Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The "Yellow Brick Road" of Church Strategy

For some writing I am doing, I have been reading and re-reading some books with which I see things differently. I'm not talking about secular books or books that promote something about which I have a totally different point of view like the recent popular books on atheism. I've been reading books about small groups, organic church life, the missional church and how one can live in missional community. Unlike a popular book on atheism for example, I actually agree with quite a lot of what these authors write. But there is a fundamentally different point of view that I have from most of them.

Honstely, I’m exhausted from the endless books, conferences and consulting processes that promise that they have found the secret to church, or small group, or missional success. It seems that every other church book that comes out promises to have found the proverbial "yellow brick road" that will lead us to the wizard's secrets. If we would only follow the prescribed practical steps of implementation ... if we would assess the key factors of church health ... if we would adopt their insight into something that no one has ever taught before—as if this were even possible ... if we could only have radical vision that stretches beyond the possible ... if we would get back to the long ignored pattern that somehow is so obvious in the Bible … then Oz himself would stand before us and the secrets of successful church life would unfold.

Again, the problem is that I agree with much of what these books state. However, I don’t like how they are postured. In their promises, they don’t seem to be talking about real people in real churches. They make me wonder if they are writing from an ivory tower and don’t deal with real people very much. While I’m sure that they do deal with real people, it just seems that they promise too much.

Before you deem me judgmental, let me share where I’m coming from. I used to promote a church plan and process that promised the magic of the great wizard, but then after a few years of watching churches struggle and fail with the methods that we were selling, I started rethinking what I had to say. Oh there was enough success in enough churches that you could promote the plan and process. But I saw too many leaders jump from our plan to other plans, all looking for the right "yellow brick road.” Then they jumped to something else a couple years later. There always seems to be another new and improved road that the church should take. This made me ask questions about why we promise so much but actually see so little fulfillment to those promises.

Now you might wonder if the books I write and the seminars I lead aren’t offering another “yellow brick road” in a slightly different form. Here’s the difference: instead of providing a road for you to follow, my goal is to provide experiences and environments for you to discover the road that the Spirit is call your church or small group to walk.

There are a lot of “Great Ozes” out that that promise much more. And I will continue to learn from them because they are pointing to an aspect of truth. However, we need much more than the inspiring visions and lock-step plans that they promote. We need a vision that challenges us and a process that helps us discover what the Spirit is saying so that we can move forward. When we have this, the fog parts and we find the yellow brick road that is specific to our local situation.

1 comment:

charlieschurchofchrist said...

great post. To me any Christian book I encounter that tries to outline in that way of "do these steps and you'll _____" gets an automatic disqualification from me. I just don't trust it. It's not honest or in touch with reality, in my opinion. Certainly there are great "strategies" out there (it doesn't feel right to use that word, it feels manipulative), but breaking it down into a step process seems so contrived and ignorant to the infinite complexities of life. I understand why people do that, as so many just want to know "okay what do I do?" and actually want that formula, but as you point out, they end up trying endless equations with very similar results.