Still fresh from licking my wounds after closing down missio (interestingly the last few posts have been about church planting) I find myself actually open again to the idea of planting again someday. Mind you, I would never ever plant again the way we did it before. Not to discredit our work and those who’ve travailed with us – not a second was wasted nor regretted in my view. But this baby’s got some mileage and if I’m ever gonna do it again, the process has to be a lot more efficient, more streamlined and success has got to be guaranteed. Because failure is just WAY too costly, and I’m not alone in testifying to that. Failure’s great – it teaches you things – but yeah – you’re not smart if you like to make the same mistakes over and over again.
But if I ever were crazy enough to plant again there would be certain things that would have to be pre-established in order to guarantee at least stability and a successful launch. In my view – if there is any doubt that the church will grow, then the default will be failure. In other words if there’s any doubt – it’s not gonna work. It’s all the difference in the world between a half-court throw up and a slam-dunk. And here are the things that exemplify a “slam-dunk” in planting:
- Coming from a sending parent congregation. Caveat: The church has to be overflowing @ the seams with people. Sign of growth and movement. A “surplus” of people is an indication it’s time to plant. I understand the philosophy of “planting pregnant”. But you’ve got to be pregnant in the first place in order to deliver.
- Core development. If I can’t begin with min of 30 – 40 people, or 15 families, I won’t start at all. I’ll kill the project before it begins. If there isn’t this evidence of a movement of people and families then there’s little likelihood this thing is gonna succeed. The next question is, where do these people live? Geographic clumping? We want to incarnate in a place, in one neighborhood / town / city – where many in the core group already live, dwell, work, minister. I’m not going to a new place. I’m going to preference the places our core already lives in. And if it were up to me, the place would be more towards the socio-economic poor side. But that’s not my decision. In other words – a willingness to relocate anywhere is a requisite for church planting. Don’t marry a place cuz it’s hip, urban, trendy, or got lots of a certain socioeconomic class we’re comfortable with. No. In planting be open to the great ANYWHERE. Where is the Spirit moving? Who is going with you? Who is already there asking for you to come? Remember Dave Gibbons – before he planted NewSong he considered as far as NYC to LA. Talk about willingness to move.
- Preview services – need to evidence catalytic multiplication at the FIRST preview. Again – we’re not using preview services to build core – no, but rather to multiply core. We’ve got to have that solid first catalytic # benchmark before even starting preview services. And those people have to already trust you as their pastor and they have to come from the mothership. Which means the planting pastor would need to build that rapport and trust from the sending community. Which means time in the sending community. Which means the sending community has to believe in church planting in the first place (if they are “sending” good people out) In other words, I would have to start off with AT LEAST 30 people from the sending church – not build up to it. The first preview service should already kick us up to 75. If not, again, I’m pulling the plug and killing the project. If there’s no momentum, we’re gonna end up killing ourselves trying to generate it. Plant with momentum – again, evidence of the Spirit – and we’re simply catching a ride. (i.e., NOT using the preview services to generate core – if this is the case – it’s too late) Tim Keller had some great thoughts on this.
Anyway this is a sketch of some thoughts in my mind. It’s more detailed and I’ve had to record the process more succinctly on paper, lest I forget. I think it’s a very solid – realistic strategic plan. So in my thinking I’ve designed a kill-switch at every step of the process. I have to be the first one willing to pull the plug if there are not signs this thing is growing. In this sense planters can’t get too attached – we have to be the first to let this thing go if it’s not evidencing momentum. In that sense there’s this healthy sense of detachment in multiple planters – a good thing – that enables us to plant healthy and solid communities. Now, great communities? Well, that’s not up to us. I’ll just shoot for solid.