Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The E Myth and Church Planting

The E Myth (Entrepreneurial Myth) is that successful practitioners make successful businessmen. The illusion is that technical expertise leads to business success. A friend recommended I read the book. I don’t read many business books but I saw a striking parallel to church planting. What does the E-Myth have to teach us about church planting? First I’ll let Michael Grey tell you more about the E Myth.

“Gerber observed that most people go into business for the wrong reason. They are skilled technicians - they do a good job of what the business provides to the customer. They believe they can earn more by doing it in their own business than for someone else, so they leave and open their own shop. This is what Gerber calls an "entrepreneurial seizure." These technicians believe they will find more freedom in their business, but they discover it is the hardest job in the world, because there is no escape. They are the ones who are doing the work! They are the "business!" But if they are the business, they haven't really created a business at all; they have created a job for themselves!

According to Gerber, the role of the business owner is really quite different. The role of the business owner is to create a business that works independently of himself or herself. If that is the case, there is an "end point" where the business functions independently of the business owner. At that point, the business owner may choose to sell it or not, but he or she will have created a ready-to-sell "money making machine" for which he or she may choose the effort to devote to it. The business can also be duplicated from place to place.”

The answer, according to Gerber, is for the business leader to create systems and find others to lead them. Do you see the connection with Pauline or apostolic church planting? Apostolic church planters are called to be catalysts of new kingdom communities - but not their pastor. The patterns of evangelism, discipleship, leadership development and ministry development should be set in motion and turned over to others as early as possible. The mindset is “develop, empower and release” rather than manage and maintain!

Gerber also says some things that don’t sit well with me. He says the entrepreneur should be an emperor (rather than a manager) who knows what he/she wants and is confident in his power to get it. It sounds like the polar extreme of servant leadership. However, on this point he is right: If we want indigenous churches that grow and reproduce, they must be built and based the gifting and resources of local people.

It also reminds me of the importance of selecting lead church planters who are more entrepreneurial than pastoral. I have been coaching my son-in-law about starting a young adult ministry and worship service within a stagnated church of about 400. He says “It’s a lot like starting a new church.” That is what Gerber tells divisional leaders within organizations: “Think like an entrepreneur! Run your division like a business within a business.”

The E myth applies in a different way. In some countries pastoral church planting (when the church planter stays on as the pastor) is the norm or only model. Entrepreneurial church planters may feel they have no choice but to stay on as shepherd because they see no other alternative. No one is happy. They struggle with people care and ministry maintenance. The church members feel they have a disgruntled and unwilling shepherd. One of my LATN church planting students realized this was his situation. He had the courage to explain the situation to the congregation and helped them find a true shepherd. They affirmed his calling and sent him out to focus on urban ministry and church planting.

The end of the year is a good time to assess. As missionaries we must work “on the ministry” as well as “in the ministry.” Working “on the ministry” is when we take a step back, extricate ourselves (I know that’s very hard to do) for a while and look at the direction in which we are headed. Working “on it” includes clarifying vision, strategic planning, a personal growth plan, KRAs and guiding principles. This contrast might help you visualize the difference:

Here are some questions that might help:

1. What do I need to celebrate?

2. Who do I need to thank?

3. What do I need to trust God for, like never before?

4. How do I want to grow?

5. What advances do I need to hang on to?

6. What do I need to let go of or stop doing?

7. What do I need to do differently?

8. What ceiling of complexity have I reached? (when we feel stuck - we're working as hard as ever, yet just not getting any traction. In short, we can’t seem to get to the next level.)

9. Who do I need to consult to grow or take the work to the next level?

10. What doors opportunities lie before me?

If you don’t enjoy making New Year’s resolutions, let me encourage you to write your personal guiding principles. We have guiding principles as a mission. But I never wrote out personal resolutions until I was encouraged to do so at a workshop last month. Mine cover three areas: 1) My loves: priorities I want to keep before me every day, 2) My disciplines: Things I must be intentional about every day, and 3) My struggles: Commitments I must renew to keep my flesh and its vulnerabilities in check. In order to do this in a spirit of grace and dependence on God, I wrote with the principle: who God is, who I am and the biblical basis for the principle. The pastor told us not to write the things we are successful at but those we need to work at. I came up with fifteen. For example:

Guiding Principle: I will consult God on every decision that affects others and will obey him. Scriptural Basis: James 1:5 wisdom from above, Gal 5:16, 25 walk in spirit not in flesh, Prov. 16:32, 17:17 self-control, Rom 12:1-2 He reveals his will to the yielded. Theological Truth: God is all-wise and loving. He is my shepherd. I am often self-willed and impulsive. Without direction from Him I will hurt myself and others. Therefore, I will consult God on every decision that affects others and will obey him.

I would love to hear from you about any of these disjointed ‘end-of-year’ thoughts. I wish you a fruitful and transformational New Year. And enjoy your families!

1. Grey, Michael C. Do you have a business or a job? Book Review of Michael Gerber’s The E Myth accessed Dec 13, 2011 http://www.profitadvisors.com/emyth.shtml

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Gene is serving as Church Planting Director for ReachGlobal and has been a church planter in Quebec and a church planting coach in Latin America.