I read this list a couple of months ago on Out of Ur, Leadership Journal’s Blog. It has stuck in my mind. It is a list of 20 things to do while you are not planting churches. The satire is real, powerful, and beautiful.
1. Call yourself an apostle. Have some business cards printed. Hand them around.
2. Throw lots of money at subsidizing unhealthy, declining churches.
3. Throw money at “experimental missional initiatives” and never evaluate their effectiveness.
4. Set goals for multiplying new churches but don’t make it clear who is responsible to accomplish the goals.
5. Make someone responsible but don’t give them any real authority, discretionary time, or funding. Change the appointment every two years. After ten years, save money by retiring the position and making everyone else responsible.
6. Appoint a committee to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.
7. Hire a consultant to undertake a study and write a report. Wait three years then do it again.
8. Appoint the wrong people to plant churches. When they fail conclude that church planting doesn’t work.
9. When you see a healthy church plant say, “Yes it’s growing but it’s not really a (choose one) Reformed/Baptist/Assemblies of God/Presbyterian/Methodist/New Vine/etc. church.”
10. Require pioneering leaders to be theologically trained before they can plant a church.
11. Throw your best leaders at your biggest problems, not at your greatest opportunities.
12. Watch pioneering leaders exit your movement and then comment on their lack of commitment.
13. Reward pioneering leaders with promotions. Get them away from the front line. Harness their drive to keep the institutional wheels turning.
14. In the 1960’s change the word “missions” to “mission.” To usher in the new millennium change “mission” to “missional.” Around 2010 plan to change “missional” to “postmissional.”
15. Agree to plant new churches when: (a) You’re large enough (b) You’re healthy enough (c) You have the leaders to give away (d) You have the money to spare (e) God has clearly shown you it’s time (f) When the cow jumps over the moon.
16. Run workshops on church planting. Hold conferences on church planting. Offer a course at your theological college on church planting. Do nothing to follow up with the people who show an interest. Make sure only experts get to teach. Keep the practitioners away from the students. Keep the students in the classroom.
17. Grow your church, facilities, staff, and budget as BIG as you can. Let your vision stop at your car park. Let church history end with you. Let the Kingdom dream die.
18. Set ridiculous but catchy sounding goals like “500 in 5 years,” or “2,000 by 2,000.” Three years after the target date expires set new goals. Don’t forget to change the dates!
19. Modernize your theology, then postmodernize your theology. Remove evangelism and church planting from the centre of God’s mission in the world. When decline hits make sure the paid professionals are the last to feel the pinch.
20. Lastly, set up a blog on church planting. Link to other bloggers on church planting. Be sure they link to you. Add smoke and mirrors.
Of the different items on the list my favorite is #17. With the explosion of the mega church over the past 20 years, this one seems to be extremely limiting for many “successful” pastors and churches. Having a big church is not necessarily a bad thing, although it has significant draw backs. But, focusing on having a big church, while not trying to create other worshiping communities is a bad thing. When we focus too heavily on our own needs and importance as a church, or as individuals, and forget to stop and serve others, regardless of the benefit for us, we limit our ability to grow. Transformation takes place when it is not all about us. As a pastor who has served on the staff of a church of over 2000 and of a growing church that is rapidly aproaching 1000, I have seen the need in our churches to turn our focus outwards. Our own success can be our enemy. We start to believe that without us, those who are paid to run the church and those who have seen such growth, a new ministry can’t possibly succeed. Starting new churches, new communities, and giving out of our blessings reminds of us the ridiculous nature of God’s blessings we have already experienced. So don’t lost your heart for new churches or for revitalizing older churches. The biggest budget, building, or the most people isn’t necessarily an indication that you are doing all God has called you to do as the church.