June 23, 2010
In 1976 Sally Field starred in the Emmy Award winning movie Sybil. Sybil was a young adult who suffered severe abuse as a child and as a result developed a coping mechanism that enable her to disassociate with the reality of her pain. Over the course of her young life, Sybil developed thirteen different personalities. Some of these personalities made her appear psychotic; some of them made her appear as a sweet reserved little girl. One of these alter egos made her want to kill herself on a daily basis. However, as Sybil grew up and started to live in the adult world, her once helpful coping mechanism made it increasingly more difficult to be a productive person in society. Her different personalities became a barrier to maturity. No one knew the real Sybil. In fact, the noise of a dozen voices, made it hard for even Sybil to discover and make sense of her own identity.
As Jesus was traveling to the Gerasenes, as recorded in Mark 15, he met a man filled with a thousand voices. While we are never privy to this man personal life nor how he got into his present situation, one thing was made very clear; his condition was very severe.
“Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (2-6, NIV)
As this man came close to Jesus the evil in him cried out, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me.”
Jesus asked, “What is your name?”
The evil spirit answered, “Legion, for we are many.”
Imagine the inner turmoil of a thousand voices, each competing for his attention, each telling him to do something evil, cruel or harmful. Never a moment of rest, never a sense of peace, never an opportunity to think rationally. Each voice competing to be heard, each voice screaming louder and louder for his attention. Each one claiming to be right, each one offering suggestions and direction.
As I sit here staring at my bookshelf and I see dozens of church planting titles, by godly men and women over the last two decades. People like Bob Logan, Rick Warren, Peter Wagner, Lyle Schaller, Aubrey Malphurs, Ralph Moore, Ed Stetzer, Brian McLaren, Robert Webber, Alan Hirsch, David Garrison, and George Hunter. Each of these individuals are heroes of the movement. Each of them have forged new paths and opened new doorways that have propelled church planting to new heights. Yet, each of these authors and churchmen are distinct and teach varying degrees of what the church should be, do, and how it should be planted. I wonder, as I think about the future of church planting in the next few decades has the movement become fragmented? Is this movement taking on the characteristics of Sybil, or legion? Have we created a schizophrenic and confusing “call of a thousand voices” each competing for the attention of the new generation of church planters? Each voice competing to be heard, each voice screaming louder and louder for attention. Each one claiming to be right, each one offering suggestions and direction.
Since my book, Planting Fast Growing Churches hit the market two years ago; I have become more and more aware of the multiple controversies that exist in the church-planting world. While debate is very healthy in many ways, I fear these controversies are causing a rift in the church planting movement.
Just google "church planting" and you will discover endless pages with thousands of voices. Each discipline proclaims that their particular