The Elephants in the Room

If the most efficient way to spread the gospel is to plant disciple making churches then we had better find out the most efficient way to plant these kinds of churches. If your thoughts go to training full-time pastors, money for land and buildings, or boards and budgets, you may be part of the problem. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

“One of the keys to empowering people to plant churches and unleash church planting movements is to strip away all cultural and historical baggage from our definition of church”
(Bob McNabb from an advanced copy of his book Spiritual Multiplication in the Real World)

Many of us want to reproduce what we are as a church, but in fact were never meant to be. It’s the model we want to reproduce that’s keeping us from being truly productive as disciple makers. We reproduce hierarchal institutions but not living organic expressions of Jesus Christ. If we continue to insist on our way of “doing church” we’ll do more than “hide our light under a basket”, we’ll keep millions from hearing the gospel.

Bob McNabb illustrates the potential of rethinking and realigning our practices for spiritual reproduction.

“Consider the following: Elephants don’t reach sexual maturity until they are around fifteen, and they may not actually reproduce until years later. Additionally, females are only fertile four times a year. Pregnancy lasts twenty-two months and only produces one calf. Intervals between calves are approximately four to five years. Rabbits, on the other hand, reach sexual maturity at four months and are almost continually fertile. Gestation takes only one month and yields an average of seven babies. If you locked two elephants in a room and came back three years later, you would find up to three elephants. If you did the same with two rabbits, there could be 476 million!”

Here are my three elephants in the room:
1. Our model of church planting may not be effective nor biblical.
2. People are perishing for lack of vision.
3. It’s not in the self-interest of “we professionals” to recast Jesus’ vision for his church.

I’m not interested in “putting lipstick on a pig” We may have to“kill some sacred cows”. It won’t be easy and it won’t be self-pleasing. There’s a lot of help available but you’ll need a full devotion to Jesus and a willingness to see with “fresh eyes”. “We ought to obey God rather than men” must become more than a phrase.

If you belong to a spiritual community of believers meeting under the authority of Jesus Christ and reproducing fully devoted followers who reproduce fully devoted followers, you know what I’m saying is true. Rejoice! Stay focused on Jesus.

If you think you might be part of the problem, let’s talk.

McNabb’s book, to my knowledge, is not yet available. But here are some other books to stimulate our thinking and conversation.

Church Planting Movements, How God Is Redeeming a Lost World by Garrison, David

Shaping of Things to Come, The: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost

The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch

The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church by George Barna, Tony Dale and Felicity Dale

The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson

The House Church Book: Rediscover the Dynamic, Organic, Relational, Viral Community Jesus Started by Wolfgang Simson


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