9Marks Director of Communications Jonathan Leeman has a highly provocative article up on the 9Marks site that anyone interested in church life should read. It’s called “The Alternative: Why Don’t We Plant?” and it is chock-full of probing questions and nicely distilled thought.
Leeman is a very gifted writer. His text is chunky, full of deep thinking, yet he writes in a lively, direct style that’s easy to follow. He doesn’t waste words; he gets right to the point. See this engaging excerpt, for example:
“People today demand excellence. We dismiss mediocrity—the clunky piano player; the thread-bare pew cushions; the average preacher. Sony Studios has set our expectations of sound quality. Pottery Barn has elevated our sense of tasteful décor. And everyone from Chris Rock to Ronald Reagan have taught us what it means to be an effective communicator. Anything less isn’t just aesthetically objectionable, it’s emotionally distracting.
I might want to sing praises to God, but the professionally recorded music I listen to in the car has taught me what good music sounds like; and now I’m having trouble simply concentrating as the church pianist plunks out those basic hymn chords—at least it’s harder for me than (I assume) it would have been for my great grandfather. I might want to listen to the preacher, but I’m surrounded all week by the slicksters on T.V. commercials and late-night talk shows, and this guy says “um” ten times a minute and nothing funny. I can’t stay focused. So given a choice between him and a charismatic, thirty-five-year-old, television-quality phenom, I’m going with the phenom, even if it means watching him on a screen.”
I like how honest this is. It doesn’t beat around the bush. It gets right to the point (and the problem). Young writers would do well to mark this clear, forceful style of writing.
Leeman’s article doesn’t solve once-for-all the questions relating to multi-site campuses, polity, and so on. But it does offer some significant challenges to the reigning paradigm for church growth. It is worth serious consideration.