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September 26, 2015

10 Reasons Systems Matter for Church Planting

By Daniel Im

Yasunari Nakamura – Flickr

There are no perfect models, and there is no silver bullet. Many models are useful though.

What’s fascinating is that two church planters can use the exact same model in the same city and get vastly varying results. Notice that I said the same model, but I didn’t mention anything about the systems that each church planter used.

For example, let’s consider the Dodge Charger that police drive versus the Dodge Charger that you can drive off the lot. Although, at first glance, they both look like the same car, the performance between the two is like night and day. For police cars, not only do they upgrade the engine, but they also change out the battery, alternator, cooler, suspension, brakes, and many other components that make up the car. Essentially, the model or framework of the car is the same, but everything that makes up the car, which are its systems, are different.

I realize this isn’t a perfect example, but it illustrates the importance of systems, as the next step, in church planting.

This is a natural next step for those of you who are highly detailed and systematic. However, what I’ve found is that many church planters are weak in this area. As a result, church planters will often think about their church planting model at a 30,000 foot level and work on many of the aspects needed to plant successfully, instead of working in those aspects.

If all the work is done on the plant, instead of in the plant, then planters will not have any control over the systems that are shaping it; and that will ultimately determine the fate of their church plant. For example, working on the plant is all about thinking through the location, name, logo, and vision statement. Working in the plant is about thinking through financial sustainability, church structure, launch team, and the intricacies of congregational formation, and long-term discipleship.

I’m not advocating that you take care of every single detail yourself, but I am advocating that you involve yourself at every step of the process. If God has called you to plant a church, he has called you to be the steward of this vision. Don’t neglect your responsibilities and don’t delegate the details.

What would happen if you were stubborn and decided to leave systems to chance?

  1. When it comes to church structure, you would allow the loudest voices in your congregation to become the elders and decision makers, instead of the ones who fit the biblical qualifications.
  2. Your prayer life and daily routine would go by the wayside, since your attention would be consumed with putting out fires.
  3. Instead of working smartly, you would be working hard, without ever feeling like there was enough time in the week to get everything done.
  4. In hopes of growing your church, you would look to the most successful church in your city and emulate them, rather than discovering who God has specifically called you to focus on and reach.
  5. Your launch team would consist of your greatest fans, who may or may not have the right complimentary skills, and who wouldn’t be able to confront you if there were ever an occasion for that.
  6. Unless you’re a trust fund baby, or one of your rich distant relatives is bankrolling your church plant, you would never get funding.
  7. You would look for the sexiest location in light of what you hope your church will be in three years, rather than looking for the location that you needed now and in the realistic near future.
  8. Many elements on Launch Sunday would go well, but there would be several gaps in your execution.
  9. Once Launch Sunday is over, there would be no follow up strategy to ensure that you have a week two of your church plant.
  10. Lastly, your church would be all about the weekend show, rather than the important work of making disciples of all nations.

Systems aren’t there to hinder or handcuff you, they are merely the railroad tracks that help you keep on task and reduce redundancies so that you can move further and faster in church planting.

Look out for the Second Edition of Planting Missional Churches that will be coming out Spring 2016. Ed Stetzer and I have been hard at work rewriting, updating, and incorporating new chapters in the book, so we are excited for this much-needed update and expansion.


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Senior Associate Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church, a multiplying multisite church focused on reaching 1% of Edmonton for Christ. His latest book is You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He is also the author of No Silver Bullets and co-author of Planting Missional Churches. He co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, as well as the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Because of their love for the local church, after pioneering and leading the church multiplication initiative for LifeWay, Daniel and his wife, Christina, moved back to Canada with their three children. For more information, visit danielim.com and follow him on social media @danielsangi.


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