WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY IF I WERE TO START AGAIN.
I have included a three-minute-to-read, important excerpt from Neil Cole's great book (and my favourite on the subject of starting and growing micro/house/simple churches). You may not see yourself as a 'church planter' but these truths that Neil shares are of value to all followers of Jesus. We ALL need to be reaching out to our families, neighbours work-mates etc whoever they may be. And we need to have the end in mind that our genuine friendship will result in some sort of regular get together where the important issues of life will be discussed. The result may be a new disciple; it could be a church!
The paragraph on 'rethinking leadership' is vital. So much current teaching on leadership is so restrictive. It blatantly excludes new believers, and independent thinkers, in fact all but the super-talented qualify. Listening to the tapes of one prominent leadership teacher makes me wonder if he has even heard of the Holy Spirit. We need to reject this sort of teaching and embrace the Holy Spirit, his gifts, and the promises of God. We are not (all) called to be CEOs of secular companies, nor should we be restricted by the world's leadership principles.
About Neil Cole. Neil leads a movement, "Church Multiplications Associates" (CMA). In the first six years of CMA, Cole states, "there have been close to 800 churches started in thirty-two states and twenty-three nations around the world." (page 26 of "Organic Church").
First, I would begin in the harvest and start small. Don't start with a team of already-saved Christians. We think that having a bigger and better team will accelerate the work, but it doesn't. It is better to have a team of two, since the right two makes the work even better. The churches birthed out of transformed lives are healthier, reproductive, and growing faster.
Second, I would allow God to build around others. Don't start in your own home; find a 'person of peace' and start in that home. Read Matt. 10 and Luke 10, and do it.
Third, I would empower others from the start. Let the new believers do the work of the ministry without your imposed control. Let the excitement of a new life carry the movement rather than your intelligence and persuasiveness.
Fourth, I would let Scripture, not my assumptions, lead. Question all your ministry assumptions in the light of Scripture, with courage and faith. Let God's Spirit and God's Word lead rather than your own experience, teaching and tradition.
Fifth (and this is the 'biggie'). I would rethink leadership. Set the new believers loose immediately and walk with them through the leadership process. Leadership recruitment is a dead end. We are all recruiting from the same pond, and it is getting shallower and shallower. Leadership farming is what is needed. Any leadership development that doesn't start with the lost is staring at the wrong place. Start at the beginning with the end in mind. The learning process isn't over until there is a flat line on the screen next to the bed!
Sixth, I would create immediate obedience in baptism. Baptise quickly and publicly and let the one doing the evangelising do the baptising. It is absolutely foolish the way we hold the Great Commission over our people and then exclude them from obeying it (by insisting on leaders only doing the baptising). We need to let the new convert imprint on the Lord for protection, provision, training, and leading, rather than on other humans (and leaders).
Seventh and last, I would settle my ownership issues. Stop being concerned about whether "your" church plant will succeed or not. It isn't yours in the first place. If we have our own identity and reputation at stake in the work, we will tend to take command. Big mistake! Let Jesus get the glory and put his reputation on the line; he can take care of himself without your help.
Feel free to pass this letter on.
Your feedback is appreciated.