If you are just joining us for this series, click here to catch up with part one.
Truth is, many of us get excited about particular ventures in life—ventures that we need others to join us on for success. But a lot of the times it is the “others” (think, “Lost”) who seem to be on a different page.
When this happens with church planting it feels like some folks didn’t get the memo.
You (the church planter) are fired up about what the Lord can do and wants to do in this world—about how church can be different, life changing, exciting, relevant—but all of the sudden, your fledgling core group wants to hunker down and slips into the proverbial, “us four and no more” mentality.
As, Bill Hybels says in his book, ‘Axiom,’ “They don’t have the same DNA.”
It’s not that they were born without it—fortunately, it’s not that kind. You can get this DNA on down the road (not everyone, but at least some of us) if you have a good saintly surgeon on the job. But, since some of you have already lost this battle once or twice, let’s do a spiritual autopsy on a John Doe church in order to see what was the cause of death.
- Point 1, you started with a “core” group.
“Huh?” you say, “Duh pastor, everyone knows you start with a core group. That’s how it’s done.”
No, that’s how it’s done if you’re Jesus and you can camp out with these people day and night, spend 24/7 with them, teaching, modeling the very character of Jesus.
And it helps tremendously (especially in that last one) when you actually are Jesus.
…also by pointing out evil, the pitfalls of sin and showing them miraculous works of God.”
And, at the risk of sounding redundant, it also helps tremendously if you actually are God.
But why not a small core group ala Rick Warren style? — because enough time has gone by in the study of effective church planting (read: enough ‘autopsies’ have been done on dead churches) to see some of the dangerous pitfalls to church longevity when life begins at the core group level.
- The small core group begins to view the church as “THEIRS,” instead of “God’s.”
- The core often interpret ‘core’ as , “center” and can have an elevated sense of importance as the church starts to grow. In short, their gravitational pull makes all ideas, vision and even new people center around them.
- The “Big Fish in the small pond” syndrome (google it).
- A growing sense of entitlement can set in that makes it more and more difficult to focus on guests and those who are hurting but ‘weren’t there at the beginning.’
- It’s human nature to “dig in” when you feel something ought to be done a certain way and this ‘entrenching’ can lead to serious hurt. The deeper the stake is driven, the greater the damage.
- A lot of core groups can often see a decrease in desire for all things ‘outward focused’ — the things Jesus called all believers to do (reach the lost, feed the hungry, teach new believers, etc) and an increase in all things ‘inward focused’ (i.e. “Discipleship” – never mind that discipleship is incompatible with an ‘inward only’ mindset. Who would you be discipling if there were no new folks coming into the church while they were still in the spiritual condition of being, ‘far from God’?).
If the above symptoms are left unchecked to run rampant in the body—the body will begin to come apart (split) at the seems. Even the simplest look at a church postmortem usually reveals the same cause of death.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing many pastors over the years—some of very large impactful churches, some from smaller churches also making a kingdom impact and, unfortunately I’ve heard the heartache and pain of many a pastor as the vision and dream God laid upon their heart slipped away after repeated bouts with a core group of folks who simply did not have the right DNA or, at the very least, never got a DNA transfusion while there was still time.
And, I’ve lived through both a bad core experience and a good core experience and one thing I’ve learned is that it is far better to begin with a ‘launch team’ than a ‘core’ team.
What’s the difference?
The difference is in the DNA and I’ll save that discussion for tomorrow’s post.