Golf ball manufacturing is an exact science. The engineers have to design it for accuracy, flight, distance, and spin. In production, the object is to crank them out, one after the other, by the millions, with digital precision. They are supposed to be the same. Duplicates. Even a slight difference between them will earn them a place in the XXXXX brand.
Of course, we're not manufacturing golf balls, and our system of church planting, or even disciple-making, is not geared to precise exactness. What the world doesn't need now is a new batch of average churches, and certainly not copies of what we call disciples these days. And, this may be the glitch in the multiplication process now. Too many of our programs and systems are machined to produce cookie cutter models, disciples and churches like the ones we already have. It may be the reason so many of the younger cohorts take a pass on traditional church. It's often about fit. These young individualists, often new believers, just don't fit into the cookie cutter expectations of many churches. Also, many of the new congregations are forming alliances apart from the usual denominational affiliations because of the same issue. Most often, they are not your grand-mother's church, as they say, are are shunned because of it. Sad.
Spiritual giftedness and personal individuality define each believer. If there is any resemblance between us it is through the spiritual gene-pool of Christ, in whose image we are being formed. Common confession and practice usually groups us with like-thinking believers. But, we're not stamped out in a machine shop and should not be the same beyond the belief systems and practices that unite us. We're the body of Christ. Each one of us is a member. So, we're different. We must celebrate this diversity and praise Him that we're not exactly the same.
In the same way, context gives each congregation a unique look. There's a Great Commission similarity to our thing but not a reproduced sameness. The object of church planting isn't to send a miniature model of my church to the community over there, but to birth a new congregation with the spiritual DNA of that particular area. We shouldn't be cloning ourselves in a new people group. Any resemblance we have with the new church plants should be simply the result of having the same Father.
God has given us the joy of partnering with two church plants in the past few years. Living Creek Church with Pastor Jeff Price, and Restoration Church with Pastor Adam Spurlock are touching two local communities with a mission that is fresh and new and shaped to people groups that we have not and could not reach. In the planting process we tried not to re-create Northwood Baptist Church in those locations. We celebrated their uniqueness and thanked God that they are influencing their areas in ways that we could not. Each day I thank God for Jeff and Adam, and a whole list of church planting pioneers who are communicating the old, old story in new ways and new places. It is a thrilling partnership that jazzes me just thinking about it.
This is all to say that we're not manufacturing golf balls. Churches and denominations must remove our rigid production standards so that the resemblance of Christ can be the standard of new believers and congregations, and not the imprint of us.
Right now, and this is hard, the world doesn't need more us us. It needs more of Him.