A Word to the Fore
I found this article on a site I look at from time to time. It is from a heterodox source, but I confess that this is one of the serious issues facing Orthodox missions – that of homogenia, or homogenous faith communities. While it worked well enough in the Old World, and for immigrants for a time, the truth is that, in my opinion, it is the greatest single barrier to Church planting in American Orthodoxy, second only to worshipping in an incomprehensible, dead language (bon jour).
by Dustin Neeley
Good Guys, Bad Guys
Yes or no? Black or white? Football or Polo?
Most of us prefer a world in which the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats, but that’s usually not the case. The truth usually lies somewhere in between.
I believe the same is true when it comes to church planting.
In today’s world where interest in church planting has exploded, many movements and denominations market their brands as “the way” to get the job done. However, because of our fallen world, none of us are entirely right about anything.
Additionally, church planters are notorious for sizing each other up. At any given gathering, it is not unusual to hear guys ask one another, “So are you a Piper guy or an Andy Stanley guy?” or “Are you a house church guy or a big church guy?” Once these types of questions are answered, we immediately form an opinion of our brother and the “legitimacy” of his ministry in light of our own presuppositions, and consequently cast doubt on anything else he might have to say.
I believe the Scriptures set appropriate boundaries for what is and isn’t acceptable in the name of gospel ministry. And we could all debate the legitimacy of pulling a tank out on stage to illustrate one’s point. But my fear is that we spend so much time figuring out which “tribe” we belong to that we fail to listen and learn from tribes other than our own. Sure, you may be against certain elements of another pastor’s ministry, but does that mean that anything that comes from his ministry is automatically discounted because of its point of origin?
I would encourage taking a different path: THINK HYBRID.
Dictionary.com defines a “hybrid” as “anything derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of elements of different or incongruous kinds. For example, a hybrid of the academic and business worlds.”
I believe we can effectively employ this kind of thinking in nearly every area of life and ministry—from contextualization, methodology, and philosophy of ministry to preaching and small groups. “Thinking hybrid” is about drawing from a number of wells instead of just one. In doing so, we are able to maximize the strengths of our heroes while minimizing their weaknesses, instead of reproducing them in our own ministries.
For example, my own church planting method has been influenced by everyone from Mark Driscoll to John MacArthur to Andy Stanley to Mark Dever to Neil Cole. These are names that you typically do not hear in the same sentence, unless it includes “in a steel-cage death match,” but all of these brothers have something to teach us and we would be wise to consider and heed their counsel.
Be Humble and Learn from Others
To move in the direction of “thinking hybrid,” I would encourage the following disciplines:
1. Read and listen widely.
Church planters and pastors tend to only listen to those they agree with. While this may seem initially gratifying, it can stifle creativity and reproduce the same kind of “blind spots” in ministry that are held by our heroes. Be bold. Read a book or subscribe to a podcast by someone outside your tribe to see what God might teach you. Draw what you can and leave the rest. As you do, allow the process to sharpen your own convictions and thinking.
2. Befriend someone from another “tribe.”
It’s one thing to disagree with a book written by someone you will not meet until heaven; it is another thing to have breakfast with a guy like him. Schedule breakfast with a guy in your city who you know is not like you, and see what God might teach you through that encounter.
3. Be humble.
The men I respect most are those who have great conviction, but who are also open to correction. Could that be said of you? Or is your own insecurity so strong that you couldn’t be questioned? If so, read Philippians 2 and pray for humility in your life and root yourself in gospel reality.
As you do, I believe you will be more able to “think hybrid” for the glory of God and the good of the world.
Along the lines suggested by this author, I’d recommend Orthodox missions, mission clergy and church planters to take a serious look at themselves, and the ‘targeted populace’ that they wish to reach – and then branch off from there. Talking to other successful missions is very important, but not as important as knowing your own area, your own work. What works for a mission in rural Ohio cannot simply be duplicated in urban Phoenix with success, but the principles are the same.
By the same token, I notice that my own mission outreach is more much successfully done ‘hybridizing’ rather than scanning the phonebook for the appropriate surnames. Don’t forget, in nature, hybrids are stronger, healthier, and generally more vital. Why should Churches be any different?
Learn the principles, hybridize your mission work, and bring in the sheaves.