I wrote the following article (Micro Manifesto) in 2010 to describe the trend in church growth paradigms from from mega to multi, with an eye toward an additional transition to micro. The micro refers to new expressions of faith communities empowered and equipped by the prevailing mega and multi church models.
At the core of micro expressions of church is the mobilization of the priesthood of all Believers to carry the fullness of Jesus into every crack and cranny of society. This transition to micro requires the church to shift its focus from “catch and accumulate” to “release and send” and to take an active role in helping people discover and engage their unique personal calling.
Within a year of writing this article, I began a five-year journey of writing the book MORE: Find Your Personal Calling and Live Life to the Fullest Measure. In part, MORE seeks to provide a simple framework and language for individuals and churches to see personal calling and to help fan the flame of the micro. The book is available through Amazon in Kindle, print and audio formats. Click here to learn more.
The following article gives some background perspective on the context from which I wrote this new book.
A Micro Manifesto
The following is a reprint of the 2010 article
“I planted my church. God blessed and grew it into a mega-church. We’ve done externally focused, church planting and multisite. We believe in these things and will keep doing them. However, there are not enough years left in my life to simply keep growing this thing bigger. I’m interested in something more viral. I’m interested in changing the conversation from ‘where is our next site’ to ‘how do we release 250 of our members to reach Detroit?’”
Steve Andrews, Senior Pastor of Kensington Community Church
Throughout history the next great movement has consistently emerged from the convergence of the perfect storm of factors brought together and preordained by God in his unique plan. What if the next great movement, possibly an awakening of historic proportions, stands knocking at our door? What if we are being called to serve as catalysts and stewards of this next movement of God? What if that faint knocking coincides with the growing discontent of a growing number of our leading prevailing church leaders? A discontent that has been difficult to even verbalize.
I’m just a fly-on-the-wall, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what’s coming next in the western church. It has taken 30 years to move from less than 100 mega-churches to over 7,000 and 10 years to move from less than 100 multi-site churches to more than 2,000 (now over 5,000 in 2016). Although God’s fingerprints are all over the numerical growth of these movements, neither the MEGA nor the MULTI appear to be His destination. Instead, they appear to be the means to an end. Increasingly, we can connect the dots and see that they are part of a bigger, ongoing journey to an even better place; from MEGA to MULTI to MICRO.
What if God has uniquely positioned the prevailing MEGA / MULTI church as the distribution system for the MICRO? Contrary to what many would like to see, the deconstruction or bashing of the prevailing MEGA / MULTI is like shooting the goose laying the golden eggs. Instead, what if we were to celebrate and catalyze its incredible capacity to propel the MICRO forward in a more viral way than we’ve ever seen in North America.
Why am I so excited? I believe we are on the leading edge of a catalytic, viral movement via the MICRO that is enabled by the prevailing MEGA / MULTI. As a fly-on-the-wall, I can see the dots connecting and forming an exciting pathway in to the future.
The View from 100,000 Feet
From a high level, there is reason for optimism. In recent years a growing schism has emerged between those calling themselves incarnational leaders and those leading prevailing church models. The conversation has focused on what Good to Great author Jim Collins calls the “Tyranny of the OR” rather than the “Genius of the AND.” However, a growing number of leaders are seeing the possibilities that exist in the “AND,” specifically, the potential impact of applying incarnational AND prevailing church models. The schism is narrowing.
A perfect storm of factors are coming together to propel the MICRO via the MEGA / MULTI.
Consider the following trends:
- Frustration and cynicism with the Church is high among believers. Millenials to Boomers are increasingly becoming “burned out” on church / religion and wanting more of Jesus. The pain of staying the same appears to be exceeding the pain of changing–a prerequisite for catalyzing real change.
- The Church is Jesus’ plan A for reaching the world. There is no plan B. Giving up on the Church is not an option. It’s our burden and responsibility to look at what God is up to and cooperate.
- The MEGA is the only group of churches categorically growing in Dave Olson’s research (Crisis in the American Church) for the past 30 years. This growth gives the MEGA the platform, microphone and resources to scale the MICRO in a way that Incarnational leaders dream of.
- The MEGA / MULTI knows how to scale. That’s part of its DNA.
- The MEGA / MULTI cannot do it alone. I left the marketplace years ago for full-time ministry, largely to help our local church figure out multi-site before there were any books, seminars or conferences on the topic. I’m a proponent of the MULTI and have seen its value from the trenches. However if the average results from the top 10 multi-site churches in America could instantly be superimposed on all multi-site churches, we would still lose ground. Several years ago, a prominent MEGA church in the D.C. area announced plans for 10 sites in 10 years, which was seemingly big news in the press and the church world. But MULTI represents addition at its best, and even that is yet to be proven. If the story ends with MULTI, we may have won a battle and lost the war.
- The MICRO is where discipleship happens best, not through programs but through life-on-life in the context of Jesus and mission. It also has the potential to scale and go viral (although we’ve yet to really see that happen in America). Similar to the MULTI experience, the MICRO launched purely from the Incarnational platform (or lack of platform) is not getting us where we need to be. Increasingly, the young and the old are becoming attracted to what the MICRO has to offer.
- Increasingly, the world is becoming GLOBAL (MACRO) and LOCAL (MICRO). The trend to MICRO extends far beyond the Church. If the global trend is already toward the MICRO in most other areas, and the world is our mission field, it seems logical that God would position the Church for influence at this moment in history via the MICRO.
- There is explosive, viral potential within the Church when the MEGA / MULTI meets the MICRO. It appears neither can reach its full potential without the other.
- The MICRO is the next logical progression of the MEGA / MULTI. For many years, the MEGA focused on growing its walls via larger auditoriums and more programs. The MULTI then focused on extending those walls to more places. As the MEGA leaders “conquer” the MULTI, what is the next natural, logical hill to conquer?
- The scorecard is changing for an increasing number of MEGA / MULTI leaders. A growing number of our mega-church and multi-site church leaders are experiencing what Bill Hybels calls a “holy discontent.” Some would say a mid-life or Halftime crisis. A large percentage of our prevailing churches are led by founding pastors at the mid-career point. After growing large churches, starting campuses, planting churches and doing the externally focused thing, a growing number of leaders appear to be experiencing a discontent rooted in the urgency that there must be a more leveraged impact than simply growing bigger.Bob Buford’s book, Halftime, captured the hearts of millions of marketplace leaders who have struggled with the journey from a life of success to significance. These leaders are most often mid-career (in their 40s / 50s) leaders who’ve conquered the hill of “success” and yet are feeling somewhat empty. Literally thousands of our MEGA / MULTI leaders are now experiencing a Kingdom version of “Halftime.” Steve Andrews’ quote at the beginning is classic halftime language for pastors. “Been there, done that, what’s next.”How will the growing number of MEGA / MULTI leaders faced with this same question respond? Probably the same way Steve did: MICRO is the next hill.
- There is a new scorecard for the younger emerging leaders. Just a decade ago when I first started serving church planters, the majority was measuring “success” by how quickly they became financially sufficient and could purchase land and / or a building. “How do we build this thing bigger?” was the motto. Today, its hard to find planters who want to purchase land or build. The scorecard is changing from a “catching” capacity to a “sending capacity.” We are in the middle of a transition from “bigger” to “more viral.”
- The prevailing Church is strong at “catching” and converting. Holy discontent also includes a dimension that says we need to become better at “releasing.” Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” This holy discontent causes us to wrestle with this command to be more than catchers of men but also to be senders. Unlike Boomers who generally are comfortable contributing to ministry, young emerging leaders seek to be ministry; to live missional lifestyles. This next generation of leaders is ideally suited for passionately leading the MEGA / MULTI to maneuver the MICRO.
- We have a “sleeping giant” in today’s Church. The unrealized sending capacity of God’s family is PROFOUND. Imagine releasing this capacity–even a small percentage of it. Consider the impact of each believer reproducing themselves and becoming “go” leaders. Think about the impact of every healthy church reproducing itself. Imagine the impact of our churches changing their scorecards from “catching” to “sending.”
Awaken the Sleeping Giant
Find Your Personal CallingLearn More