deceived, you wouldn’t be deceived; that’s the sinister part of the problem. Most sane people do not leave their zipper down on purpose, but it happens and we are embarrassed when we realize it. Until then we are deluded into a false sense that all is fine...and it is not.

Jesus concludes each of His letters with the same admonition: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” If we are to have any hope of transfusion, we must have an ear that wants to hear the truth even if we do not like what the Spirit has to say. Our vision will be polluted if we simply rely on our own viewpoint to assess our health and success because we are part of the problem, not the solution. Only when we are brutally honest, repent (change our mind), and seek Jesus’ own viewpoint will we be able to see the truth.

In church transfusion it is harder to get a church that thinks it is strong to accept that it needs a transfusion. "Successful" churches often do not have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying. Jesus said, “It is not the well who need a physician but those who are sick.” Jesus also said, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Our greatest blessing in this upside-down kingdom is to start from weakness and poverty, not from a place of strength and success. It is the weak that confounds the strong.

Weak things are often the strongest in God's upside-down kingdom. Beware the wrath of the lamb.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Way to Go Fast is to Start Slow

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right and unfortunately often is at odds with the Church as well. In these blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. The second is that The way to go fast is to start slow. 

Exponential growth always starts slow. A large and fast start may be appealing for most church planters, but that actually negates the possibility that the work they are doing might ever become a spontaneously multiplying movement. All multiplication starts off slow and builds in momentum with each succeeding generation: 2 becomes 4; 4 becomes 8; 8 becomes 16; . . . There’s nothing impressive about these numbers at first, but by the fifteenth year, you have 32,768. By the twentieth year, you have passed a million and just keep on going. By the time you pass the thirty-fourth year, you have reached every person on the planet and have started reaching out to new solar systems.

According to David Garrison, author of the seminal book Church Planting Movements, one of the ten characteristics of a church planting movement is rapid reproduction. Because many people do not see reproduction occurring rapidly, they have taken issue with this assessment. Actually, if you are truly multiplying, rapid is the only way—eventually. All multiplication begins slow and small and builds toward rapid momentum over time. That is sound arithmetic, and you must respect both the slow and small start as well as the rapid exponential up-curve that eventually comes. That is how movements emerge. In a sense you must have both if it is to be an exponential movement—the slow, small start and the rapid exponential momentum later. Do not despise the day of small beginnings, but don’t stay there either.

In church transfusion you must respect the long, slow beginning that is a part of the multiplication process. If you bypass the slow beginning, you bypass multiplication. In Christendom we usually celebrate the fast start as truly successful, but then we are bypassing any real multiplication and will never break out into a true movement. Most church leaders grow impatient with the slow start of multiplication and feel that they are failing, so they instead opt for a fast addition approach. Once that decision is made, the future of the church is likely stuck in addition mode and will probably never produce real multiplication.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Way to Get Big is to Go Small

In our new book, Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I start by claiming that the true expression of Christ's kingdom should stand out as very different from all other religions. To demonstrate the radically different nature of God's kingdom we list 6 ways that the upside-down kingdom stands in contrast from the world's view of what is right and unfortunately often is at odds with the Church as well. In the next few blog posts I will list those six different paradigms of the upside-down Kingdom. The first is that the way to get big is to go small.

All multiplication movements begin small. Jesus described His kingdom as starting with the smallest seed known to man at the time–the mustard seed. All reproduction occurs on the cellular level. In essence, if the cells of your body are not healthy, your body is unhealthy. It doesn’t matter if you have a killer wardrobe, a face lift, and a winning smile on the outside if the cells that make up your body are ailing.

While most pastors are considering ways to get a bigger church, the key to true success is to go smaller. In the end, if you get the small things right, global impact will eventually come. When it comes to church transfusion, you must begin by planting health in the smallest unit of church life–the disciple in relation to other disciples. If you can’t multiply at that level, you will never multiply at any larger and more complicated level.

Most pastors, missionaries and church planters are in a hurry to grow big, but mistakenly pass over the small places where the life actually starts and transforms. "Do not despise the day of small beginnings." 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Encouraging Stories of Organic Church Around the World

We do an organic church training which we call Greenhouse. We have trained many trainers around the world. These days there is a training going on every week somewhere in the world, often more than one. 

In the best case scenario we send someone to a place to do the training. A church planter there takes hold of the idea and runs with it. A year later we return to give the same training again followed by a more advanced training for those who are doing the work. Within another year those who have done the work are given the material and become trainers. We do not need to return much after that as the trainers begin to train others in that nation. This has happened in many different parts of the world. 

Several of my books have been translated into multiple languages. Organic Church especially.

Here are a couple stories from the Russian translation of Organic Church and training coming out of the Ukraine and surrounding area:

A Baptist pastor in Armenia, wants to translate the book Organic Church. The Organic Church trainer in the Ukraine says that he found their website and started reading articles and got Organic Church from them. As a result of reading the book and the articles, he made a decision, after years of frustration, to stop trying to get people to come to the church and to start going to them. He has started nine new groups in 3 months. Some of the groups have as many as 15 people. They recently baptized ten people. 

Timmy goes on to write: 

"Another cool story began four years ago when Joel Ragins, an IMB missionary, purchased some Organic Church books from us. Right after he bought the books a visiting lecturer from Houston talked about organic church in Joel’s class at Kiev Theological Seminary. Joel mentioned he had the books and several guys bought them that day. Andre Rozodovsky is one guy who bought a book that day and as result he called me (my contact info is in the book). Andre and I are close to this day and he is a committed and fruitful brother. In the last month I met someone else who bought a book that day. His name is Sergei Sergienko.  He bought a book, but it sat on his shelf for over two years. About a year and a half ago he picked it up. He said it was God’s timing. He had become very frustrated with the deadness and lack of evangelism and discipleship in his church. After reading the book, he decided to take some steps to go into the harvest. He found a person of peace and began to affect an oikos (social web of relationships). There have now been ten people who have come to Christ and were then baptized. I have visited them twice in the past month. They became their own church and they are a really close spiritual family and are extremely eager to learn. I did the organic church seminar with them this past weekend and they were so excited. The husband of one woman (she had come to Christ herself in the past few months) repented as a result of some things that God spoke to him during the time together. It is really cool because Sergei would say that all of this came about because he read Organic Church.

 In general, it seems that many of the seeds we have planted over the past 6 years through our conferences, coaching, books, and website are really beginning to bear more fruit. It seems hardly a week goes by that I do not get a phone call or a letter from someone who wants to talk because they have been impacted by Organic Church and some of the other resources we have been able to provide. Thanks for your part in all of this.

Just wanted to encourage you with what continues to happen in this part of the world.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If church leaders only did one thing to receive the transfusion you talk about in your book, what would that be?

Death: to yourself as a leader, and for the church. Yikes, does that sound too harsh? Well, if it does that is only an indication of how far removed we actually are from the Gospel. You see death is the entry-level course of discipleship for all, not some upper division elective for the most committed. We are supposed to be a people for whom death has no sting, the fact that it is so feared and threatening to us and our institutions is a symptom of a very serious problem. We believe that a true transformation requires changing the very DNA of the church. Changing a person’s DNA is nothing shy of science fiction today...but so is resurrection.

We believe that death and resurrection are indeed needed in order to be born again with new DNA–as a disciple, leader or as a church (a family of disciples). Jesus clearly said that if we cling to our lives we will lose them and if we lose them for the Gospel’s sake we will gain them. We believe this applies to us as individuals and as ecclesia. When we fight for self-preservation we are already dying. When we are willing to die we have found real life. The churches that are willing to die are the most alive and the ones that are unwilling to die are dead already. We are to live by faith and I can think of no better way than to position yourself in such a way that if Jesus doesn’t step in and do what only He can than we would be dead and gone. That is faith. There is no more alive church than one willing to risk it all in faith that Jesus is real and His promise is sure.

There is much more in the book Church Transfusion on each of these ideas and several others. We also present real life examples of several churches, each very different, that have seen a transfusion of life and become fruitful. These are not just high tower theories but real life ideas with practical suggestions and examples.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What three pieces of advice would you give to pastors and congregations that are drawn to an organic church model?

  1. Don’t try to change a church corporately with a program. Implementation of real change must come from the heart of the disciples not the staff offices or a pulpit.
  2. Allow a new pilot project on the side to thrive with its own new culture. Then let that group of people have contagious influence over the rest of the church. Protect it from the people who will see it as a threat. 
  3. Start with planting the Good News of Christ’s DNA in a few disciples that will multiply and spread. Let the health of a few drive the change rather than a top-down approach that never really infiltrates the hearts of the disciples.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What’s the most crucial ingredient for an established congregation that wants a church Transfusion to become more organic?

The way you lead in a man-made, top-down organization and the way you catalyze the outward spread of influence in a movement are not only different but are actually polar opposites. Everything the leader has learned to date about how to succeed in the institution must be questioned, and replaced with a new sense of identity and practice.

We have devoted several chapters to how leadership needs to change. The leader must first die to him/herself because if the church ministry is about a dynamic and demanding personality it is doomed. The leader must not operate out of insecurity but find a sense of security in his/her identity in Christ. The leaders must not create a dependency upon themselves. And finally, they need to shift the way they lead to empowering and releasing rather than corralling and controlling. We have lots of helpful information on each of these subjects with a chapter on each because the way influence occurs in a missional movement releasing church is so different than in an attractional warehouse church.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What is at the heart of the organic church movement?

This is the easiest question of all because it is what we eat, drink and sleep with every single day in our movement. We have always declared that the heart of the organic church movement–indeed all of church–is what we call the DNA of the body of Christ. For us the DNA stands for Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission.

This DNA is not just key ingredients of a model of church it is the core of our life, just as true deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is in our own bodies. So at the very raw center of our movement is love. DNA is how we relate to God, one another and the world around us.

The DNA is the start of life, the code that leads that life and develops the body into what it is meant to be. A faulty DNA produces a mutated form of Christ's body. A right DNA produces a healthy and fertile body and reproduces after its own kind and grows all by itself. The whole DNA must be carried within every disciple in Christ's body–that is what a healthy church is.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why is the organic church movement still so important?

Christianity is still fraught with pollutants. What our founder meant to be a spiritual and organic movement spreading from life to life has instead been an centralized, hierarchical and self-promoting institution developed by men and for men. This has been the case for so long that we have confused the pollutant with the real thing. It is hard to know what is good and healthy and what is not after two thousand years of counterfeit expressions.

In recent days we have made great strides in realizing this and exposing the artificial ingredients that have infected Christ’s body, but we still have a long way to go. If we do not purify the people of God from the institutions of men that keep them encased in artificial mechanisms, than we will never be able to see transformation of neighborhoods and nations with the power of the Gospel. If we continue to declare our own mechanisms as God’s way we will not only be enslaved to a lesser form of spiritual life but we will greatly disappoint those in the world that look on.

I have been asked a series of important questions leading up to the release of our new book Church Transfusion.  I will post those questions with my answers in the following series. This was the first one.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Church Transfusion is Possible and Needed

I have always said that organic church is not a model of church but a mindset. Whether mega or micro, every church must relate organically or it is not truly the body of Christ.

The ugly truth is that churches of all models are struggling to be missional and need help. The help that we all need is not a better set of goals, a new program, logo or a hotter worship band. We need a transfusion of life in the cells of Christ’s body. We have been trained to believe that a cell group or a house church is the basic cell of Christ’s body, but I believe this is not helping us. I have found that a disciple in relation to another disciple is the true cell of Christ’s body. The basic unit of church life is a group of two or three. That is where we need to find the healthy DNA of Christ’s body. If it is not found in the disciples than the DNA is not in the church no matter what the core values or the messages from the pulpit say. Your church is only as healthy as the disciples in your church.

In our new book coming out in a month (Sep. 2012), Church Transfusion, Phil Helfer and I address how to release organic life into the disciples of established churches so that the church can experience a transfusion of healthy DNA.

This book describes five different churches that have experienced such a transfusion. We purposely chose five very different churches to show that the organic transfusion process works in a broad spectrum of models. Two of the churches are over fifty years old. Some are new church plants. One is a mega church of several thousand. One is a Vineyard church, one is a Reformed Covenant Church and One is Southern Baptist. Some have become a network of small spiritual families meeting in homes. Some have a very traditional skin yet a very organic soul. One has become a transformative presence in the arts, business and culture of our world. All are making disciples and starting new works. Each has made a profound difference in their community and in other nations and have birthed other ministries and churches.

In our book there are two parts. The first part shows that change is possible with God and demonstrates what that change means and how it looks in a variety of churches. The second half of the book takes the reader through a very practical process of transfusion that relates to any model in any culture.

Both Phil and I will be at the Sentralized Conference in Kansas City this September speaking about Church Transfusion.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Is Bigger Really Better? The Statistics actually Say "No"!

There are millions of people in smaller congregations across the country who live with a feeling that they are failures because their church isn’t as big as the megaplex congregation down the street. This is sad and should not be the case.

A global survey conducted by Christian Schwartz found that smaller churches consistently scored higher than large churches in seven out of eight qualitative characteristics of a healthy church. A more recent study of churches in America, conducted by Ed Stetzer and Life Way Ministries, revealed that churches of two hundred or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of one thousand or more. The research seems to even indicate that the pattern continues—the smaller the size of the church the more fertile they are in planting churches.

It pains me that so many churches and leaders suffer from an inferiority complex when in fact they could very well be more healthy and fruitful than the big-box church down the street.

I am not suggesting that the mega church is something we need to end, I am simply saying that we need other kinds of churches to truly transform our world. I also do not want people in huge churches to think that just because they have more people and more money that they are more blessed by God. The stats tell us that ten smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one church of 1000.

Christian Schwarz says:

“The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.”

Schwarz found that the average growth rate in smaller churches was 13% (over five years), whereas in larger churches it was a mere 3%. A small church in the NCD sample with an average attendance of fifty-one typically converted thirty-two persons in five years; megachurches in the NCD sample averaged 2,856 in attendance but converted only 112 new persons in five years. The same number of persons participating in fifty-six small churches averaging fifty-one in attendance would have produced 1,792 converts in five years.

I know such extrapolations in some ways mean little. I also know that conversions is not the whole picture. My point is that we need to stop seeing smaller churches as less successful. The trend currently is seeing the closing down of smaller churches as larger ones increase in size and number and I think this could be an alarming trend given the actual facts when we measure true influence.

When I mention statistics like these I am often criticized as being a mega church hater, and that is not fair. I am not a hater. I am not a bride-basher because I love the groom too much.

It is hard for me to feel sorry for the mega churches when this information confronts them given that they are so often lifted up as the height of success–often at the expense of the smaller church around the corner. My advice: Get over it. I am not thrashing the mega church here, I am simply saying that smaller churches are necessary, needed, and often more fruitful than we have been led to believe. And they often feel less significant in the shadows of their much larger sister around the corner. Lets look at the truth and accept it for what it is and strive to do whatever it takes to make a difference in this world.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Can We afford to Leave the Work to the Mega Church?

I have seen a report of research to determine what it would take financially to reach the US. The report is broken down by cities listing the financial costs to reach particular cities for Christ using the traditional attractional model of church. The results are alarming. Just to reach one city alone would be astronomical and cost more than all Christian non-profit ministries receive in a single year combined.

For instance, The study shows that to reach Atlanta would cost over $63 billion. To reach New York City alone would cost more $418 Billion. Where would we expect such money to come from?

Giving USA
, a non-profit foundation that studies philanthropy in the United States, in its 2008 report found $103.32 billion went to houses of worship and denominational organizations in 2007. That entire amount could only reach the greater Washington DC area and would leave the rest of our country without any ministry at all. But of course, all our current churches and ministries would have to go out of business. This says nothing of missions to the rest of the world.

While a mega church can be missional it may not be the most wise use of resources to pursue the mission. If you want to compare the attractional mega church model against the micro model of church I think the cost alone makes it clear which is a more reasonable approach. I know that this type of content does not make my message very popular. I have tried to be fair and balanced but also share the unpopular truth. Unfortunately the ministries that end up costing the most often end up producing the least.

This is just not a good way to reach a city for Christ, let alone the world. There are better ways. We could reach the cities faster and for a fraction of the cost with a simpler approach to church. One of the sayings in our movement is: "It doesn't cost a dime to make a disciple, it only costs your life."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Grand-Parenting Movements

I believe that a mega church can be organic and missional...but not start multiplying spontaneously. Addition can certainly be possible for a healthy mega church and addition is far better than subtraction or division–which we all seem so gifted at. A mega church is far better at addition than the micro church, so if the choice is addition via mega church or not adding in a house church I would choose the mega church. But I would rather see multiplication than addition, which is far easier to find in the micro church than the mega church. This is the reason I am so invested in the micro church.

Some of my mega church friends may not like this fact, but it is hard to argue with. In our book Church Transfusion we write about how a mega church can grandparent movements by giving birth to a form of church that can radically reproduce. So in that sense a mega church can indeed be part of catalyzing movements, but they must reproduce something very different. This has a tendency to violate the culture of many mega churches, but is nevertheless possible. Perceived success can be the greatest hindrance to movement in mega church world. What merits success (numerical growth via attractional ministry) in mega church world works directly counter to a multiplication movement. Logos and egos are the enemies of real movements, but are often central to a mega church. If a mega church can realize this, and start a different kind of church, it can grandparent movements. That is a tall order, but I believe it is possible, and some are doing it.

All that said, the reality is that many house churches do not multiply spontaneously either. You see the issue is not a church problem but a disciple making problem. As long as we view church as something important for us rather than seeing ourselves as important for the world we will not reproduce, in a home or a cathedral.

Too many of us pragmatic Western Christian leaders want a practical solution that will ensure success. This drives us to adopt models and methods for what only faith can produce. E.M. Bounds once said, "Men are looking for better methods, God is looking for better men."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Micro Churches have the Edge on Multiplication

While any model of church can be missional, I do believe that some models are more effective in multiplying than others. In fact, I am convinced that this is not a debatable premise. I suspect that this is why many do not take issue with me when I talk about how micro churches can multiply spontaneously and mega churches cannot.

Now don't hear me (or quote me) wrong. A mega church can reproduce itself. All living things reproduce when they are healthy. But the rate of reproduction is far slower and produces fewer "offspring" and requires much more intentionality. For this reason they are unable to start a spontaneous multiplication movement of like churches.

There is a reason why David Garrison lists house churches as one of the universal qualities of all Church Planting Movements. It is virtually impossible to spontaneously multiply larger more complex organizations and catalyze a movement of such churches. I will list a few reasons why this is:
  1. The leadership required is too specialized/professional and too much of the ministry is dependent upon such leadership.
  2. The organization is too complex to spontaneously reproduce.
  3. The things that cause success for larger churches (attractional programs) work against releasing the people into the mission. Consumers do not quickly become producers. What you draw them with is what you draw them to.
  4. The method costs too much money to reproduce quickly.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Missional is not a Model but a Mindset Among God’s People

Let me just say up front that I do not think that the model of church is the issue...mega, micro or anything in between. The issue is not how we heard people into meetings (small or large), or even what we do at the meetings, but how we release healthy disciples into the world empowered by the Kingdom of God. That, in fact, is something meetings can never truly accomplish. It doesn't matter if there is a steeple or a chimney on the roof when we do meet, what matters is what's inside the people when they disperse into the world.

I have a new book coming out next month (Sep 2012) coauthored with my long-time ministry associate Phil Helfer called Church Transfusion, which is about releasing organic life into a more established church. In it we strongly state that organic church is not a model but a mindset. It is a way to relate to God, one another and the world with love. We call this the DNA of the body of Christ and we are convinced that it is a universal truth absolutely necessary for life in any church and all churches. The DNA is made up of Divine Truth (connecting with God), Nurturing Relationships (connecting with one another) and Apostolic Mission (connecting with those in the world). In essence, we believe that every church is organic or it is not a church, because all churches are living entities. All organic churches must share in the DNA to have any health and hope to reproduce naturally.

I have seen some mega churches that are very organic and missional and their influence is felt deep into the society in which it is planted. I have also seen micro churches spread and infect a society with a kingdom influence. In essence, your church is only as good as its disciples. The DNA is not something that can be planted with a sermon series, a curriculum or a program. The DNA is carried in the seed of God's voice and must come from within the disciples.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Can a Mega Church Be a Missional Church?

There are many people asking the question if a mega church can actually be a missional church. My friend Ed Stetzer just started a blog series on the subject.

In all the discussion people on every side have a tendency to take the issue personally. I understand this and want to weigh in as objectively as I can.

I have several friends who lead mega churches and I respect them and trust them. There are many in the micro church world that do not trust any leader in a large church, I am not one of them. There are abuses on both side of this aisle. There are very unhealthy mega churches and very unhealthy house churches. If I had to choose between being part of a dysfunctional mega church or a dysfunctional house church I would choose the mega church which would have more places to hide and perhaps be a little more entertaining while I wade into the mire. At the same time, a very unhealthy mega church affects, or should I say infects, more people so it may not be the best choice. I would prefer to not have to choose either. In the next few posts on this blog I will address this issue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Craving a Burger in Long Beach, CA?

My wife, Dana, mentioned she was craving a burger. A rare opportunity for a carnivore like me that lives with a frequent salad lover, so I offered her my thoughts on where we could go. Maybe some of you would appreciate my quick burger preferences:

Good burger places in Long Beach:

1. Lucilles (huge, but delicious, the Smokehouse burger has it all, but also a price worthy of such a claim)

2. Chilis (Homer drools and says, "Mmmm, extra thick bacon with brown sugar rub.")

3. Five Guys (they do one thing but do it well--fresh ingredients and a simple menu with a good price.)

4. In-n-out (see Five Guys for same description. Actually, I like Five Guys a little better but don't tell my fellow So Ca friends. Nevertheless, people from all over the world come here for Disneyland, and a Double-double...and that says a lot!)

5. Tommys (greasy and good, it shortens your life by a year w/every bite...and it's worth it!)

6. Carls Jr. (This one has burger variety if not quality, something for everyone's taste...just not that much taste.)

7. McDonalds (everyone knows what you get here, but actually their angus chipotle burger is real good. No, really!)

8. Claim Jumper (the Widow-maker is so big I have never finished one. It's name says it all, but the price will leave your widow on welfare).

Note: This blog post was unsolicited and the blogger received no freebies or payment in any form for it...but he is poor, hungry and definitely open to it if you want to send him some. \;o},

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ingredients of a Good Catalyst for Movements #6: A Strategic Pathway

A Good Catalyst Follows Strategic Relational Pathways.

In Organic Church I spelled out the idea that each of us are connected to people who are connected to others.[i] In fact, as you have probably heard before, we are all only six degrees separated from any person on the planet. In other words, between you and any other person on the planet—a gondolier in Venice, a Pygmy in the Congo or the Prime Minister of England—are five or fewer intermediaries. This concept can open your mind to the powerful idea that each of us is connected to everybody and capable of reaching thousands or even millions by reaching just one.

This powerful truth is amazing, but in actuality what makes it all work is not everybody, but what Malcom Gladwell calls “the law of the few.” He breaks these few into three types: the connectors, the Mavens and the sales people. The real reason for such a phenomenon is that some people are extraordinarily connected so they make up for the rest of us.

I have a friend that I mention often in almost all my books because she is a mentor and powerful woman in God’s kingdom. Her name is Carol Davis. You probably either know her, or someone you highly respect does. I am only partly exaggerating. Carol has never written a book, though I always encourage her to get her ideas down. She does not have a doctoral degree or a position in some large organization. She is not wealthy or politically powerful. What Carol does have is a keen understanding of people and God’s kingdom. Her wisdom is valued by many people. In fact, you can’t find her name on the cover of any books, but you will often read it in the acknowledgements of books by dozens of well-known authors. Carol’s most incredible gift is she knows people, naturally assesses their unique qualities and likes to connect them…and she knows a lot of people.

We often joke that every person on the planet is separated by six degrees, unless you know Carol—then its only two. God has created and placed these key people in the world for a purpose higher than selling products. Carol is what Godin would call a “powerful sneezer.”[ii] He teaches that viruses spread because people sneeze, and he likens the key people in an ideavirus movement as “sneezers.” There are two he describes “the promiscuous sneezer” who likes to sell anything and everything. But it is “the powerful sneezer,” someone like Carol, that really propels a true movement.

Powerful sneezers will not just sell anything. They have very particular taste based upon a deep and highly respected knowledge. They are very careful with their recommendations because they know they have a reputation. They highly value all their friends and would never want to recommend something that is not helpful. When they do find something that they value and they start telling others about it, their wide range of important friends will buy it, because it comes from this respected sneezer. When you get the promiscuous sneezers also spreading the same idea than you have a movement. This is the pathway of a movement. If a few of these types start sneezing your idea, then a rapid movement will be released.

I always give Carol a free copy of my books. I do so because she is my friend (and she is probably mentioned somewhere in the book), but also because she is a “powerful sneezer.” With a couple of my books she has done more to generate interest than the entire marketing department of the publishers.[iii] With others of my books she was grateful for the gift. Even friendship doesn’t guarantee influence, and that is why I will buy any book she tells me to get.I respect her does at least half of the known world!

Movements do not spread via advertising or clever marketing. In the end a movement is the result of people connecting to other people. The gospel flies best on the wings of relationship. It always has and always will.

[i] The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell, pp. 159-169
[ii] Unleashing the Idea Virus, Seth Godin, pp. 49-51
[iii] Cultivating a Life for God and Organic Church have been spread everywhere by my friend Carol. My other books have not had the same connection with her…yet.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ingredients of a Good Catalyst for Movements #5: A Sticky Potential

A Good Catalyst Has “Sticky” Potential.

In the breakthrough book TheTipping Point, Malcom Gladwell introduced an idea that was so descriptive and helpful that it “stuck” with us. He called it the “Stickiness Factor”. His terminology became sticky itself. There are more and more books using the language. Larry Osbourne has a book called Sticky Church, and I have referenced the Heath Brothers book Made to Stick; each is influenced by Gladwell’s sticky terminology.

The stickiness factor has to do with the memorable quality of the idea, product or method that is spread in a movement. When the idea is so intriguing that it sticks with people—they can’t forget about it—a movement can happen. This is, pardon the pun, the glue that makes a movement come together. If the idea itself is not such that people want to tell others about it, then you cannot start a movement. You can sell products, ideas and even ministries with advertising and mass media promotion, but that is not a movement. In order to ignite a true movement, the idea itself must spread from one person to another and only sticky ideas can do that.

Chip and Dan Heath’s book on this very subject called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and OthersDie pays due homage to Gladwell for applying the word “sticky” in this way. They go on to examine all the traits necessary to make an idea stick; some of them (simplicity, surprise, importance) are already included in my own six characteristics of apostolic genius, but they also add three others that I think are worth mentioning.

  1. Concreteness: an idea can be solid to people when we make it clear, using concrete images that relate to life experience, so that it is understood and believed in instantly.
  2. Emotions: people must feel something for the idea or it will not land very deep in their memories.
  3. Stories: people remember stories, not facts.

The reality is you do not need an assessment tool to discover whether something is sticky or not. All you have to do is examine the way you feel about it. If it doesn’t stick to you it probably won’t stick to someone else. That said there are some things that are sticky only to certain tribes of people. But if you’re the one motivated enough to create something in a specific field and it doesn’t stick with you it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Of course the ultimate test of an idea’s stickiness is its spread or lack thereof. It really is easy to find out if it is sticky or not; just hand it off and see what happens.

Within Church Multiplication Associates’ history we have invented many viral methods and ideas. We found that the ones that were truly sticky we did not need to publish or produce in any formal manner. They were passed along verbally (usually diagramed on a napkin). In fact, we will not even publish an idea until we have seen it already going viral first. When we do see something truly sticky that is spreading on its own, then we will begin to think of ways to publish it and accelerate the process.

The movie Pay It Forward is a good story of a sticky idea that spawns a movement. It is the story of a middle school boy who is challenged by his sociology teacher to come up with an idea that can change the world. He does. His idea is called paying it forward. It works using all the basic movement principles listed here. One person helps someone else, but it has to be something important. Then the one helped, instead of paying it back, pay’s it forward by doing something really big for three other people. Those three in turn pay it forward to three others as well, and a movement is catalyzed by a simple, memorable idea that is a significant idea spread in small packages using natural pathways. The important thing that makes the idea viral is that you have to do something really big for the other people, something they couldn’t do for themselves. That is what makes the idea ‘sticky.” If it were just a little thing, like helping a lady across the street or holding the door open for someone else, it would be acknowledged and then quickly forgotten—it wouldn’t be sticky. 

Having a sticky church is not enough to ignite a movement. Even if the church is healthy and enjoyable enough that people want to tell their friends about it all they can do is bring their friends to the church. Stickiness alone is not enough; the church must also have the other attributes mentioned in these blog posts if you want to release a movement. That said, it is a good thing if your church is so good people can’t help but tell their friends.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ingredients of a Good Catalyst for Movements #4: A Significant Principle

A Good Catalyst is Significant.

It is certainly not enough to have a simple process packaged in a surprising and small way, if indeed what you are passing on is of little to no value. After you have fiercely scrutinized your ideas to the core, if that core is potent than you have a significant principle.

From my point of view, what we are spreading must be important although importance is given less value in the increasing literature on viral marketing. Some write about the spread of Hush Puppy shoes popularity,[i] or an innovative vegetable peeler,[ii] but those are fads, not a movement. A movement does more than change your footwear; it moves you to do something or be something. It asks more of you than to just buy a product, but to buy in to an idea. It lasts longer than a fad and it leaves behind a lasting mark on society. This can be a good mark or a bad one. The Nazi Youth movement in Germany was not a good thing, but it was a movement that left a mark on history.

The difference between a fad and a movement is in the way it changes people and leaves a mark on the world. A fad, like a Hula Hoop, simply comes and then goes away. Today it is seen in nostalgic footage edited to reminisce about the good old days. Yes, you can still find a Hula Hoop in some places, but you are not likely to see a commercial for it today because so few are interested in buying one—the fad is over. “Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.”

If you drop a stone the size of your palm into a small, calm pond you will see the water ripple outward until they stop at the shore. Within a few minutes all the energy is absorbed and the reaction is gone…the pond is unchanged. That is like a fad. If you drop a tablet of Chlorine the same size and weight of the stone, you will also see the same ripples come and go, but there will also be a chemical chain reaction that will cleanse the water over the hours. That is what a movement is like; it creates a chain reaction that changes things.

Many ask me if the organic church movement is just a fad. It is my belief that if we see lives transformed than it will not be a fad. If we just see Christians meeting in homes and doing the same thing they previously did in church buildings—or more significantly still not doing the things they didn’t do before—than we will be a short-lived fad. The key is: do we change lives? Are people so moved and changed that they cannot go back to the old way? Ultimately, it is not the missiologists, theologians or even the statisticians that determine whether or not you are a movement…it is the historians of the future. Simply doing church in a home rather than a cathedral is not enough of a significant principle to incite a movement, only a fad. Hopefully we are passing on transformative ideas and methods that will birth a movement and not just a fad.

While there are plenty of good ideas in the kingdom of God, I have personally found that the most transformative has always been the Scripture itself. How could we miss that? When we devise a simple process that involves a small group that lets the Word of God speak for itself, then it is something that not only can spread, but is worthy of spreading. I have found, working on these things for two decades now, that this is not hard to do at all. The Scriptures are given to spread. We simply need to place our faith in them rather than in our own ideas. Later on this blog I will present a couple examples of how the Scriptures can be the significant principle that speaks for itself as a catalyst.

The truth is if we have the truth, we have the most significant principle of all. As I pointed out in my earlier work, Organic Church, Sir Walter Moberly, a non-Christian educator, once said to us as Christians: “If one tenth of what you believe is true, you ought to be ten times more excited than you are.”[iii] We should ask why we are not seeing more movements. I suppose the answer would be that we are not letting out the most significant part of our faith—God’s revealed word!

[i] Gladwell, The Tipping Point, pp. 3-5
[iii] Cole, Organic Church, p. xxviii, quote is from Sir Walter Moberly in his work Crisis in the University