On the Time I Went to a Church Planting Meeting
So I went to this church planting meeting once...I would describe it as un-awesome. First we had to drive 3 hours to get there. Then once we got to where we thought we should be, we could not find the church, just a mall. We drove around that mall for a good ten minutes before we realized our mistake, the mall was the church (I am sure this has been a common occurrence ever since early church planters rode their camels over to visit the work at Antioch...) Inside and just past the “Holy Grounds” coffee shop, we arrived slightly late for our meeting. We did get there in time to hear a rousing speech on the dangers of “Missional” churches though, so I guess we lucked out there.
The high points of this address were “Churches used to be trapped in neighborhoods” (silly churches) and now thanks to the superior genetic and mental make up of the American church planter this is no more! No siree, now the wise planter can get out of the neighborhood and reach literally everyone! Ev-ree-one. That was what this meeting was about and by-golly you would be a fool to not be excited.
We heard not only the pastor's testimony but also the testimony of his sidekick and planter of their daughter church. That presentation was thrilling as the guy who gave it told us how dumb he used to think church planting plans were, and used a super mature and super cool slur for homosexuals while doing it! We learned later that he had been a comedian, which should have been clear from the way his teeth glistened as he ticked off the names of all the bands the mother church was sending to help him launch. Names much cooler than calling them say, “a worship band” like we do. Names like “Jim and the Swirling Zealots” or “Cal and the non-Calvinist” or something like that. I would be lying if I said I could remember. I do remember that 2 weeks after this meeting I got a fundraising letter from Pastor Hilarious asking for money so he could do a helicopter Easter egg drop... (Not usually my thing but when you consider all those people getting literally hit on the head with the gospel, or at least an invitation to a church service where there would be a drama team doing a situational comedy about how stressful Easter can be and strongly almost hinting at the gospel, how could I say no?)
At any rate, the key take away from the meeting was this: Stupid churches get trapped in neighborhoods, smart churches, like the one hosting the meeting, had a plan to reach all 3 million people in their target area. From there it is simple math: Which would Jesus want you to do? Stay trapped in your neighborhood or reach 3 MILLION PEOPLE, EPLE, EPLE, EPLE (sound effects are my own, for emphasis). We left that meeting just before a tour of their lighting booth, something I still regret to this day.
On Culture War
The culture war does something to our hearts. We are in continual outrage mode. We have to be angry. Not just displeased but really, really angry. We have to despise all of THOSE people. Those people can be any number of groups: liberals, the poor, minorities, the GLBT community, immigrants. The human heart loves to characterize a large group and label them and once we have done that we usually despise them. The culture war intensifies that. To keep up on the culture war you need to take in a steady diet of talking heads and angry talk radio. A friend once told me that he had to stop listening to talk radio because he was in a perpetual state of anger.
We look out at the crowds of people in America and we can’t help but to hate them. After all, they are the bad guys. They are intentionally trying to run this wonderful country into the dust. They are just generally awful people. Liberals are just plain evil. The poor are merely the moocher class. Minorities are scary and are ruining the neighborhood. The GLBT community is full of the worst sinners we ever did lay our eyes on. These immigrants are taking over and taking things that are rightfully ours. THOSE PEOPLE are the bad guys....
On Style and Church Growth
It is my observation that the way we promote the church assumes that it is the package that is the issue. It’s not. I know that you have been told by book after book that if you could simply change this or change that about the way you do church everything would be ok, and your church would have such expansive revival that in the future they would write about you in history books, or at least on Wikipedia. While it is true that there are still places where the style of church is inhibiting growth, (and those folks should definitely change), I don’t think that I am going out on too big of a limb to say that in most places that is no longer the case. Nor am I over reaching to say that the various factors contributing to America becoming a post-Christian culture will accelerate making it even more unlikely that style with be the key factor keeping your church from growing.