I can remember the first couple of churches Wendy and I planted, back in the ninties. When Victory came into town we were viewed with great suspicion by other existing churches. Rumours spread about us being a cult and everything! But as the years slipped by and more and more Victory churches were planted word got around that we were OK. A little radical perhaps, but OK. Besides, there were other organizations planting new Spirit-filled churches in many of the same communities also and it seems the novelty wore off a little.
But this trend has also brought about changes to the spiritual landscape. When we started planting we were unique. Very few movements were moving in the same direction and we kind of had the field to ourselves. But as similar churches began to proliferate across North America through the 80’s and 90’s it became harder and harder to stand out, just by planting a new church. Church planters today are finding that they need a much greater focus on their vision then they used to. It’s not enough to just plant a new church and wait to see who shows up. Instead we have to start by prayfully choosing a community and then asking ourselves, “Who is NOT being reached here? Who isn`t going to church? How will this church do what others are not?”
The answer to these questions will significantly shape the profile of any new church. Where it is located, the worship style, timing of services, and dozens of other key strategy decisions will flow from the answers to these questions. Churches that really connect with a community rapidly – something most new plants must do – do so because they strike a nerve. They hit the target with the first shot. This is a result of a keen focus on their mission.Being purpose-driven is great, but not if your purpose is still too generalistic, fuzzy, and poorly defined. And this applies just as much to established churches seeking to grow.
Why don’t we focus better? Because it’s hard work. Seeing what is difficult to see, making sense of an overload of demographic information, being ruthless about staying on track once you are on the right track… All this takes a lot of effort. But it is energy well invested. The result is a clear and simple vision that is easy to share, strikes a chord with people immediately, and imbeds a healthy momentum into the life of the new church.