Why Imitation Won’t Work

I just finished up a ministry conference at Northpoint Community Church and it was great!  The content was helpful, the messages were inspiring and I left ready to come home and do everything just like they do it.  It’s the same temptation I get every time I visit a successful church.  I want to replicate everything I see!  Only that won’t work.  It never does.

Why?  Because my church isn’t their church.  My context isn’t their context.  I realized it when I first drove onto the campus (the fact that it’s called a campus was the first clue).  Northpoint is a mega-church in the heart of an upper-income section of a major city.  Maury Hills is a medium-sized church in the heart of a community with significantly less affluence and population.  I’m not complaining.  I’d rather do church here than there.  The point is simply that church will look different here.

We don’t have the same numbers, budget or facilities as Northpoint.  We don’t employ the  same number of ministry staff.  We don’t operate in the same community or cultural context.  Our denominational backgrounds are different.  So if I take their methods and try to imitate them in my church, I shouldn’t be surprised if they flop.

The solution is looking for transferable principles.  What are the principles underlying their methods?  Which ones can be lifted out and transferred to any context?  That’s the key to learning from conferences and actually making them work at home.  It’s the same for any organization.  Imitation of another’s methods rarely work.  It’s imitation of a principle that matters.

What about you?  Have you ever attended a conference and came home with a great idea only to be frustrated when it didn’t work in your context?

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