If the Stafford from 6 years ago could see me know!
I didn't used to be a multisite church (model) fan, in fact, I was pretty caustic towards that kind of idea. But first, let's back up just a bit and let you into my story a little more.
I spent the first part of my adult life running from God's call to me to follow him where he wanted me to go. I still had regular church attendance, but that was about it and even after a while, I didn't even have that!
What happened in 2006 was that God really grabbed my heart and had my attention enough for his call to follow him was really clear: I need to go to bible college for my BA. During my time at Briercrest College and Seminary, I experienced what so many college students do: profound truths about God spoken into my life that I was previously unaware.
With a bit of life under my belt and my intensive study of scripture led me down a path of idealism and cynicism. The world of the "professional" pastor, anything to do with a large churches (the mega-church movement was fresh in my memory) or "strategic" church leadership irritated me. I was drawn to the micro-church (organic) movements and people like Neil Cole, Reggie McNeal, Tony & Felicity Dale, et. al, and anything that looked like a church was growing too big instantly made me suspicious of their methodology, spiritual credentials .
For a period of time, I believed that if it wasn't "organic" church, it was wrong and sinful - playing to pastor's egos and power trips. I remember seeing The Multisite Church Revolution on the bookshelf of the school library and just being disgusted that pastor's egos had grown so big that they couldn't keep it in one location. I wanted nothing to do with this new "fad."
I almost didn't want to work at a "traditional" church because I was so disillusioned with how wrong they were. To be fair, I think that traditional churches do a lot of things that could be improved on and hidden extremely well in our actions, is a secret sinful motive that we need to continually uncover and lay before Christ.
So, what happened between there and here? One word: "experience." I experienced the actual day-to-day life of a church.
At first, I came in guns-a-blazing about how wrong things were, how certain programs or ministries didn't (or couldn't) work because they we're exactly like I had concluded they should work. I left a pretty good trail of relational carnage as I wasn't afraid to critique everything and I seemed hell-bent on forcing the church to adhere to my ideology.
The problem was all my critiquing never could actually lead to any real change or growth in people or in the church.
One embarrassing staff meeting, I was asked what I thought could help people who are new to church join a small group (we call them House Churches), I responded at length about how House Churches really didn't work (because I'd never been involved in a healthy one) and how we had a long road ahead of us to ever hope that good leaders could emerge.
My pastor: "That's great, Stafford. So, how do we get people into house churches easily?"
Me: "But they don't work"
Pastor: "Let's start with imperfect leaders, and allow them to lead. So, how?"
Me: "oh. I don't know."
The first year of vocational ministry began to break down the barriers I had put up towards pragmatism and leadership. My experience of being a leader caused me to begin to move from a position of theory and thought (of which there was much study of these in college) into a position of action and personal growth (of which there was a serious need in my life).
I found myself with a team of 60 volunteers that I couldn't lead through ideology and cynicism - I had to figure out real pragmatic way of moving forward with the mission of the church.
Enter, leadership development and coaching into my life! While this doesn't actually tell you "why" I changed my view on multisite churches, (that'll come up next!), but I hope that it give you a snapshot into the process that went into it.
Have you ever gone through a similar progression in your life? Tell me about in the comments!
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.