Monday, November 13, 2006


I hit the road last week to hit up the DRIVE ’06 conference at Andy Stanley’s church just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Turns out, I liked it a lot. I would have to say I liked it as much as the Desiring God conference, but in a different way. Let me explain.

What the DG conference was for straight-up quality theology, DRIVE was for the practical how-to side of church organization, structure, and production. Stanley and crew were basically hosting the conference on this premise – “We don’t have it all figured it out, but for our church in this area, here is how we got where we are.”

North Point Community Church was founded about ten years ago with a desire to reach and influence the surrounding community by utilizing what they call “irresistible environments” – relevant media and production that centers on the message of Christianity. Today, NPCC itself has about 15,000 members in addition to two nearby plants and a growing number of strategic partnerships across the U.S. Regardless of your thoughts on megachurches, corporate structure within the church, and whether or not NPCC waters down the message, there is no question that these guys are reaching and impacting the Atlanta area and beyond. The DRIVE conference focused on the underlying leadership structure, systems and principals that have allowed them to accomplish and sustain this.

Here are just a couple things I took away from the conference and will be thinking about:
  • God works through organized systems. NPCC and other churches with a high emphasis on production, structure and strategy are often accused of being “too corporate” because they utilize “secular business strategies” in reaching people. Andy made a great point, though (my paraphrase) - “Corporations like McDonald’s and Coke have reached their ‘great commission’ - they’re everywhere. …The multiplication table is not in the Bible. That does not mean it is not true, not useful, or ‘secular.’” Their leadership structure is clear and straightforward. Everyone knows exactly who they report to, what is expected of them, and what their specific role is as it pertains to the whole. This type of organizational leadership structure is an admited weak point for my own church. It was refreshing to see it in action.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of relevant production. These guys utilize media production better than any church I’ve ever seen. I personally like videos, lighting, visuals, graphics and such used in worship services. On a much smaller level, I use them in my own ministry, and would like to use them more. But I’ve definitely seen them used and overused in ways that are distracting and self-defeating (and probably done so myself). These guys put a lot of time, effort and money into creating a solid production - an immersive environment - from beginning to end, and from what I saw, every single element pointed to and supported the message or teaching for each particular session. It wasn’t just a big show; by the time you got to the message, you were completely drawn in. My paraphrase of Andy on this point – “In this area, our church is competing with golf courses and movie theaters. We place a high value on excellent production because by doing so, we give the type of people we are trying to reach a reason to listen to our message.”

Those are just a couple things I found particularly interesting and thoughtworthy. For a more complete review of DRIVE '06, head over to TonyMorganLive - he has five posts of smart things Andy said.


Oldhops said...

I agree for the most part, except that God is not a product to be consumed at your leisure. Not that we can't do things that make services more up to date with the things around us. But when worship becomes entertainment, don't you think something has been lost. Or that people may feel like they are being sold something. I think that we need to be effective and current, but that line between selling something and being relevant is just strange to me. At the same time there are standards that are used in the corporate world that should be used in ministry. Especially in the behind the scenes stuff. Because often there are those who skate by there, hidden in the church, which should be replaced by someone more effective. BUT. Who appoints positions in churches. Ultimately it's God. hahah saying that, God has appointed leaders to make that choice. Showing the biggest difference between corporations and churches. We are led by the spirit of God (hopefully), and corps are led by money.

Allie said...

Glad to hear the conference wuz good, yo! I think your observations are interesting. I just wanted to comment briefly.

First of all, I think there's definately something to be said for cohesiveness in a presented message. If everything from media clips to lighting to music points to the message, there's no way church members will walk away without knowing what the point of the whole deal was. Which is great. In my education classes, we're studying how people learn so differently and often zone out if information is always presented the same way over and over again.

I do agree with "oldhops" about consumerism. Where I think North Point is doing some majorly coolz stuff, I would be cautious of one thing. If we present God to people in a way that competes with McDonald's and golf courses, we shouldn't be surprised if our congregations respond by asking the question: "What can God do for me? Can I have God my way?" God is the consumer; God calls Himself a consuming fire. So where I think North Point's approach can be effective in competing with other ways to spend your Sunday morning, I might be leary of what the congregations' expectations of the Christian life or God Himself might become if they grow accustomed to experiencing Him in such a way that competes with other leisure activities.

van.diesel said...

Oldhops - you make great points. Worship should not become entertainment, which is wholly self-centric.

Allie - excellent thoughts, esp. about presenting a "my way" God. Expectations can be huge, and how often have Christians pulled the ol' bait-and-switch? Also, I like that you are bringing back the "z", cuz. Challaz fo some dollaz.

There is a balance in all this - there must be. I do not find it effective for Christians to simply stand on our side of the fence and yell at folks over on the other side. It seems more reasonable to build bridges that connect with the unchurched - but in a way that does not compromise what we are about, or present God as other than He is.

Christ obviously had that perfect balance. He was relevant to those He wanted to reach, but didn't compromise the message. He used the media of His own day - story & parable - to convey the Gospel and His teachings.

Why does the church seem to have such a hard time finding that balance?

aunt becky in ga said...

LWVyou came down to ga ? Hmmm, I must of missed your phone call.