Despite writing there were “no silver bullets” for churches, he still had me with the offering that there are “Micro-shifts that have the potential to produce macro-change in your church.”
Even for a guy that struggled through his micro and macro-economic courses, the idea intrigued me. Daniel Im has written a new book titled, No Silver Bullets and I wanted to explore one of his ideas here and I recommend you digging deeper with a full read of his book. For this blog, I try to write “Practical takeaways for everyday church leadership” and I think Daniel does the same in No Silver Bullets. It comes from a place via Daniel of deep experience in the local church and deep love for the local church.
In Im’s first chapter, “From Destination to Direction” he begins to build a case for how churches go about the maturing of disciples. He provides a practical influence matrix and as a part of working through this idea Im describes four different church personas…
- The Copy Cat Church
- The Silver Bullet Church
- The Hippie Church
- And the Intentional Church
Just from these persona titles, most of us have already identified which one our church is and which one we’d like to be. As you’d imagine, Im aptly provides habits and cultural ethos for each of these church personas. And truth be told, I see parts of each of these personas in the one I serve. In fact, there were part of Im’s descriptions that were uncomfortable for me to read.
Because Im’s writing is better than mine, and because to fully understand the content, you need the full context (his book). Here, I’m going to simply poach one idea in hopes it will cause you to reflect. Perhaps reflection that leads to a deeper dive of No Silver Bullets.
The Copy Cat Church
While not my proudest season of life, there was a time I “copy catted.” Better said, I cheated. Bottom line, I was convinced others were smarter than me; and there was no reason to have command of content myself when someone smarter already had it and I could just “borrow” it.
I had pretty complex systems for attaining this borrowed content. It involved money, people, dark cafeterias and code words (HBO is considering making a show based on my adolescent enterprise). And you know what, my system allowed me to make the passing grade I needed to begin my baseball season. But when the teacher decided to create two varying tests, well, my enterprise ended, and so did my baseball season.
In churches, our motives are probably not sinful. And in most cases our intentions are to just take our churches further, faster. One justification…we don’t know when Christ will return, and we don’t want to be found investigating or learning our own way when there’s an already developed and proven idea at the church across the city.
“Borrowing” in Church
In fact, our digital world allows us to view and understand content in new ways and this world allows a collaborative approach. Sharing is the new normal and there’s some great benefits to the collaboration and borrowing.
Yet, for churches, we must proceed carefully. No doubt, using the copycat method for your church allows for speed. Which is efficient, but it won’t always be better. It takes away the discovery and discernment that we need to walk through as church leaders when considering shifts in our ministries.
The other church’s version may be prettier and quicker, but what you don’t know is what it took to build their model. You don’t know what shortfalls they’ve experienced. If you pray, ask the hard questions and seek alignment with decision makers, and it still make sense to copy some, or all of another church’s way, then go for it (but no breaking of copyright laws).
But once a copycat, always a copycat? A new borrowed concept works for a while, but then it stalls or we get bored, so we look for the next thing to copycat. We feel we need a new way to provide an injection of growth into our church. Im writes, “They [copycat churches] move from one model to the next…and is convinced they are only one model away from breakthrough.”
So, if you’re tempted to “borrow,” I suggest slowing down and doing your due diligence. And if you need help with some questions and framework to tackle the larger issues of the church, then Im’s book can help, but remember, there’s no silver bullet.