28 June 2006

Ministry Multiplicity

There was a movie with Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell that came out in 1996 called "Multiplicity". The basic idea, was that the main character, Doug, just didn't have enough time. There were work responsibilities, family responsibilities. personal responsibilities, you name it. So, he had a clone made of himself. And then another. Finally, things started to get a bit easier; more Doug Time" and less stress. Then the two clones got the bright idea that they needed more Doug Time". So, they made a clone of Clone #1. A copy of a copy. You can only imagine how bad that turned out. Funny movie, worth a watch.

We all have an idea of how a copy of a copy works out. Ever make a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy? Not very effective, is it? So why is it that we do this so often for ministry? "Hey, if it works for Saddleback/Willow Creek/Brooklyn Tabernacle, then it can work for us."

Maybe.

Even if it does work a little or even very well, is it what you are supposed to do with the ministry/church? How many pastors download sermons and tweak to their personal taste? With no research or personal devotional time becasue they are jus too busy? What about ministry programs, mission statements, and entire paradigm shifts totally dependent upon a template designed by a church or ministry whose demographical profile doesn't event remotely resemble yours?

These Mega Churches and large parachurch ministries usually start by someone taking inventory of where they're at, who they are called to reach, and where God wants to take them. Then they allow God to lead them in the particular way to get it done; the way that is most effective for that local area or country. After all the variables are considered and prayed about, the devise a plan. It sounds complicated, but that's what we should be doing everyday on a personal level anyway. Just upscale that concept and super-impose it onto your ministry.

When all these things come together in the right way, it works for growing the kingdom of God. "Great! I'll just take that and make it work here!"

Um. No.

There is something very unique that God wants to do in your area. Sure, it's ultimately the same end as every other Christ-centered ministry - wins souls for Jesus. But, the means are going to be unique to where you are and who you are called to reach. Don't copy the Purpose Driven Church or the Purpose Driven Youth Ministry. Sure great concepts for who they were intended for, but not necessarily for you. Get ideas, but don't mimic so closely it's impossible to see God's unique creation at work in your ministry. If you do that, you get a copy of a copy of a copy; not the real deal.

God's Word should be your ministry manual and planning guide. Prayer should be your brainstorming session initially. Don't plagiarize; you'll just end up with a watered-down, dummied-down version of what could really be. Sure, you may see growth in numbers and in the spiritual life of each believer. But, is it the kind of growth that God had in mind, or are you short-changing the Kingdom because you won't sacrifice some other (even good) things in order to do it the right way (usually harder)?

What works in sunny California or Texas will be counterproductive in New York and Boston. Slow down, read, pray, and listen. God wants to do something big, but not in the way that it has already been done. Just think about something as silly as Super Bowl commercials. What if they showed the same commercials every year? Look at different TV stations and who their target audience is. Watch how they advertise. You'll see the same product promoted on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon that you see promoted on ESPN or Fox, but the approach totally different. Do kids care that their toys are made out of ABS plastic and are safe for kids over 3? No. But parents do. Do parents care so much that you can changes the rims and tires out on that cool remote control car? No. But kids do.

Who are you reaching and what do they respond to? The product (Jesus) remains the same. The means for making people aware of the product and then opening their minds enough for them to realize that they need the product will vary depending on what you are called to do.

Seems like we're back to creativity and and doing what God would have us do in His image rather than relying on past successes for three or more generations ago.

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