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Planting Churches and Popping Bubbles

Double BubblesWhen we started planting Grace Hills Church, we moved fast. We had our first public information meeting in July of 2011 and launched in January of 2012. Some planting strategists would make the assumption that we were all about getting to the weekend show and not enough about making disciples. Nothing could be further from the truth. We moved fast because we wanted to pop bubbles as quickly as possible. Let me explain.

One of the reasons so many churches are plateaued at an attendance between 48 and 75 is they’ve grown very comfortable with the size of the bubble in which they are doing life. A few people may be added, but there is often little net growth because of the sociological attachment people have to their bubbles. In our first meeting, 35 people were present. It would have been easy to keep the bubble intact and make it all about those 35, but instead, we wanted to pop that bubble as quickly as possible to form new bubbles – multiple bubbles in fact.

We moved quickly because we wanted to keep our culture fluid and help people to understand several principles:

  • It’s not about “us.” If it becomes about “us” it usually leads to becoming about “us versus them,” and we prefer to be “us for them.” We are gathering for the purpose of gathering other, as-of-yet un-gathered people. 
  • A single cell that never multiplies isn’t healthy. Multiplication – not just small groups, but various kinds of micro-communities within the church – is essential and needs to happen in a time frame that is measurable.
  • We want individuals and small groups to reach other individuals and bring them into the church community, but we also want to bring people into the church community and connect them to individuals and small groups.
  • We operate in an apostolic era. Jesus is obviously the ultimate model for living, but to see His plan for disciple-making, we have to look beyond His earthly ministry to see how He empowered the early church through the book of Acts.
  • God uses momentum. You can see it in various eras of the church’s history, even in the book of Acts. Pentecost gave the church initial momentum (Acts 2), then the development of new leadership (Acts 6),  and then the persecution that scattered them (Acts 8) and the commencement of the missionary-sending capacity of the church in Antioch (Acts 13).

I completely understand the current de-emphasis of the weekend service (where we “do” church) and the emphasis on our through-the-week living (when we “are” the church). I get it when guys say, “don’t plant a weekend service, make disciples.” But I don’t believe we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Launching weekend services, if done with a biblical philosophy of mission, generates momentum and allows people to make disciples in the context of the larger church community.

If you’re stuck, figure out how to pop the current bubble and force people out of their comfort zones to form new bubbles. It may mean launching Sunday services sooner than first anticipated, launching a second service or campus, moving, or starting more small groups. Besides, isn’t it fun to make more bubbles?

photo by: Jeff Kubina

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