So you’ve been called to be a church planter, have you? I know, I know – bummer, right? You’re probably thinking, “awww, man! Really? Planting churches? Why couldn’t it have been something cool like faith healing or something easy like teaching?” If that’s not what you’re thinking, it’s what the rest of us are thinking for you.
Oh well, no sense fighting it. We can’t all be Major League Baseball chaplains or “religion consultants” for M. Night Shyamalan movies. Jonah wasn’t thrilled about going into ministry either and everyone at Sea World can tell you how that worked out for him. (Note: too soon?)
But let’s not harp on the negatives. There are plenty (i.e. one or two) reasons to be excited about your new calling. For starters, at least you weren’t called to something really awful, like celibacy or accounting. (Same thing, I know.) For seconds, thanks to advances in modern spirituality, church planting isn’t nearly as inconvenient as it used to be.
Fortunately for you, heroes of the faith have spent the past two millennia planting churches in some of the worst locations imaginable (i.e. Europe, most of Africa, urban centers, the East Coast, pretty much everywhere that gets really cold or really hot). What does that leave for you? It leaves the only region on the planet where people still possess the requisite leisure time and sunshine to reflect on the Lord as the Bible intended: Southern California. It seems the Judsons and Livingstones of the world, in their haste to take the Word to the ends of the earth, neglected the reprobates on the beaches and at the burrito stands. It is to them whom you are called.
But NOT SO FAST. It takes more than a Bible major and a soul patch to set up a pulpit in a palm grove. What is this, Pensacola, Florida? Hahaha! But seriously, there are rules. There are processes to employ and procedures to follow. It’s not as easy as you think. But fret not my California-bound cleric. We have assembled all the necessary activities in an easy to read, easier to follow webinar. Follow the steps outlined below and Rick Warren will be coming to your conferences by Christmas.
1) Take up surfing – If you moved to Russia, you’d grow a beard. If you moved to Vietnam, you’d eat dog meat. If you move to Southern California, you must learn how to surf. People aren’t much interested in this Jesus fellow until they find out what you know about Kelly Slater.
2) Throw out all your close toed shoes – if I have to explain this further, you might be in over your head. While you’re at it, go ahead and donate all your non-Hurley, Quicksilver, or Billabong clothing to the poor-in-fashion people at Old Navy.
3) Rent out a middle school gym, local theatre, or abandoned storefront for your Sunday services. In addition to the obvious financial benefits, your humble accommodations will further separate your “gatherings” from the stodgy old codgers down the street at the 1st Presbyterian Church of Buzzkills. Cause let’s be honest, is there anything less chill than property ownership? No, there is not.
4) Come up with a monosyllabic, vaguely biblical, one word name for your congregation. F words seem especially popular. The Field, The Flood, and The Flock are all excellent examples. But they’re already taken so come up with your own F’in name. Whatever you decide upon, make sure it (a) conceals the nature of your organization from casual visitors and (b) comes with a built in sermon whenever someone asks for further clarification.
5) In the spirit of sneak attack evangelism, don’t hesitate to season your opening worship set with songs by secular or “trans-orthodox” groups like Owl City, Band of Horses, and Maroon 5. If God can speak to us through nature, he can certainly speak to us through “Fireflies.”
6) Each sermon should contain at least two surf-related illustrations. This will hold your audience’s attention and will ensure that, at least twice weekly, they’ll understand what you’re talking about. Words like “rad”, “gnarly”, and “badass” should be used liberally when describing Jesus, especially his interactions with Pharisees or money changers.
7) Try to minimize the attention brought to the weird or icky parts of Christianity. If you’re into the whole “tradition” thing, you can set up a little juice and cracker station off to the side, but try not to talk about it too much. Things like this only confuse people. Contentious issues like gender roles, hell, and The Old Testament should be avoided entirely.
8) Do your best to hide/expel anyone over the age of 40 who shows up. People that old haven’t been cool since the early 90s and you can’t afford the negative vibes put off by people so close to death. Schedule Bible Studies for Wednesday at three in the afternoon. Plan all-church retreats around pretend holidays like Martin Luther King Day and Spring Break. Keep all your cultural references this side of Gavin DeGraw. The grownups will find their own way out.
Those ought to get you started. If you ever lose your way, I guess you can look to your Bible for answers. Or, better yet, you can just remember the 3 C’s of SoCal Churches: Casual, Contemporary, Crushin’ It.
“Follow your heart, kid. You’ll never go wrong.” -Sandlot
(If you’ve got a few more minutes to waste, check out my new article over at Five Minute Answers. I can almost promise that most of you won’t regret it.)