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Monday, February 13, 2006

Church in a Box

We're always looking for churches that are interested in partnering with us as we plant churches here in Western Europe. God has been good to provide us with mission-minded churches that participate sacrificially in what God is doing around the world. Sometimes we go looking for partner churches. Every once in a while, one comes looking for us.

Recently, we were contacted by a well-known megachurch in the Convention that was looking for opportunities to plant "postmodern" churches in Western Europe. For us, that's a pretty big deal. It's like landing a big account, picking up a high-profile client, closing a big deal. Or some other corporate term that means "good for us." Having big and rich partner churches means an unlimited volunteer pool, round-the-clock prayer support, and a few items crossed off the unfunded needs list. Immediately we started planning vision trips and prayer materials for our new partners. It wasn't until we met with the church leadership back in the States that we realized things we're going to work out.

Their idea of church planting was to reproduce their successful stateside model in other countries. They explained to me that they had been hard at work putting together resources that would make it easy to implement their strategy. All I had to do was join their church planting network, and for $250 US per year they would send me recordings of their pastor's sermons and some study materials. My membership also qualified me to shop in their church planting network resources store, where I could buy a state-of the-art sound system, a video projector, and padded seats in one of three tasteful colors. That's right, they wanted to sell me church in a box.

Picture it: a mini-megachurch in the heart of Western Europe. Weekly sermons, already translated into national languages, ready to be shown on the big screen. A video of inspirational, seeker-sensitive worship music, complete with a powerpoint presentation of the lyrics. The package even included advertising materials, such as professional-quality brochures, vinyl banners, and pre-recorded radio spots.

When I told the church leaders that we were trying to start churches that would be a little more indigenous, they stared blankly. When I asked if we could try something that was a little more culturally appropriate, they offered to take a hundred dollars off the cost of my membership to their church planter's network. When I outlined our strategy, they laughed. "We're not going to get involved in anything that won't let our people see immediate results," they said. "Our model has been proven to work here in the U.S., and we're just looking for someone to do it overseas."

Looking back, the whole interaction sounds silly.


steve w said...


can you email me? if so, please do. if not, i understand. my email is available with my profile.

tl said...

That's pretty sad...not unusual, but sad nonetheless.

steve w said...

i saw where you plugged that product on mccoy's blog. my pet monkey has started 3 churches using "right out of the box" church.

j/k - i don't have a pet monkey.

Anonymous said...

I ran into that sort of thing but not so blatantly a "church in a box". This group was interested in duplicating themselves in a similar city as theirs but in my country and even calling it FBC??? (north, south east or west) Incredible.

Stepchild, thanks for injecting into this IMB trustee debate some actual on the ground thinking about missiology. It is not just about theology, ecclessiology and baptist history.
Joe Mish.

steve w said...

another humorous post about this sort of thing

MegaChurch In A Box

i still think God wants to use real people. i've always appreciated these words from E.M. Bounds' book Power Through Prayer. He says:

What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use--men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men.

and we know God flows through women too.

David in W.E. said...

Lots of churches and believers in the US (and elsewhere) are well-motivated, and want to do what they can to help. When everything depends on authentic relationships, which normally means long-term presence in a place, that seriously limits what you can do from far off, or sending in occasional short-term teams. As a result, you have to be creative regarding how to be the best steward of these Kingdom resources which are at our disposal. That, I believe, is a big part of the job of the North American "m", being a bridge between both cultures, and helping to think through what resources might prove most useful, and helping both sides to gain a better understanding of how to make the best use of them. A "resource broker", if you will.

Anonymous said...

well said. creativity is definitely a must. some of the bridges that must be build are longer than others. we must "count the cost". some short-term groups are not worth the effort. they come w/ fixed ideas.

I am hoping to connect with you guys in w.e. our context have a lot in common. it encourages me to know that you both are there.
joe mish.

David Rogers said...


I'd love to "connect" as well. E-mail me, or visit my new blog.

David in W.E.

David said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David said...

I have a friend on staff in the largest church in his fairly small community...hah! He and I were visiting over breakfast just yesterday, and he commented that the leadership of his church throw around the "culturally relevant" prhase-ology as the big buzz-word of the day. But, their church is in a highly hispanic community. Whe he asked if that meant they would be singing the worship songs in spanish, all he got was blank stares.
People think that because they have reached some pinnacle of success using their modern seeker-friendly "church strategy", that it would actually translate anywhere. But really, is their success strengthening the body of Christ, or just making us bloated, inept, atrophied?

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