What if you started a church?

This week I was asked the question every pastor who isn’t a senior leader gets asked: “If you were to start a church, what would you do?” As I obviously had my opinions, I will throw this question out to anyone who would like to contribute.

Would love your thoughts on what would be essential for your church!


~ by Dave Smith on December 30, 2008.

12 Responses to “What if you started a church?”

  1. i was just talking about this question this morning with some friends. not because i’m planning on starting a church, but more because of leadership style & what i’m about to stay.

    instead of starting a church & serving as the lead pastor, sr. pastor, etc, i’d start it with a collaborative leadership team of 3-5 people who would, while having specific ministry responsibilities, all have equal say in direction & overall decision making/implementation. we need to get past personality driven representations of the church. obviously there would be disagreements, but consensus would have to be reached. and i think it’d be worth the struggle.

  2. This might sounds cynical, but I’ve been a bit that way lately.

    In any case, I honestly believe that America doesn’t need any more churches — at least not in the way churches are normally started. I think the only new churches I would want to see are churches that are planted in completely (or almost completely) unchurched areas.

    If I were planting a church in such a setting, I like Joel’s idea concerning leadership roles. I am also interested in churches that transplant not only a leadership team but a small group of lay people into a community to help kick-start the process.

  3. Great thoughts Joel and Ben.

    I love how both of you speak towards collaboration.

    Ben your comment about if America even needs another church bothers me every time the fleeting idea of starting a church passes through my mind. I wonder the same thing and haven’t gotten a handle on where I stand with that one.

    Really like your organic approach to a church start, simply by community and then multiplication.

    Any other opinions out there? Appreciate the insight!

  4. ben, i thoroughly agree with you…i think that many church planters would do well to refine their idealistic tendencies & leadership desires in the context of helping an already established church grow deeper & root themselves better in their work. i get tired of my generations desire to start new things without investing in what already exists. the whole why reinvent the wheel sorta deal. granted, a lot of the “wheels” out there are flat or out-of-date or whatever, but lets breath new life into them rather than discard them entirely.

  5. Started one 4 years ago after I left Akron. Too much to share in one reply to Dave’s site. But it’s been lots of work, and lots of fun.

  6. I would add that the wisdom Greg shares in starting a church (or with anything ministry-related for that matter) goes well beyond a post.

    To check out Greg’s exceptional ideas and progressive ministry strategies, go to: http://www.gregteselle.com/

  7. Speaking as one who never envisioned myself as a church planter, a few thoughts:

    1. Church-planting is the greatest adventure our family has ever embarked on. It’s been much harder than we imagined, and incredibly more rewarding. I’m so grateful God is allowing us to watch him in action in this context. I encourage anyone reading this who are considering to jump out of their comfort zone and give it a shot—with the right coaching network in place.

    2. America doesn’t need more churches, that’s true. At least not more churches like the ones that already exist. But the average city in America has only 20% of its population in church on a given Sunday (including Catholic churches). There is a HUGE need for environments where those far from God can feel safe, welcomed, and comfortable being honest about their spirituality. Environments that connect with regular people and the culture they live in.

    3. Collaborative is good. But that’s more about the people you choose than the titles you give them. On any team different personalities will emerge more strongly than others. Godly character will count for much more than organizational structure.

    4. Your other post about missions is dead-on. We must stop looking at America as “christian” and start approaching our culture with a missional mindset.

    5. Recognize that sometimes the lead pastor and the lead communicator can be two different people. 😉

    6. Realize that more than anything (music, speaking style, anything else attractional or environmental) it’s about the RELATIONSHIPS. That’s where life change happens. Don’t spend so much energy on the Sunday show that you forget how much of our success (life change) depends on authentic relational environments.

  8. Really strong comments here Rich, as was hoping you would post your thoughts on this one.

    Good wisdom to your point number 3, and yes, that “doctor’s diagnosis” post brings some supportive rationale for the need of further church plants (done differently).

    Your life journey has been a lesson and inspiration to all of us connected to you guys. Thanks.

  9. i have been very negative toward churches. so much so that one of my friends turned on me and challenged me to describe a worthwhile church instead of complaining so much. it really made me think. it is so easy to pick out flaws, but it is another story when you have to come up with solutions.

    after thinking about it for a while, i didn’t have a clue what a healthy church looked like. i certainly didn’t believe there were any churches that modeled what i was looking for. for that matter, i still don’t. i’ve been to many churches, even the so called cutting edge churches. you know what, they are all the same.

    i wasn’t getting anywhere. then God hit me with it. i’m involved in what would be considered a para-church ministry called First Glance (www.firstglance.org). and although it was our goal at first glance to never be a church, we are a church. and i believe we are a very good model for a church.

    i don’t want to get too long, so here’s just a few reasons why we are a better church model. we have 10 times more unbelievers involved than believers. every believer is active. we have no pew sitters. we spend much more time worshiping/serving than “learning about God.” i think para-church ministries are the new church. they are focused, active, and relevant.

  10. Good thought Tim.

    I wonder if some could rationalize the YMCA being a church under these assumptions? Maybe so, maybe not?

    One statement we keep hearing is that the church isn’t a building but a group of Christ-followers. If this is true, would that only make a very small segment of your group “the church”? (For example, when we see the church functioning in Acts 2, is it recorded of how many nonbelievers they have or Christ follwers?)

    Either way, I think we can definitely say that First Glance has very key components of their DNA that should be a part of all churches, yet they have unfortunately lost along the way. (hence your need to break away from an established church, becoming more effective as a parachurch).

    Excited for what your ministry is doing and for the impact it will make on the kingdom…and how we will look at church in the future.

    Keep pioneering that way and thanks for your commitment.

  11. i don’t think anyone would argue that the YMCA is a church after that village people song.

    i think a lot of our discussion on what a church is relies on semantics. we say “a church” when paul wrote it as “the Church of God in Corinth.” i think we’ve separated our churches from The Church to a degree. we often look at it as individual churches, often referring to a building, as opposed to the global Church, referring to the global body of believers awaiting Christ’s return. our definition has changed, if not in our dictionaries, in our minds.

    you make a good point that the amount of unbelievers do not determine a church, quite the opposite! however, in acts 2, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” it seems to me that for the church to have grown so quickly in number, many unbelievers were present, observing, and listening to the church and then deciding to follow Christ. at the same time, isn’t it a common goal pushed at a church to bring unbelievers so that they may know Christ?

    i think churches are quite conflicted on this. they often can’t decide if they are for christians or unbelievers, and as a result, they don’t do either well. services are meant to teach a 20 year veteran christian and an unbeliever, and that means watered-down sermons for christians and christian-speak messages for unbelievers.

    my biggest issue with churches is that they have become holding tanks for christians. they collect christians and then keep them occupied with so-called learning (how much do you really need to know before you can serve?) i think the reason they do this is due to a faulty way to measure success. church success is currently measured by building size, congregation size, staff size, and donation size. Christ built the church by duplicating himself and sending them away. i want to see churches define their success on how many have left the congregation to serve God on their own. then, be a support network, pouring into these people. here is where churches can spend their time teaching and getting deeper than they ever have before.

    first glance certainly doesn’t have this right yet. but i think we are closer than many churches. if nothing else, i think it is good to shake up the church community by making them think about how first glance could be a church. it opens their mind to some different things they could do with their church.

  12. Yea, agreed on your thoughts here and a strong challenge for all churches to hear these issues of measuring spiritual growth, having a strong unchurched connections, and learing for today’s parachurches.

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