What’s in Your Toolbox?

by vernsanders on June 3, 2009

Kent Shaffer recently wrote a blogpost from which I’d like to quote extensively. I’ll be back in a minute or so, so in the meantime, go ahead and read…

A Toolbox with All Hammers


In the big picture, a toolbox with all hammers isn’t very effective. You can hit nails, pry, and not much more. A good toolbox has hammers, wrenches, files, and screwdrivers. It has a drill, some pliers, and plenty of other tools.

So why do so many churches try to be a hammer?

Eugene Cho of Quest Church (Seattle, WA) recently blogged about the pursuit so many churches have to be a megachurch. He states:

Megachurches only comprise 1% of the churches in North America. But then why do the majority of the conferences revolve around the megachurches and their pastors?

I think megachurches and their leaders are doing phenomenal ministry.  I really do.  But we’ve elevated this 1% as the epitome and face of a successful ministry and created a machine of conferences, publishers, books, and networks based on this very limited expression.

Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv (Edmond, OK) puts it this way:

In order to reach people that no one is reaching, you will have to do things that no one is doing. But in order to do things that no one is doing, you can’t do what everyone else is doing.

We each have a unique God-given calling, but many of us want to live the calling of  the ministers in the limelight. Likewise, each church has a unique God-given calling, but too many churches distract themselves by pursuing the calling of famous megachurches.


To clarify, I do think it is good to study successful churches when the principles learned are considered within the context of your church’s unique calling. And I do believe that good ministry typically grows churches. However, some of the greatest ministries have the smallest numbers. Sometimes small is needed to be effective. Sometimes huge is needed.

I recommend that you study them all. Learn from megachurches, house churches, rural churches, and the rest.

Above all else, never lose focus of staying true to your church’s purpose. If God wants you to be a hammer, be a hammer. If God wants you to be a wrench, be a wrench.


All finished? Great! Here’s my follow on (full disclosure version)…

As the publisher of Creator magazine, which is devoted to helping people do music and worship ministry better, I am in the information business…but I also must participate in the machine of commerce or the  business of the magazine (and the website) will fail and the information will no longer be available. I must market and sell. So, in that sense, I am guilty of the things that Eugene Cho blogs about. In Creator‘s case the “machine” is a necessary evil.

Here’s the thing, though. I think that Eugene (and Kent) are absolutely right in one respect: When the machine becomes “the thing” rather than the means to finding out about “the thing,” the tail, in a sense, is wagging the dog.

There are so many people out there doing good work, being successful, building up the church, that we never hear about because they may be too busy, or too humble, or too undisciplined, or [fill in your own reason here] to sit down and write about it in a way that draws the attention of a machine with enough clout to get that information into your hands. Or they may be too intimidated to get up in front of several hundred people and talk about what they do. Does that make their work less valuable? Not to my mind.

And here’s where I’m really going with this…a “packaged” solution, as Kent points out, is not necessarily a “one size fits all” commodity. At the risk of repeating myself to those who follow my scribblings, Local Solutions for Local Situations.

Your ministry in your church in your town may benefit much more from your having a conversation with a local colleague than with buying a book. Have more than one conversation, and you’ll find that everybody has specific things that they do that makes their ministry work well. Ask the right questions, and you may find that their approach has much more in common with your situation.

Two final things: First, if you feel like you only get what you pay for, buy your colleague a cup of coffee. That might set you back as much as that book. Second, you might find that what you learn from your colleague is what doesn’t work. That, perhaps, is an even better lesson.

At Creator and the Creator Leadership Network, we’re spending time trying to develop tools that will be of benefit to smaller churches too. I’ll keep you posted as we go.

Thoughts? Leave a comment below.

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