The Insanity of the Church

Albert Einstein defined insanity as, "doing the same things, expecting different results." By this definition, I have to conclude that most churches are insane. By both counts they qualify: they are doing the same things, and they are expecting different results.

Jim White tells the story of a preacher coming to candidate for a church. At one point, he really got revved up and intoned, "If called to be your pastor, I will lead this church into the twentieth century!" The chairman of the search committee was somewhat embarrassed. He stood up, tugged on the preacher's sleeve, and whispered in his ear, "Don't you mean, 'twenty-first century?'"

"We are taking this one century at a time!" was the pastor's quick reply.

I saw this poster on the wall of a church one time. See if you can decipher its meaning:




Did you figure it out? If you keep doing what you've been doing you will keep getting what you've been getting. Every single time. This is the law of sowing and reaping set forth in the Bible: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7 [NIV]

I read a book this year called, Do One Thing Different that echoed this theme. Do one thing different--anything. Maybe you won't like those results either, but if you don't like the results of what you are doing now, you might as well try something different.

Jesus talked about this in the parable of the wineskins. There is a primary application of this verse that is about the way Christianity would break out of the old traditions. But, I think there is an ongoing application. It is the responsibility of every generation to reinvent the wineskins of the gospel. We must never tinker with the wine itself, but the forms that hold the wine, they must be replaced continually.

It is the way God works in nature. No plant or animal lives forever. But there are gardens and forests and jungles because of the process of growing and dying and the seed falls to the ground and there is a rebirth.  Old things must continually pass away in order for all things to be made new.

I listened to a Rob Bell sermon yesterday and he had a different take on the passage where Jesus said, "Don't touch me." (Or, more literally, "don't cling to me.") Rob saw in this passage a motive on the part of Mary to want to keep things the way they were. We can never do that. Life goes on. We can't force life to stay the same. Whoever will lose that old life, will find a new one.

People tend to go to the big successful churches and copy what they do. A better strategy is to copy the methodology by which effective churches got there: experimenting, trying, failing, learning, trying something else.

I read this verse in my quiet time recently: Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops, for you never know which will grow—perhaps they all will. Eccles. 11:6 [NLT] That is what we need to do--plant a variety of crops.

Willowcreek's A2 Conference

Well, you might be thinking, where do I start? What do I change? I have some great ideas for you.

Willowcreek recently did a conference called A2, for Acts 2, or becoming an Acts 2 church. In it, they presented quite a number of models for how to be an Acts 2 church. Bill Hybels has been preaching for years on the glory of being an Acts 2 church. Some have gotten the idea that what he really meant was, "a church like Willowcreek." This conference was set up to dispel the myth. He invited a number of church leaders to describe their Acts 2 model. They are all different. I'd invite you to get this series and listen to it--better yet, get the DVDs and take your leadership team through it. What you will find is a wide variety of ideas that you can find to do one thing different.

Here is a summary of some of these messages:

Building an Acts 2 Church - Bill Hybels

If you need a little motivational reminder that because the local church stewards the gospel message, the local church is the hope of the world and that there is nothing like a local church when a local church is working right, savor this message. If you have listened to a lot of Hybels, as I have, you will hear some familiar stories here.

You will love this excerpt!

NOTE: These excerpts are around 5 minutes each and are somewhat large files. They make take a minute or two to download, even with broadband--more if you are using dial-up. If you can't see these links, go to the online version at

Reaching Seekers - Bill Hybels

Hybels tells a number of inspirational stories about reaching seekers. Notice how the excerpt below illustrates how our acceptance of others can lead to them accepting Christ. If we want them to love God, we must love them. One way we can do this is to invite them to parties. Listen to how this man was impacted at a party.

You will love this excerpt!

Building Believers - Gene Appel

I received an email recently pushing back on my talk of doubling groups. The email was along these lines: "Sure, we can get a crowd, but are you really making disciples, or are you just filling buildings?" Good question. One answer is, the chances that they will get Christian teaching and come to live the Christian life are far higher if they are in the room hearing Christian teaching. Still, it is a legitimate point. Juan Carlos Ortez posed the question:, "If you have 200 baby Christians and you work and you minister and you witness and you preach and 5 years later you have 600 baby Christians, have you really fulfilled the great commission. The question is as obvious as it is convicting. But, for most of us, that is not our problem. The problem is not that we are filling the hall with baby Christians; the problem is we are not filling the hall at all.

In this segment Gene Appel walks us through the Willowcreek model of building up believers--the Five G formula: Grace, Groups, Gifts, Giving, and Good stewardship.

You will love this excerpt!

Creating Moments of Transformation - Willow Creek Arts Team

I am sure this session was great live, but on the CD, they cut out all the dramas so it is kind of hard to get it.

From Foyer to Kitchen: The North Point Strategy - Andy Stanley

Andy has served us well by providing the effective metaphor for moving people where we want them to go. We start in the foyer where we welcome guests. Every church needs a foyer environment where people can enter. Then, we move them toward the living room. These are mid-sized groups where people become friends. Then, the ultimate win is to get them committed to a group that is also committed to multiply. That is the kitchen table.

You will love this excerpt!

Family Ministry - Reggie Joiner

Most churches have an adult service that children attend. At Northpoint, they do the opposite. They have a kids service that they ask parents to attend. And, they do it in such a way so as to create a conversation between parent and child. Most parents feel responsible for their children's spiritual training and feel inadequate in teaching their children spiritual things. If a church can develop a strategy for partnering with parents to equip them to teach their children spiritual things, parents will show up in droves. They are doing it at Northpoint.

You will love this excerpt!

Reaching Postmoderns - Erwin McManus 

This talk is probably mis-named a bit. It is not really about reaching postmoderns. It is about reaching people. It is about becoming others-centered.

You will love this excerpt!

Reaching Neighborhoods - Randy Frazee 

This excerpt speaks for itself. I love Randy's story because it so closely corresponds with my own. Relationships. It is all about relationships. If you love them, their heart will warm up to a message about a God who loves them. If we will be their friend their heart will warm up to a message about "What a friend we have in Jesus." I love it!

You will love this excerpt!

Wholistic Ministry - Kirbyjon Caldwell

If you have ever looked at a homeless person and wondered deep in your soul what we should do, you might want to look at this model. If you have ever taught from Matthew 25--"I was hungry and you fed me. . ." and wondered why no church you know really takes this seriously you might want to listen to this talk. Wholistic ministry is about presenting the gospel AND feeding the poor, clothing those without clothes, finding people jobs and so forth.

You will love this excerpt!

The Irreducible Essential - Bill Hybels

In this session, Hybels provides a list of essential questions to determine what you might change next. It is not about some random change to any old thing. It's about discovering what God wants to do next in your life and ministry.

This except is incredible!