Every new business needs to differentiate itself from all others. Else, why the need for a new business? Church planting necessitates differentiation.
These days, being different may open otherwise hostile hearts and minds. We face a rising generation more interested in healing hurts and sustaining resources than they are in traditional spiritual matters. We must wed evangelism to missional efforts if we expect to gain a hearing.
Sadly, our need to differentiate can result in our trying to “be different for the sake of being different.” Not much point in that as it can lead to silliness at best and hurtful mistakes at the worse. You should have both a theology and a cultural reason for everything that sets you apart from the guy down the street.
The other pitfall is that occasionally overpowering urge to simply ‘knock-off’ the ministry of some admired leader? BTW, does a copycat truly differentiate? Is there anything godly about that behavior? This one can spell real trouble.
Spiritual Integrity and Differentiation
When I say trouble, I mean trouble of a spiritual nature. Paul wrote about this kind of action to the fledgling church at Corinth, “…Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world?”
According to the apostle, cookie cutter Christianity (magnified when it occurs in a leader) is worldly behavior. And, he says it is a pathway cut out by a sinful nature.
What exactly is he getting at? And, how does that apply to a church planter?
Whenever we copy someone else we are practicing a form of humanism rather than listening to the creative voice of the Holy Spirit.
Differentiation, Innovation and Needs Met
Far better to present problems and opportunities to your core team and then prayerfully seek a new way of doing things than to copy someone else’s revelation. God is creative and he will give you new and creative ways of doing things that actually fit in your community if you give him half a chance.
One Meaningful Exception
The only exception to this “Do Not Copy” rule would be to clone your mentor for the first few months out the gate. Doing so helps remind you of where you came from and who you are—it gives you a guiding star for making well-reasoned changes that will certainly differentiate you from your mentor over time.
People around us are spiritually hungry. Many are antagonistic toward church as they’ve known it. Some are hurt. Offer something fresh and you’ll touch many lives.
What makes you different?
How does your church stand apart from others? Please share unique opportunities that lead to productive communication with the culture around you…