I have a friend who is on an extended sabbatical. He and his wife decided to travel to the west coast. They attended a different church for 7 weeks in a row. Each church was located in a different city. When asked for feedback on their experiences, his response was simply – “They all look the same!”
His reply was much deeper than the esthetics.
The church systems, stage/platform area, music, and even the preaching style were all very similar. He went on to say that if he looked at pictures of the various churches, he would be hard-pressed to say which church he was looking at.
They all look the same!
I don’t know how you would take that statement but for me, it can be a good thing but it can also be troubling, to say the least.
It’s only good if it is effective in reaching those who are far from Christ and making disciples. If there is no other church in the area with the same overall appeal (flavor)… great! If you are doing a cookie cutter, one size fits all kind of church plant, you may be in for a rude awakening.
I remember what Andy Stanley said regarding the initial growth of his church in Atlanta.
The question his team asked:
- Why did our organization grow so fast during the first few years? (They recognized the fact that they were not growing that fast anymore.)
- We had a unique product (style) – Nobody was doing church the way we were doing church in the Southeast US.
The reality was that due to the success of Northpoint Community Church, many church planters and even existing churches adapted their style.
Context is always key!
What works in Atlanta may not work in your area. What works in a suburban area may not work in a more rural area. Rather than be a carbon copy of a growing church, take some time and get the heart of your community.
- What do people do for employment?
- What is the unemployment rate?
- Do you know the median education level?
It may take some digging, but here are some other questions to answer:
- Do some research and find the percentage of the population is considered unchurched?
- What is the suicide rate?
- What is the city known for?
- Are there “life-giving” churches in the area already?
- What is the felt need of the community as a whole?
Once you get these answers, you will be positioned to plant more effectively.
Here is a question that cuts right to the heart of this matter:
What makes your church unique?
Remember, we are called to make disciples, not merely attract a crowd or rearrange the body of Christ.
Keep it real! When you do, you will have lasting fruit and be “successful” in God’s eyes.