Friday, April 17, 2009

If you are a first time visitor coming from Stuff Christians Like, welcome. This post is more serious so if you are looking for funny, sorry not so much today. I did want to play off the guest post over at SCL with a serious post on the same note. If you are reading my blog before Jon's ... what is wrong with you, get yourself over to SCL right now and read that first.

Now to the point.

There are a lot of very successful ideas out there and I think that too often churches think they can copy something that works and experience the same success. This is a huge problem in general. Go to any bookstore and you will find shelf after shelf promising you success in just about anything. There are seminars everywhere on how to follow this formula or that formula to success. It is no wonder that the church follows suit.

It rarely, if ever, works that way. The people that find success in a diet, for example, do so by adapting the diet to their life, not their life to the diet. A great example is Jared with Subway. He found a way to lose a lot of weight eating Subway food by walking there and eating healthy while there. Good for him, but I tried it with no results. Weird huh? I had to find a diet that I could adapt to my life before I found any success.

This is true for the church and all the programs out there. I'm not saying you can't look around at what is working and try that in a given church, but trying to adapt a church to another program is almost always a failure. The program has to be adapted to the church because there are just too many variables to account for when considering the success of other ideas.

That said, let's consider a few ideas that just might help.

1) Pray, Pray, Pray.

I can't say this enough. We need to start by going to God before we plan anything. How insanely, over the top, narcissistic are we when we plan all this stuff then ask God to bless it as if we get to decide what the best thing is. I've read so many books about successful this that and the other Christian things and each of these has the same moral to the story. A group of people asked God what they should be doing. Start with prayer in the pre-planning before you even decide what program to try and adapt. Then pray during the planning as you figure out how a program might fit with what God is already doing. Finally pray over every step along the way during implementation. As you pray make sure you are asking the right questions and listening for the answers. The questions are all about what God wants not how God can help you succeed. Who ever said God wants your church to be the next mega?

2) Study
You have prayed, and you feel God moving you in the direction of adapting a given church model. Great. Now study it. I'm talking about more than the official book. A lot of books show the model that is working, but that isn't what you need to know. You need to know how they got to that point. This is where you will find out about the prayer that went into the program. This is where you will find out about the failures and how they led to success. You need to understand the foundation that isn't in the books and videos. You might have to play detective for a while but you will understand what is actually working and why. If you don't know this then you will never understand why some parts won't work for you.

3)Did I mention prayer?
Seriously every part of this is about prayer because now you have studied and figured out that huge important parts of the other program will not work in your situation. Time to get back to God and find out why you felt Him moving you this direction.

4)Grow Slow, Grow Strong.
Trying to change everything overnight will usually cause problems. If you are planting a church this is different but still true. I read a story once about this pastor that took a well established church. The church organ was right in the middle of the platform and previous ministers had been kicked out because of the uproar caused by moving that organ. The departing minister warned the pastor that the new minister shouldn't make the same mistake of moving the organ. A few years later the church had a celebration for the 75th anniversary or something. All the previous ministers were invited and they were shocked to find the organ on the side of the platform and the organist, the same old lady that had led the uprising against them for moving it, happily playing. They questioned the minister on how he had managed what they had failed. His answer was simply, "one inch at a time."

For a program to have any chance of success you need to get everyone excited and on board so there are several steps you have to take. It needs to be setup and grown slowly but it also needs some exciting ribbon cutting type event to make everyone energized about what is going on. Sound difficult? Yeah that is why you should be praying still.

5) Finally Adapt and blend.
Remember those whole segments that didn't work? Blend other ideas with an existing model into something that will work. Those can be original ideas or come from other existing programs. Don't be afraid of new things. God is creative. Look at Australia for crying out loud. All kinds of weird animal there. If you are seeking Him then be ready for what He is saying. God knows all the variables. He knows all the people involved. He knows exactly what to do. Be ready for new things. Expect new things. Ask for new things. God makes a new day every single day. A day that is different from everyday that came before. He will do so for all eternity. Wrap your head around that for a moment.

There is nothing wrong with using something that is already proven, but don't be lazy about it. Not everyone has the time, energy, or resources to make something brand new. That is fine, we should never be ashamed to use whatever God gives us to use. If we take the time to seek God and adapt instead of clone then it will be new even if it is similar.

So did I miss anything important? Please share your own stories about adapting or failures in trying to clone. What advice would you give?


Helen said...

Nick, I love that organ story! It gives me a little inight into how to go about some changes I need to...
Oh, and I came here first. What would be the odds that I'd be the first comment at SCL? Nil. Here? A little bit better

wv burari- a luxury sports car with air conditioning that won't turn off.

katdish said...

Yep, uh-huh, yes, yes, I agree.

When I was visiting with my friend yesterday (she's the same one that lost her leg several years ago), she mentioned (as she has several times before) what Rick Warren said in the 40 Days of Purpose campaign: "The people in this group were brought together for a reason. It's not an accident." This has proved to be true in so many ways.

But what also strikes me is another thing Rick Warren said: "Don't try to be Saddleback. Your situation is unique." Funny how thousands of churches missed that point. I suppose it goes to what your ultimate goal is. Are you trying to win people for Christ, or trying to fill your church building to overflowing. God certainly knows the difference.

Nick the Geek said...

yeah I wish I cold remember where I read the organ quote. I should give credit where it is due but the facts in my head aren't organized that way. You are right that your chances of commenting first here are quite a bit higher.

I think most of the people running these great programs will say that you can't just copy what they are doing and expect results. Just like almost everything I've read comes to this idea of praying. Weird huh?

jasonS said...

Great stuff and so important for all of us to remember. Thanks Nick!

Nick the Geek said...


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