January 6, 2011
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, putting something on the fast track means “to speed up the process or rapidly advance.” One of the greatest temptations many planters will face is the desire to launch their church before the proper time. Yet, launching the church prematurely could destroy the church’s potential.
Rarely will the end turn out well if a planter fast-tracks the launch of their new church. Unfortunately, it happens more often than you might think. Why? This what we have experienced as the top three reasons.
Denominational leaders, district sponsors and even mother churches place unneeded pressure on planters to get a new church off the ground. They have spent thousands of dollars in taking this risk. And many times these leaders or churches have placed their reputations on the line. So, everything must go as projected in order to meet goals, save face and fulfill unrealistic expectations.
Among church planters, pride is typically a problem. We are not suggesting a sinful pride, rather a sense of strong confidence about their vision, plans and processes. The very confidence that drove them to plant the new church may also get in the way of sage advice. After all, God had given them this vision and laid out the process with such clarity. All the stars seem to be falling in place and the planets were aligning just right. Just kidding, but that is often how they feel, even if they don’t verbalize it. So, forcing this confident, motivated, passionate planter to slow down is like dragging your finger nails on a chalkboard. Flashing a caution light, for many planters, is almost as bad as a bright red stoplight. So, they press on!
3. Poor Planning
Fast-tracking a church plant is a dangerous idea with potentially devastating consequences. Months, sometimes even years, worth of planning go into starting a new church. No one would ever think of starting a new business in a city without first doing copious amounts of research, market analysis and possibly even hosting a focus group or two. Yet when it comes to the church, we tend to over-spiritualize it, turning a deaf ear to anything that smacks of “good-business” because it just sounds too worldly to us.
One of the strangest stories Jesus ever told is found in Luke 16. Jesus is talking with his disciples and begins to tell a story about a lazy manager who is mismanaging his master’s household. The manager finds out that he is going to get fired and starts to make friends by cutting in half what some business owners owe the master of the house. In effect, he is stealing from the master to ‘make nice’ with some potential future employers. Jesus closes the story out like this;
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Let’s not get into a big theological debate over this text. Simply look at it and understand that Jesus talked about the use of “worldly” wealth as a way to gain eternal influence. Good business, is God business! Starting a new church is like starting a new business; it takes time and involves a well-planned, flexible strategy.