All over the world, people are being trained in the martial arts. That said, there are various philosophies of training. Each master brings his or her unique philosophy to the dojo and trains pupils who will learn to fight in the same signature style as their sensei.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we had great movies like The Karate Kid. The film juxtaposes two very different trainers; the Cobra Kai school of karate and Mr. Myagi. Myagi is the embodiment of the old ways. His methods are about making karate about the heart and not the head. Therefore, he tasks Daniel-son with incessant wax on, wax off, “paint fence” and of course, the crane kick that saves the day.
After some time training with Myagi, they visit the Cobra Kai dojo to take a peak at the training. It’s fast. It’s powerful. And it’s painful. The Cobra kai have cool Cobra patches on their backs and cool chants, and they can break wood with their bare hands. All of this makes Daniel think that he’s in for a beating, but although they look, sound and punch so good, their karate is all wrong.
Myagi walks away from the gym telling Myagi “That not karate”.
Much of what we’re calling Multiplication and church planting is a Westernized form of something that was done way better in ancient times. With all of our fast and furius leg sweeps, we struggle to produce the impressive results that Paul did, while the church in South East Asia continues to outpace our efforts like Bruce Lee on a caffeine high.
Small but quick
In our numbers-obsessed culture, we malign the quick but small style of fighting and favor the big but slow. Ninja church plants are out. Sumo wrestler churches are in, and the fatter the better.
With our increased size and girth, we teach a young planter to roll into a town, throw down a big logo, a sexy website and a launch event from a building, and we teach them to dream wistfully that the crowds return the second week. We boastfully quote numbers like the Cobra Kai chant, “Cobra Kai, never die!” If a church planter breaks the 200 barrier, it is the equivalent to breaking wood with bare hands.
And get this.
If a guy can be seen to fill a room with people, he’s whispered about like some sort of legend, but all he really gets is a plastic trophy painted gold. It doesn’t make him a true master like Paul. Why?
What just happened isn’t karate.
It’s not church planting of the 1st-century variety.
It’s something else. I’m not saying that it’s bad. I’m just saying it’s not what Paul trained his planters to do. Nor was it what Jesus trained the 12 to excel at. It’s also not the primary experience of the average church planter.
Only 10 percent of churches in America are over 200 people. The problem is when we equate 10 percent of what happens with success, rather than recalibrating our metrics of what success actually is. Roughly 90 percent of church planters fall into that same statistic. After training for years in the West Region (hardest area) of the largest church planting network in the United States, the figures are the same. Church planting doesn’t guarantee any greater boon in numbers, merely conversions.
But wasn’t that what we were going for anyway?
What is the link to what Paul did in the first century?
Something that will break out of the system.
Something that will break the mold.
Something that has been lost.
Something that can be restored.
Something that can be relearned.
And if it can be relearned, it can be retrained.
Ninja strike teams
We’re simply not planting like the apostles. Ever wonder why they went so fast?
Because they didn’t go alone.
They went together.
Ninja Strike Teams.
Contrast this with the methodology of our modern approach to church planting. We recruit, train (this is debatable), fund and coach church planters believing that this will reverse the 70% fail rate. But here’s what we still haven’t grasped. We haven’t really changed the statistic because we’re still sending them alone.
It’s like throwing a bunch of spaghetti at the wall and waiting to see what sticks.
Not many do.
Instead of multiplying churches, we multiply wasted time, resources and worst of all, hurt and disillusioned people.
We can do better.
In this series, we trace the ability to plant in teams, thus increasing the ability of our church planters to serve together, create a stronger brotherhood (or communitas as Alan Hirsch calls it), multiply faster and saturate a community more deeply with the gospel.
Think of what a brotherhood of planters might look like after they have served together in the same city. That would be a local network of churches working together to impact their city!
And like the poor Cobra Kai surprised by the knockout Crane Kick at the end of Karate Kid, your city wouldn’t know what hit it!
Published September 27, 2017