Why Church Plants Are NOT Factories

The people of our churches have been entrusted to us for a season, but they do not belong to us.

Thanks to the work of some fantastic organizations and a lot of visionary churches, it seems there are more church plants springing up in the cities of the world today than ever before. And with this, a lot of us leaders are stepping out with a big vision and encountering a lot of brand new experiences along the way.

I know one of my biggest struggles as a leader is having a vision and sensing on a regular basis that I don’t know how to realize that vision with the existing human and financial resources around me. Don’t get me wrong, God has blessed our little church in Orlando with incredible people and we’re continuing to build a culture of generosity. This isn’t me complaining or giving excuses. It’s the beginning of a hard lesson I’ve learned along the way.

Leaders so often love control, and in that we leverage people to live out our vision. When in reality, we should be platforming people to live out God’s unique vision for their lives.

The people of our churches have been entrusted to us for a season, but they do not belong to us.

Spiritual Machines  

In the process of working on my new book, Spiritual Innovation, I started learning some interesting things about the Industrial Revolution. People were moving from rural areas to city centers. Their work was shifting from agrarian labor to mechanical work.

So, there was a need to educate people. The end goal wasn’t to teach them to think. The purpose of education was to instruct laborers on mechanical, repetitive tasks. These people needed to be replaceable in the event of injury or sickness or in the rare chance they found a better job and moved on. So, the end goal of education was sameness, replaceability.

While this cookie cutter methodology is still in place in most of our American educational institutions, it’s not the only place we find it. We find this propensity toward sameness in our churches as well.

We create systems to teach people information and process them through our programs intended to spit them out on the other end as “better Christians.”

But what if church isn’t a factory? What if our end goal is not meant to be to train people to fill holes in our processing plant? What if our churches are actually meant to be shifting and growing organisms that take on the shape of the individual members therein?

As a church planter, your experience and education have probably led you to have some perceptions of what church is “supposed” to look like. But what if your church is supposed to look different than that? What if the gifts, talents, abilities, resources and contributions of the members of your congregation are different than what is needed for your perception of what church “should” be?

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Cole NeSmith
Cole is the Creative Director and co-pastor of City Beautiful Church in Orlando, FL. His new book, Spiritual Innovation, helps us move from the need for control to a new level of exploration, expectation, discovery and creativity in our faith and lives. He also creates interactive and reflective art and worship experiences through his company, Uncover the Color. He blogs regularly and is on Twitter.