Monday, April 23, 2007

Structure and Strategy

Highly recommended...

David L. Watson has written a very perceptive article entitled Structure and Strategy that I believe ties in closely to what I was trying to say on my last post.

Guy Muse, on his comments on my last post, also pointed me to a great post by Tim Patterson (a.k.a. mr. t) in which he reflects on Watson's article.

I was originally made aware of Watson's article by way of this post on the blog of Australian church planting strategist Steve Addison, who also has some other interesting thoughts on various related topics on which I hope to add in a few thoughts of my own soon.


Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...


Thanks for the recommendation. We are in team training this week and this will be valuable for helping us examine our structure.

I am persuaded that contextualization has more to do with these issues than anything else we may tie it to.

GuyMuse said...

David Watson writes, "It is the structure of the community that determines the kind of church to be planted and the strategies to be used to reach the community." Just when we start to think we are finally beginning to get a grasp on this church planting thing, someone like Watson comes along and blows us back to square one!

"If you believe in only one kind of church, or if you understand only a few styles of church and allow these tool structures to determine your strategies, then you will fail more often than succeed in church planting." I think this statement is what really caught my attention the most in this article. Most of us think of ourselves as semi-experts in "one kind of church"--be that traditional, cell, Purpose Driven, house/simple church, emerging, etc. One of the mistakes that has taken us seven long years to correct in our own CP is trying to make "one size fit all."

"Success will be found in creative and intentional diversity of strategies and churches. This creativity will come from within the structures themselves, not from outsiders who have little understanding of the complex structures." This is really an exciting statement loaded with possibilities that have frankly got my brain juices churning!

Tim Patterson said...

Most do not realize how huge the impact of applying this concept could be. If we could let go of our preferred style, structure, organization, form, method or tool... If we could truly find all the resources in the Lord's harvest (including methods of mission and forms of church)... If we could empower indigenous Christ followers from the beginning of their walk with the Lord to work and organize in a way that attracts people from their culture instead of repelling them...

I am still trying to get my head around all of the implications. I think most of us instinctively know that we tend to complicate mission and church with our extra biblical cultural preferences. This can include Christian subculture bias within a culture, as well as the foreign elements.

Now, what are some practical applications for this concept? That would be something to post about.

David Rogers said...

Tim (and others),

Re: "This can include Christian subculture bias within a culture, as well as the foreign elements."

I think this is a key issue for which we need a whole lot of humility and spiritual discernment to really see correctly.

We all have our blind spots: foreign "m's", and national believers as well. And yes, many times the traditions of the national churches root originally from ideas introduced by our foreign "m" predecessors.

However, my personal lean on this is to give more credence, as a general rule, to the insights and intuition of national believers than to those of foreign "m's" who are supposed missiology and strategy experts.

For instance, back about 7 or 8 years ago, the house/simple church wave hit Spain, and lots of us foreign "m" types were all excited about it, as if it were going to be the magic solution to our church planting woes. Wolfgang Simson himself came several times for training conferences, and publicity was sent out among Christian leaders. But, for the most part, the ones who showed an interest were all foreign "m" types, who were desperate to find the latest key to success. The number of full-blooded Spaniards who showed a modicum of interest was minimal.

This all caused me to think: "What's going on here? Is there something in the culture we are not seeing that makes all of us foreign "m" types so excited about this, but doesn't attract the interest of the national believers at all?

This is not to say that I have given up on the house/simple church model for Spain quite yet. Perhaps its time has just not come. Perhaps God needs to work on the hearts and minds of some key national leaders. Perhaps as Don ("George Klineberg"), on his comment on my last post points out, they need to see it modeled and working first of all before they are willing to jump on board themselves.

But I personally, before I jump head-first into something like this, would hope to see at least several national leaders get excited about it as well. Not just fringe people, but recognized Christian statesmen, who have the respect of the evangelical community at large.

In the meantime, I have identified a few national leaders who have an apostolic vision for their country, who are open to new ideas, and are open to working with us foreign "m" types. Probably my main goal in ministry at this time is to walk alongside these men, to learn from them, and to encourage and support them, and, little by little, as they express an interest, introduce them to other models and insights, always respecting their cultural evaluation of all this.

On the front end, this approach can seem pain-stakingly slow. We as foreign "m" types are generally driven people, who want to get things rolling right away. But, I am convinced that, in the long run, we will reach the "end-vision" faster by working with our national brethren, and taking the time to include them in the vision, and to learn from them, and adapt our ideas according to the insights they have to offer.

Tim Patterson said...


I agree with your approach up to a point. But how long do we wait for the national leaders to make changes so that the culture will be effectively engaged with the gospel? If we are looking to our established national church structure and letting that determine our strategy... is this not the opposite of what Watson is proposing?

He says:
"It is the structure of the community that determines the kind of church to be planted and the strategies to be used to reach the community."

At the same time, I agree that our national brethren are closer to the lost culture than we are and will have valuable insights that we will never fully grasp. Is it possible to keep the peace with national brethren, respect them and wait on them... but at the same time attempt some new strategies with willing national leaders that have a different perspective, as we learn what might work better to reach the lost culture?

As far as house church goes... it may not be the best model for your context... but there has to be a better model out there than the one practiced by established traditional churches that are not engaging the lost and reproducing new churches. Perhaps no one has dared to try it, yet.

Please receive this dialog as sincere with good intentions, not trying to be argumentative.

David Rogers said...


I certainly understand your perspective as well. It seems to me there is an inherent tension between being missional and attractional in the church.

Although I am sure that, in the end, it is not that simple, I think there is sort of a spectrum with extremes on either end of being community based (or missional) and being church-based (or attractional). As I point out on my next post "Desencuentro," I believe in our enthusiasm for new avenues for being "missional," the pendulum may have swung a bit too far the other way.

Also, I think that, in addition to strategic missional questions, we must take into account Christ's concern for the unity of His Body. In the long run, I do not believe that these two concerns will prove to be at loggerheads with each other. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

And yes, we always need those "apostolic" and "prophetic" type people who are willing to "push the envelope." But, as Eph. 4.11-13 points out, one of the main purposes or "endvisions" of apostles & prophets (together with evangelists, and pastor-teachers) is to help the church to "reach unity in the faith." That balance is definitely sometimes hard to achieve. But I don't believe we should stop trying, as long as we still come short of it.

Tim Patterson said...


Good word. Especially relating to balance between "missional" and "attractional".

Paul said...

Hey David,

My Dad, David Watson, just added an mp3 file on his website where he presents this idea for the first time in a training seminar. There is new article on Extraction available as well. I hope you don't mind me chiming in, but it fit in with the conversation and I would love to hear your thoughts on the new material.

-Paul Watson