It’s the question I get asked most often by young, aspiring church planters — “If you had to do it over again, what would you do—or not do—differently?” It is in answer to that question that I’ve been using my “rearview mirror” perspective. So today, here’s installment #5, with the previous four being prioritize preaching, place a premium on prayer, keep preaching, praying, and pastoring connected, and embed shared authority into your DNA.
5. Avoid the tendency to copy. This is hard to fight against because it is so prominent today. We see or hear what’s working well — successful — and so we deduce that if we copy it, we’ll get it. Not always. Church planting isn’t so much about “xeroxing” a physical formula, but developing a faith family.
Add to this the squeezing demands of time, and church planters can feel very tempted at various points to “reprint” what someone else did. After all, “why re-invent the wheel?” Well, before you become just another cookie-cutter church plant with a cool name and logo you bought off some Web site, dig your heels in to the specific place you’re planting and put in the time and work to pursue what God is calling you to specifically.
In other words, create, don’t copy. When I have stayed true to this principle in my leadership, our church fares better. There is less pressure, no comparison, and the health of the body is more evident. When I have caved and tried to emulate something I merely envy, or even allowed a staff member or leader to do this, things ramp up artificially and many begin to feel like rats on a wheel –lots of movement with no real progress.
Remember, however, an important distinction: Creating your unique God-led culture is all about the how, not about the what. We don’t create doctrine or invent church practices; we don’t decide the mission. God has done that (Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8 to name a few).
But we do have some freedom in the way we go about them in this time and culture. In fact, if you came to FFC, you’d discover a culture with, to some degree, its own lingo, expectations, style and preferences. In that way we’re different. Yet, we’re not different in that we have been given the same mission and mandate as every other biblical body of believers. But instead of copying the way they go about the mission, we craft our own way under the authority of God, the headship of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit that fits where we are and who is here.
This is essentially what I’m referring to when I encourage church planters to avoid the tendency to copy. Rather, muster up the courage to hear God’s voice for the place and people you lead. In this pursuit church planting becomes more than a job you hold and, instead, a journey you experience.