I often see old friends when I'm out and about in Amherst. Most of them have heard that I'm part of a new church, but they very seldom know what we are doing. Word seems to travel fast about Restoration Church, but details get fuzzy for people who haven't come to see.
Given my history with large churches and large-scale events, many people think that a "big launch" is coming. It isn't an unreasonable assumption. Most church planters gear up for a launch service with promotional campaigns and direct mailers. There's nothing wrong with that, but it isn't what we are doing right now.
So, I thought I would clear up some confusion by writing about our church.
There are three kinds of churches:
- Churches that die.
- Churches that grow.
- Churches that multiply.
Churches that Die have lost site of the great commission. Comfort trumps commission, isolation trumps incarnation, and the Enemy wins his fight to distract, divert, and destroy. Churches like this fight over music and decoration, because they think the church exists for Christians. Petty arguments over non-essential theology come up in more conservative dying churches. Carpet color and paint are the fodder for fights in liberal dying churches. Both have lost sight of the Great Commission. There is no upside here.
On rare occasions some churches die not for lack of evangelism, but because of it. There are times when a church has finished its course and is no longer effective in their current state. They make a calculated decision to close the doors and infuse themselves into other ministries or to plant a new church with a different focus. I would refer to this more as a rebirth than a death. It is a noble thing. It is also very rare in dying churches.
Churches that Grow work hard to get as many people in their church as possible, hopefully so they can minister to as many as possible. There is a lot of focus on the worship/teaching experience in hopes that people will become more like Christ and get other people to do the same. When a church finds a groove, they keep making more room (bigger buildings, more services, more campuses) to reach as many people as possible. They become very efficient at reaching large numbers of people. It's not a bad model. I've seen God do powerful things in churches like this. They do things other churches can't. Praise God for them.
The only downside to this model is that what is efficient for the crowd is not always effective for the one. In this model, we often struggle to get people intimately connected in discipleship at the group level, and we almost never manage to disciple at the individual level as it relates to deep issues of emotional, relational, and spiritual health. Also, no matter how big they get, there is always a limit. You can't reach everybody.
Churches that Multiply think differently. Rather than seek to reach as many people as possible, they seek to make disciples who make disciples. They are like an upside down pyramid scheme where everybody wins. They form relationships with people who don't know God and invite them to follow Jesus. Every person makes disciples. Every disciple multiplies. Those disciples multiply. Churches like this are exponential, but they are seldom well known. Multiplying churches aren't too concerned with church growth or even with church planting. Both are seen as a bi-product of the central purpose: to make disciples.
Disciples can be made anywhere and anyone can make a disciple. A better way to say it is that everyone can make disciples, and disciples can be made everywhere. Multiplying churches understand that more disciples don't require a bigger building, they just lead to more infusion into the community. Do you know where you go when you don't have a church to meet in? You go to the bar. Guess who's there: More disciples to be made. Do you know where a pastor goes when he doesn't have an office? The local coffee house. Guest who's there: More disciples to be made.
Someday, I hope I have an office where I can put on my Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin records while I prep sermons on my own desk, but I hope I only use it when I need to study without distraction or take an important phone call. I want to keep being a regular at the coffee house. Someday, I hope we have a really cool church building with a great band and perfect coffee, but I hope our people only come once or twice a month, because they are getting their real fellowship in their house church. I hope that I get the chance to have meetings with a big church staff again, but I hope even more that I spend more of my time investing profoundly in the life of one or two guys, letting Jesus restore them at the deepest levels. Because, everything else is secondary.
Restoration is a multiplying church. Fundamental to our vision is the concept that everyone can make disciples. I'm not that important. Restoration Church is not that important. Jesus is. We make disciples who make disciples. That is all. Some of them stay to make disciples with us. Some of them go to other churches to make disciples with them. We are just happy to see the Kingdom of God advancing.
If you are interested, come and see.
Special Note: If you don't know who Thin Lizzy is, you are missing out on one of the greatest Rock Bands in history. They are known for their hit "The Boys are Back in Town" but have many other incredible songs. Pray that I get an office, so that you can stop by and listen to their "Jailbreak" album on vinyl as God intended it be heard.