Don’t Create an Anti-Culture

Are you reacting to the people behind you, or serving the people in front of you? – Kent Reeder

When I was struggling in a former ministry environment, the fella who would eventually become my church planting coach gave me some great advice. Instead of being a crybaby, he called me to be constructive.

“Get a composition notebook,” he said, “and whenever you’re frustrated about some kingdom bottleneck or ecclesiastical inertia that inhibits breakthrough, write it down. And don’t just write down a diagnosis of what’s going wrong; brainstorm an alternative system, or at least a principle, that would not only safeguard against such frustrations, but which would ensure the establishment of alternative systems to produce the desired result.”

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So, of course, I didn’t get a composition notebook. I got a Moleskine. But besides that, I obeyed.

It was a good exercise. It turned my frustrations into blueprints — or at least rough sketches — for a several aspects of a future church plant.

Drawbacks

But as good as this exercise was, it still has the liability of being a reaction. If you decide on an anti-frustration principle or system before ever entering a new ministry context, such systems and principles are still more closely tethered to the old, frustrating environment than they are to the new environment. 

And this is where my fellow church planter Kent’s query comes in.

To the degree that we are building a ministry culture in reaction to the people and institutions and cultures behind us, we are failing to appropriately serve the people in front of us.

What are people for?

People are not fodder for your ambitions. We all know this. But neither are people fodder for the rectification of your unrealized, frustrated, stifled, past ministry objectives.

If you have the opportunity to move out of a frustrating environment and into an environment that you get to help establish, tend to the actual people God brings into your new, shared environment. He populates your church plant with the people he wants there, and it is ultimately their needs and their latent missional potentialities that he has called you to pastor.

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