Are You Trying to Build a LEGO Church?

I loved building with Legos when I was a kid. (If I could make a living at it I’d probably still spend most of my time playing with Legos) My experience, however, was different from most. Instead of pre-designed kits, every year at Christmas my parents gave me a bag of miscellaneous Lego parts. (They had a hookup at the local Lego factory where they could buy Lego rejects cheap.) I never had instructions to follow or a picture to guide me; my only blueprint was my imagination. From the same bag of spare parts I built airplanes and spaceships and the Empire State Building. Many battles for New York were fought in my bedroom long before the Avengers arrived on the movie screen. While my creations weren’t that ascetically pleasing, there was incredible freedom for creativity because I didn’t have a template to follow.

Legos are a different experience now. Every box is designed to build a specific model. If you want an airplane you buy an airplane model, if you want to build the London Bridge you buy the $239 kit. Everything is pre-packaged and comes with full-color, step-by-step instructions. It’s all been figured out ahead of time and all you have to do is follow the instructions exactly and you’ll get exactly what is on the cover of the box.

I’m concerned that church planting, and church leadership in general, is going down the trail of Legos. Rather than an individual vision of what God has called us to do in a particular place at a particular time using the gifts and leaders he has given us, we find the church kit that we like the best. There’s the Elevation Kit, the NewSpring Kit and the Mars Hill Kit as well as the Saddleback and Willow Creek kits. Some leaders see the New Testament Church as the ultimate church building kit. If we can follow the instructions precisely then we can build an exact replica of the church Paul built to reach Greeks in the 1st century.

Learning from other churches and other leaders is important, but replicating models is boring in Lego world and ineffective in church world. Each church model is created for a certain time and a certain place utilizing the specific gifts and imaginations of specific leaders. Even the apostle Paul gave us principles to follow rather than a model to re-create. Unless you have a lot of 1st century Greeks in your community, replicating the church at Ephesus might be challenging.

As church planters, pastors and leaders God gives us a bag of Legos with which to build His church rather than a model and a blueprint. He gives us principles and parameters, but he expects us to use our gifts, leadership and imagination to build a unique church to impact the unique culture and unique time in which we live. Building without a blueprint is messy and challenging, and there’s no guarantee that what you build will look anything like you thought it would when you started. But it is a lot more fun than just following the instructions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Surratt

Geoff Surratt

Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Sherry (CEO of MOPS International). Geoff and Sherry have two awesome kids (Mike and Brittainy), a wonderful daughter-in-law (Hilary) and the most beautiful granddaughter on earth (Maggie Claire) Geoff has served on staff at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church. He is now the Director of Exponential and a freelance Church Catalyst and Encourager.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree with your 3 must-haves. I would add that the rectors have to call on every member who attends, at least once a year. The existence of a "calling commitee" is just an excuse to avoid making the effort. This is part of #3. If a rector does not like to call on parishioners, then she/he should not be a rector, but should find a different ministry. Carter Kerns, former senior warden, Diocese of Eastern Oregon and lifelong Episcopalian Tel# 541-379-3124
 
— Carter Kerns
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 

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