“What will your church look like in 5 years?”…”Who cares”.
This question is often asked in church-planting circles: “What will your church look like in 5 years?”. It is a question that helps us plan for the future. It compels us to get a picture in our minds of where we want our church to be at a certain point down the road. It leads us to identify definitive steps to take in order to get where we want to go. But my experience is that this question also invites us to think about church planting the way the typical business owner thinks about business.
The vast majority of businesses today start, or “launch” as we say in church planting, out of self-interest. “This business will help us make money.” “This business could really take off”. “This is a business we would like to run.” These questions are obviously very self-interested. They have to do with the business and its personal survival in a sea of other businesses. Rarely if ever do I hear a business owner ask, “Does my community really need the sort of business I would like to start?”, or, “How can this sort of business bring blessing to my community?”, or, “Who can I gainfully employ who would get on board with offering this much-needed product (or service) to our community?” These questions are rarely asked in the working world, but business owners will often ask, “What will my business look like in 5 years?”- the same thing church-planters ask.
A better question for church-planters to ask; a question more in line with the heart of Christ, is not, “What will my church look like in 5 years?” but, “What will my city look like in 5 years because of the church?” You see, the problem with the world of business today is that nearly every business functions from a personal-survival platform; “How can we personally survive among so many other businesses?” “What’s our competitive advantage?” “How can we get customers to buy from us instead of from them?” Business owners are concerned with personal survival, not the welfare of their community. In the end, this amounts to nothing more than Economic Darwinism- everyone out for their own survival where the stronger businesses out-sell the weaker ones, casting them to extinction.
It is my conviction that churches, especially new churches, must not fall into the trap of Darwinian personal survival. Who cares what your church will look like in 5 years; you barely have any control over that anyway. What you should be concerned about is what the landscape of your city will look like in 5 years because of the church you will plant. This question will lead you to work for the welfare and salvation of your city and not for your own congregation’s personal survival. This question will lead you to start ministries that will be most beneficial to your community, not simply those that have had good success elsewhere. This question will serve as accountability for your own heart so that you do not drift into the selfishness of personal survival as businesses are prone to do.
In our congregation here in Laconia, NH, we keep this external-city-focus by regularly communicating at our weekly worship gathering our vision, not for our church, but for our city: “Longing to see Laconia, NH so alive with the Gospel of Jesus that our schools, our businesses, our families and our churches radiate His love and truth into our region and beyond.” In fact, at Water’s Edge, we don’t even have a vision for our church- the vision for our city is the vision for our church. May the Lord always lead us to forget about ourselves and the survival of our churches and concern ourselves only with the welfare of our cities, physical and spiritual.
Shaun Dutile and his wife Marci have been married for 21 years. They live in Laconia, NH with their 5 children ages 5yrs to 1&yrs. Shaun performed his undergraduate work at Harding university in Business Management and Vocational Ministry. Shaun and Marci graduated Harding in 2004 and moved to North Brunswick, NJ with a team of 4 other couples from Harding to plant the Brunswick Church of Christ. In their 10 years in NJ God graciously stretched them, refined them and effectively prepared them for their current work in Laconia, NH. At the age of 26 Shaun began his Master’s work in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University, changing his degree in 2010 to an MA in Professional Counseling. Shaun currently serves as the Minister for Water’s Edge- A Church of Christ, a congregation he and Marci planted upon moving to NH in 2015. In addition to shepherding the Water’s Edge Church, Shaun runs a marriage and family counseling practice in Laconia, is the NH State Rep for Celebrate Recovery (a Christ-centered recovery program), and is also the Chaplain for the Gilford Police Department, Gilford, NH.