Who are the people who fit in your church in spite of their own culture? They are “outliers” to the main body of your congregation. And they are potential microchurch planters if you can get your head around the concept.
A microchurch is an autonomous congregation linked to a mother church through its pastor. More than a “Bible-study,” it sees itself as a full blown church, with a goal of making disciples who make disciples to the ends of the earth.
Don’t kid yourself about reaching everyone with the gospel. Most of the people in your church look like you and are within a decade of your age. They also reflect your ethnic, class and educational background. The “homogeneous unit principle” is alive and well in spite of our best efforts to take the gospel to everyone in our communities. We’re still products of our own socio-economic background, and so are the people who attend our churches.
Those Important Outliers
Take a close look at your congregation and you’ll find people from other cultures who mostly operate at the edges or your well-defined people-group. They may be with you because of an interracial marriage. Maybe they heard you on the internet and decided that what you have to say is more important than what their cultural baggage has held for them. Perhaps geography caused them to join your flock. The point is that they are a little different from the majority of people in your church and its life.
These folks are incredible bridges to their own culture. Get over the racial thing at this point—there are ex-convicts, super rich people, blue-collar workers in upscale congregations and rich people in blue-collar churches. Whatever the reason, they’ve chosen to worship with you while maintaining contact with people who are more like them than they are like you. These are the “bridges of God.”
The Microchurch Proposition
This is where things get sticky. Pastors like to cling to people. Butts in seats count for something (especially when bragging to other pastors), budgets matter, etc. The thought of releasing a bunch of people to start free-standing churches can be threatening.
But what if these people remained in your flock while planting a microchurch among people who look, and think, more like them than you? We could launch a revolution. The need is for a theology that allows free lance pastors to maintain their careers while dong ministry much like Aquila did in Corinth when he hired Paul, the classical “bivocational” missionary.
If someone can lead a Bible study or teach a Sunday School class, they are probably already equipped to pastor a dozen or more people. Change your paradigm to teach and release people to do this and evangelism and church growth can grow exponentially. Better yet, if these folks maintain ties to your church you won’t miss their financial support. The key difference is that instead of doing ministry “in the church” they’ll be planting a small church in the community.
One of my friends has done just that. He planted a microchurch while attending, and tithing to, our congregation in Honolulu. He’s a classic outlier, having come from biker/drug background. He touches people who want nothing to do with me or our church. The very cool thing is that within six months they multiplied into two churches. We harbor NO hopes of bringing these people into our churches—each member is a “bridge of God” to others like themselves. They would be entirely put off by my middle-class, white lifestyle and history-oriented teaching style. These people are impressed by the power of God to change lives and not much else.
This is a Personal Challenge…
If you have the nerve, a few people in your church might do much the same as I’ve just described. The future is in your hands. What can/you do with the outliers in your church to fulfill the command to “go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I’ve commanded you?”
Am I right about this or just blowing smoke? What do you think? Have you seen anything like this done? Are you doing it? PLEASE COMMENT…