We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done.
He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,
Psalm 78 (The Message paraphrase)
Family businesses tend to crash at the third generation [link to Business Week article]. This is a little unnerving for Circle of Hope. We are a family business devoted to the proposition that the body of Christ multiplies as it grows and the descendants of the original cells or congregations do not diminish in character, but reflect the DNA of their parents. We look for maturation, not deterioration. I suppose I could take heart that we are not a mere “business,” we are an organism. And I do take heart to see how we have matured. But, to be honest, we are something like a business, too. We have plans, structures, meetings, representations like a website, a speech or a mailing, that take the kind of oversight that businesses use to keep their enterprise moving along. The leaders who follow the leaders before them need to be as astute and capable as their mentors. Will we crash someday?
Our first ever congregation “hive-off” called Northwest lasted, fitfully, for seven years (!).
But it eventually died. One of the main reasons it died was that it was never a fully-connected part of the network and did not replicate the DNA that made the original viable; until we installed Bryan Robinson, the leadership did not fully “feel” Circle of Hope. Our most recent church planting called 19G is an actual third generation congregation; BW begat FN begat 19G. They don’t seem to be in any danger of crashing, but will they be able to create and adapt, or will the network be able to keep up and adapt to what they bring? Will their new school do in our version of old school?
Similar questions apply to cells. Cell multiplication is all about making it to the third generation and onward. Our whole church is about not diminishing in character as we multiply. We are always going through a process of adapting to our neighborhood changes, adapting to changes in the congregation, adapting to growth in number, and adapting to people coming into their fullness as leaders. We hope to reproduce a good replica of what God hopes as a new cell is born and goes through the process of growing and multiplying. Sometimes our oldest and should-be-wisest leaders stop adapting and just give up. Sometimes our youngest leaders don’t even bother finding out what we already know and invent something that isn’t nearly as brilliant as what we have already proven to be effective. The process can deteriorate.
Last week, I wrote a little “psalm” for the cell leaders based on Psalm 78. It is a psalm that calls us to be a “good business” that beats the odds by being God’s business. So far, we have beaten the odds magnificently. But we are always bumping up against our weaknesses, our lack of imagination and our lethargy. What’s more, the world changes so rapidly it challenges our capacity to meet people where they are at. The Church, in general, seems so messed up (and the BIC is no exception), it is doing more crashing than building, so it doesn’t help much.
I think it is an exciting time. I feel like I was born for it. I think Circle of Hope was made for it; and in our small, unique way, we are meeting the challenges. But we could crash if we don’t pay attention and don’t give our hearts to the cause. I think we could use a little Psalm 78. Here’s an attempt to bring some. Those listening in can apply their own name and listen with us:
God planted a witness in us.
We are charged, like parents loving their children,
to tell the truth we are given
to generation after generation of what God generates,
lest they be left prey to the faithlessness
that surrounds them.