I just accomplished in four minutes and fifty-three seconds what ten years ago would have taken days. Why, because I am connected. You see, the information that I needed for this afternoon’s meeting was easily found with a web search and a few clicks. The system that we call the internet has transformed culture, increased efficiency, and made me a much better researcher. That’s what efficient systems do.
Consider the bigger question: How would you develop such a system? Imagine it’s you in 1969, sitting at the table, and someone posits the question: How can we put the entire corpus of human understanding into one place, and access anything we want in under five minutes? Every needed component was there in 1969, but to conceive of, articulate and begin to build the system would have been quite impossible. Systems as transformational as the internet build with time. I would hope that if I had been in that meeting in 1969, I would not have tried to envision the modern understanding of the internet. Rather, I hope my response would have been smaller; something like, “Hey John, you have a computer at Stanford right? I do too, let’s see if we can get those things connected over a wire!” That’s exactly what happened. On October 29, 1969 Stanford and UCLA connected computers for the very first time. It was the “great first connection” known as Arpanet.
The internet sprang from that first connection, and as powerful a force as the internet has become, if we all turned off our computers at 12:01 GMT tomorrow, the internet would instantly cease to exist. It is only alive because of connections.
We have all taken part in the increased dialog about church planting. We have heard that the church planter is the top of the food chain and that all of our organizational structures exist to support them. However, let us suspend all thoughts about the church planter for now, and consider the system that we hope to create. Systems cannot exist in a vacuum, and the more focused a system is the greater chance it has for success. If we look at the entire system, like the discussion of the internet, it is overwhelming and non-realistic to think we can grasp its scope. However, if we search for the “great first connection” the system will form itself and it will be healthy and stable.
Back to the church planter…
Many of you are vested in church planting. Some of you have the ability to arrange funding for those church planters. Think before you act, it may not be the healthiest option to open the financial dialog first. The healthier path may be to formulate the connections. Many of you have heard my soapbox schpeel already, but for those who haven’t, here it is:
The church planter out there, although you may never meet them, they are top priority and we exist for them. This philosophy must carry through in all that we do. It is our responsibility to care for him and his family, perhaps not directly, but in our actions and systems. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that throwing money at something means that we care. On the contrary, it seems disingenuous. If we care we must move deeper into building connectedness. Ask questions like:
• In what local supporting pastor does this family find their spiritual covering and accountability?
• Does that same church support them financially?
• Does this family have the skills or connections for some level of self generated support?
(If a planter cannot raise some support for himself, do we really think he can plant a church?)
• Does he have financial support from other local churches, the association or state convention?
If the local field, friends, and sending church do not support him, why should you? He may be a risk.
Now, don’t misinterpret my thoughts. If the end goal is health and longevity of the planter and his family, we undermine the work of the church planter if we fail to ask these questions. Think resolutely on this: If you provide funding without the connectedness, helping the church planter formulate those connections will be more difficult. If you fund immediately, other partners will abdicate their responsibility. However, if you walk with him through the other connections, your funding can be icing on the cake. The healthiest churches in America will be those that another church has connected with and planted. If our state and national agencies can work to support the local partners, the church planter and his family will be protected.
One final note: You are key to his success. If in your thinking, planting a church means filing paperwork to get funding for a church planter, you are derelict in your duties. Invest yourself in that family, walk them into their first great connection, make it a local one, and watch as other partners connect into the great system that is a church plant. That system will transform the culture, increase efficiency, and make that man a better church planter.