This morning, on my drive to work, I was listening to the audio tapes from the Church Planter's Toolkit. I have been doing this for the past week or so.
This morning the focus was on the target audience and the style of service. The speaker was talking about studying your target area, defining the group of people your church will aim at reaching, and adapting the style of ministry to that focus group.
The information was good information, but the focus, at least as far as I am concerned, is way off and VERY modern. Yes, we need to understand the culture of the people in the area where we are going. Yes, we need to have core values, vision, and style settled before we get there. But, I don't think we are to discover what the area is like and then adapt the church to fit that style. I think we are to discover who God has made us, as the church planter, to be, and then make sure WE fit that particular culture.
Each church planter has a style, a vision, ministry focus in mind before they start. Hopefully, if it is done right, this vision is from God.
I hate the idea of adapting the church to fit an area (and this may all just be symantics), but I think God teaches, transforms, and shapes a minister to be effective in an area where HE will place the church planter. He has created us as church planters and molds and shapes us so that we are able to reach a certain culture in a particular area. If we attempt to change ourselves to fit the culture, we are like ducks out of water.
We do have to make sure we are listening to those in our church and taking their opinions and views into account. But the Church is not guided by culture, opinion, or personal whim. The Church must be guided by godly leaders listening to the voice of God and following after the vision He gives.
But, the planter must be careful. The church planters views, opinions, sense of direction, and vision, must BE from God, and the planter must realize that every thought and whim they have is not necessarily the direction of God. The planter is not the only one who hears God's voice in the process of the church plant.
There is a tension between God's use of a primary leader and the balance of the leadership team in leading a church. Sometimes the key leader has to back up and be patient in the execution of the visioin God gives.
My point is that the culture, people group, and community make up are important not in determining HOW we should design the church, but in what planter should go to that community. The church planter must know WHO he/she is and what style of ministry they feel comfortable in before they go to a community (unless they have a cross-cultural missionary call). Someone once told me, "Plant the type of church that YOU would want to go to."
This is not meant to be egotistical or self-centered. It is also not meant to ignore the input of others or to have church planters focus on one "homogenous" group. It is meant to take into account the work of God in forming a minister.