the weblog of Alan Knox

Does methodology matter?

Posted by on Feb 5, 2008 in blog links, definition | 12 comments

Just over a year ago, I wrote a blog post called “Is our understanding of ‘church’ important?” In that post, I discussed a conversation that I had with a hairdresser, and in that conversation it became clear that she was taught and shown what I think is an invalid understanding of what it means to be “the church”. I concluded with this:

She did not learn that church is a community of believers who desire to encourage one another in their life. She did not learn that church is a Spirit-empowered and Spirit-led group of people. She did not learn that any believer is just as important as any other believer.

What did she learn? She learned that church is a place to go. She learned that what happened outside of the building was of negligible value to God. She learned that only professionals are capable of understanding and communicating the Bible.

The way we meet together as the church communicates more about our understanding of the church than most people realize. But, what about our methods of beginning a new church – often called “church planting”? What do these “church planting methodologies” say about our understanding of the church?

Consider two examples. First, Guy at “The M Blog” has written about “13 guiding values for our church planting” – which he calls “La Iglesia En Tu Casa” (LIETC) – the church in your house. Here are a few excerpts:

1.) LIETC is built upon a foundation of prayer, which is the most important work in which we are engaged. (Luke 10:2)

2.) LIETC is built upon the idea of mobilizing the laity. The laity is empowered to go and do tasks traditionally assigned only to trained professional clergy. (Eph.4:11-12, 1 Pet.2:9-10)

3.) LIETC is built upon the concept of taking the church to where the people are, rather than bringing the people to the church. (Matt.28:18-20, Luke 10:3)

Read Guy’s post for the remaining 10 “guiding values”. I think that all of these values are important for all church – not just new churches. The only thing that I would change is the use of the terms “laity” and “clergy”, but even in this respect I agree with his goal.

Now, compare the above guidelines with an article from “Out of Ur” called “McChurch: I’m Lovin’ It“. Apparently, Eddie Johnson is starting a church in Nashville, TN, and “espouses the franchising concept” in relationship with NorthPoint Community Church near Atlanta. According to the article:

On his blog, he states, “Just like a Chick-fil-A, my church is a ‘franchise,’ and I proudly serve as the local owner/operator.”

According to Johnson, his job is to “establish a local, autonomous church that has the same beliefs, values, mission, and strategy as North Point.” He completed a three-month internship at North Point and continues to receive training and support. He claims to rarely deviate from the “training manual.”

“Just like that Chick-fil-A owner/operator,” he says, “I’m here in Nashville to open up our franchise and run it right. I believe in my company and what they are trying to ‘sell.'”

Yes, I think our “methodologies” speak volumes about our understanding of the church. In fact, I also think our methodologies speak volumens about our understanding of God, Christ, mankind, sin, ourselves, and other people.

Have you thought about what your practices and methodologies are telling people about your understanding of God, Christ, and the church?


12 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-5-2008

    This post brought to mind the whole “FAITH” evangelisim thing that the SBC tried to push (maybe still pushing) some years ago. I’ve got a background in sales (actually, I have a collection of plastic name tags that is embarassingly large) and I feel more than certain that the methodology used in that program was more Zig Ziglar than Jesus Christ. We are so used to looking like and doing things like the world that we have abandoned the things that make us truly distinctive-the gospel, the Bible, and the love of Christians for one another.

  2. 2-5-2008

    Thanks for the plug! I totally agree with you about the unbiblical terms “clergy” and “laity”. We do not use those terms ourselves in our work, they are only used in this list for readers to understand that the work usually assigned to “clergy” is in reality the work of the church–all of us.

    This list was originally written up by a reporter for an SBC publication after his spending several days in our midst. The list represents accurately what he observed during his visit with us. Unfortunately, his original list was never printed due to concerns about several of the values that might be misunderstood by the target audience.

    The way we meet together as the church communicates more about our understanding of the church than most people realize… is so true. In church planting, people’s understanding of the church comes from what is modeled and practiced by those leading in the new church plant. What becomes the “norm” are those things implemented from the very beginning. Once you set the norm, it is very difficult to change directions. So it is vitally important that we do the right things in the right way from the very beginning!

  3. 2-5-2008

    Joe,

    Interesting corelation. I had not thought about FAITH in that manner.

    Guy,

    My pleasure. Thank you for listing your “guidelines”. I think any believer and any church can learn from them.

    -Alan

  4. 2-6-2008

    Yes, I’ve thought about this a lot! And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    Out of sheer curiosity (to see what kind of reaction I would get), I have answered the question “Where do you go to church?” with the answer, “You’re looking at it.” It was an interesting experience.

    There was a: “Come again?” And then a: “Ya, ya. We are the church. But were do you go? We go to such-and-such and the sermons just blow our socks off.”

    So that was really revealing. There seems to be an intellectual assent to the concept that we ARE the church, but then a stringent conviction that it really is a building and a presentation given from a platform. Go figure…

  5. 2-6-2008

    This is very interesting post.

    My thoughts have changed on this and partially due to a “failed” church plnt that I was part of in 1996, interesting enough in north atlanta as NPCC was just starting to roll.

    As I look back on the experience, we did not fail and we bailed because we “failed” according to what the perceived perception of a church plant was about.

    We held studies on Who is Jesus and we had them in apt. clubhouses, kroger employee lounges and in restaurants.

    We had about 5 groups studies) with approx. 35-40 people attending. 80% of them had not been to church.

    We thought we needed a strong core to open up shop on Sunday morning, so we folded because you can not launch a church with35-40 unchurch …

    To step back 12 years and do over …

  6. 2-6-2008

    Northpoint’s franchising model definitely has some serious theological flaws in it. I personally know a pastor who used to work for one of NP’s “franchise churches” and I’ve heard horror stories.

    As far as satellite campuses, I think they can be effective if done the right way.

  7. 2-6-2008

    Sarah,

    Yes, I get funny looks when I answer the question, “Where do you go to church?” You said, “There seems to be an intellectual assent to the concept that we ARE the church, but then a stringent conviction that it really is a building and a presentation given from a platform.” I think you are recognizing the difference between what we say we believe and what we actually believe – in other words, our actions speak louder than our words.

    Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing part of your story. I’m sure that most of us recognize past failures due to our misunderstanding of God or church or something. It will be interesting to see how God uses those past failures in the future.

    Charlie,

    Thanks for the comment. You said, “As far as satellite campuses, I think they can be effective if done the right way.” I think their “effectiveness” depends upon what someone is trying to accomplish. In my undersatnding of church, copying the practices of another group is probably not healthy.

    -Alan

  8. 5-8-2012

    This dialogue between Jesus and his disciples is the same one we are having here.

    John 14

    14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

    2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

    3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

    4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

    5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

    6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    First century Jews were deeply influenced, as was much of the Roman Empire, by Greek worldview and philosophy.
    And so are we.
    Jesus answer to their question of “what location shall we go to to get to the Fathers house?” was ME.
    Wrong questions are to blame for not understanding the answer.
    Jesus is the Way, to be and do everything.
    Greek wisdom wants to know how and where, but Godly wisdom answers with who.
    The false church is built on the sand of how and where.
    Israel was birthed, not built, and so is Christs body.
    Israel lost their walk with God and confused the temple, sacrifices and priesthood, which were images and shadows of the coming Christ and His Kingdom, with reality. They thought buildings and practices were evidence of Life.
    The church lost her relationship corporately, with Jesus, confusing the bible which is the written expression of the Living Word, with reality.
    We thought buildings and practices were evidence of Life.
    We have substituted who with how and where.
    The solution is the same for us as it was for them.
    We must separate ourselves from the how and where.
    There were times in the life of Israel and the church when revival and reform were able to restore a walk in the Spirit among Gods people, but like Israel, we have arrived at a critical mass of falsehood, hypocrisy and outright sin among the family of God.
    A wholesale repentance and turning away from idolatry is needed to restore His presence among us as a people.
    We must replace the where and how totally with WHO.
    He is leading millions out of their particular Babylons, back to rebuild His presence (temple) and Way, (walls aka culture)
    Spread the Word, our captivity is over, its time to return to Him.
    blessings
    Greg

  9. 5-8-2012

    Greg,

    Do you think it’s possible that some have found the importance of WHO (i.e., Jesus) and yet remain among those in the institutions and organizations in order to help others recognize the importance of the WHO?

    -Alan

  10. 5-8-2012

    Sure. God has always had a remnant both in and out of all of our captivity’s. And I wasn’t insinuating that institutions or organisations are Babylon, though some they can be may be just as much as a para ministry, house church or gymnasium fellowship, missionary org etc. I know of several denominational churches where the members are walking in the Lord in the full light He has revealed to them. There is nothing to leave and no place for them to go because they are the lampstand ekklesia in their place.They honor God in their lives and God will lead them to stay or go, as He and they work together in love and truth.
    The church in general though has been carried away by every wind of doctrine and lost her vision of the Kingdom as a spiritual reality, with earthly things being the shadow. We’ve been duped into thinking that our time here is primary, but Jesus prayed that Gods will should be done on earth as it is already in heaven. Jesus did or said nothing unless Father told him. Life originates in God, and we need to take our integrity less serious when it leads us to presume against the Lord or one another.

    The call to leave bondage is always preceded by the call to re enter His Rest. Where that happens with all who dwell in that location, unity in Christ will result, Babylon (man attempting to please God) will transform into a microcosm of heavenly Jerusalem, aka man happily surrendered to God as King David was.
    David made some heinous mistakes while he was a man after Gods heart.
    Where only some return to Him, a natural separation of culture will occur.
    There is no pro forma scale by which anyone can judge others hearts.
    We have tried to make one though, based upon outward appearances and conformity to our understanding of God.
    God doesnt want that, because He created us one with Christ, and He waits for all to come together. He’s a father who loves all His kids.
    Those who do return must humble themselves, and wait lovingly and with supplication for their brethren. This is what Jesus did for us, and has done for millenia.
    Jesus didnt kick Judas out, and even up to the end, hoped for his soul.
    Who among us can cast stones?
    As I see Christ in scripture, I see very few times that God sanctioned separation among His people, and those who were close to Gods heart, did it with great regret and no anger. Love understands that it was necessary because we are so alike, and so susceptible to infection, and not because they are so bad and we are better. God sees separation among his children as quarantine to get better, while we tend to see it as divorce.
    Jesus wept over Jerusalem, after they had killed His prophets for 3 millenia. We barely get past the 5 yr mark with a dozen other believers before we are moving on to another ‘family’.
    Its no mystery why we dont teach church history.
    At some point though in each life, generation, civilization, era and ultimately time itself, God closes the door.
    Like King David and his gang of vagabonds turned warriors, they knew the times, and knew it was time to unite Israel under one king.
    They chose, with David (Christ figure) to wait for those following Saul to see the anointing on David, but they knew as the hour drew closer, that time was short.
    Their love for David produced soft hearts of mercy for their brethren, and they had their finger on the pulse of the nation.
    They served all their brethren and showed the rest of institutional Israel what life under David (Christ) is like.
    God is a gentleman, and comes like a dove to His people, humbly presenting Himself in Christ, drawing us to want Him more than our idols.
    The conflict with Saul, the king who was anointed but disobeyed, was a picture of the flesh warring against the spirit, which is the only war that God allows as the spirit will win and set us free.
    Our wars have been flesh vs flesh mostly, and the result is bondage.
    Our call to our brethren is to rid ourselves of all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and abandon our idols, take up our cross and follow Him, together.
    If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross…..
    blessings
    Greg

  11. 5-3-2013

    wow Alan, I mean…. wow. I don’t remember this post from 2008 but my mouth actually dropped open when I read it. I had no clue people were seriously marketing the church as a business even so far as to duplicate franchise models & principles.

    All of my thoughts and opinions of “church as a business” that I’ve felt forming in my heart these past years were never based on anything I saw or experienced this extreme.

    I don’t know where to start to comment on this.

  12. 5-5-2013

    Randi,

    It’s actually fairly common.

    -Alan