David Murrow has been blogging up a storm lately. We just used one of his pieces here last week, and I can’t reblog everything he writes; but on the other hand, I cant ignore his more recent post, Why I Am Not Too Excited About Church Planting. His basic thesis:
Everyone’s planting the same church. I’ve visited half a dozen young church plants over the past two years. And they are virtually indistinguishable from one another. See if this lineup sounds familiar:
- Approximately 15 minutes of praise music, played by a rock band.
- A projector, sound system and stage lighting
- A separate nursery and children’s program concurrent with “big church”
- A 25 to 40 minute sermon delivered by a young, informally dressed man
- An offering, plus maybe a sacrament (communion, etc.)
- A closing song or two, also led by the rock band.
- Service length: between 70 and 90 minutes.
Well, he’s got that right. And don’t forget the 60-second video ‘title package’ which precedes the sermon…
So annually we have thousands of churches re-inventing the wheel. But years ago, the phrase “a different kind of church” was all the rage. How did all these different churches end up so much the same?
He concludes this section by noting, “We haven’t had this much conformity in worship since the days of medieval Catholicism.”
It’s the new, high-tech liturgy. But all that tech for both the primary service and the alternative service for children involves gear and set-up. It is both capital intensive and labor intensive. And it rises or falls on the ability of the pastor to resonate with everybody. No pressure. Murrow concludes:
If we’re planting 4,000 churches a year at $125,000 per congregation, that’s half a billion dollars per year going into church planting in America alone. Seventy percent of that money is going into churches that won’t exist in 24 months. Church plants will consume 40 million volunteer hours this year. Couldn’t these vast resources be more profitably employed for the Kingdom?
Yes, David, they could, and they should.
One thing that he notes here that I feel very strongly about is the existence of mortgage free church buildings that are hosting dwindling congregations. Michael Frost has been instrumental in spreading awareness of this situation, and his own church in Manly, Australia — a congregation known as Small Boat Big Sea — successfully integrated into a building that was underutilized. Murrow writes:
Most church buildings are owned debt-free. Many of these churches sit empty 160 hours a week. And they’re half-empty on Sunday. Why don’t existing congregations allow new churches to meet in their paid-off buildings at alternate times? (We’re already seeing this as ethnic congregations are using existing churches for Sunday afternoon services.)
I encourage you to (a) take 3-4 minutes to re-read all this at David’s blog; (b) share this article with senior leadership at your church who don’t object to doing some critical thinking. Here’s the link.
Image: Church Stage Design Ideas