The false hope of growing your church by simply copying other churches

When I was a kid our homework was not on google drive, or even on xeroxed pages. We had math handouts printed on mimeograph machines. I don't even know if you know what that is. It is an old skool copier.

The way it works is simple. You have an original copy and then make a copy of that original onto an inked page. Then that ink page is put in a machine that prints a copy onto blank pages. For its time, it was an incredible technology and perfect for math pages. But as you could imagine, with every copy the integrity and quality would diminish. And I am afraid that is what is happening with the church today.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the privilege to attend a number of different churches. And one of the things I found happening in me was comparing my church to theirs. I immediately found a half dozen things they were doing better than us and scheming about how to improve the quality of our church ASAP. But after have the same experience over and over again, I realized I am getting caught up into a brutal and unhelpful death spiral.

Most of us in church leadership want to do excellent ministry.

Most of us are aware of what else is happening in Christendom. We look around the web, we visit other churches and we copy what seems to be working for others. But what we are copying is usually something that was copied from somewhere else and maybe even copied again from somewhere else. The result is like that of a mimeograph machine. You have something that resembles something authentic but is simply a deteriorated copy.

Now don't get me wrong. I am all for doing excellent ministry, doing a good job with hospitality, and have our environments be beautiful and engaging. But it is a fine line from simply copying what the "it" church is doing, and creating a unique ministry environment and expression that is birthed out of your unique context.

The challenge is that the average person wants an average product. They are happy with a generic Christianity that has good music, nice lights, and a warm hospitality team. And many of us buy into this as the fix to help our church flourish and grow. But I think there is a more fundamental change we should be working towards:

We should create a ministry, a Sunday morning experience, that is for our unique context and for our unique people.

Every church has a different demographic and a different collection of people. They have a unique worship temperament and a unique call to the community that you serve. When you figure out how to serve this population, inspire this population, and empower this population, then you will have a unique and creative ministry that will be way better than any mimeographed ministry you buy from a box.

Make your slides better, clean up your stage, change the font on your bulletin, add a hospitality team, and change the name of your children's ministry. That is good. But what will be great is when you see your people for the unique and gifted people God has created them to be and help them find their unique ministry to your unique context! Then, it is GAME ON!!!