My introduction to current automobile technology came when my octogenarian in-laws wanted a new car although neither could drive at the time! You just don’t argue with 80+ year old people.
A friend owned a car they were looking at so we borrowed it for a test drive. I had never driven a Hybrid car. Being ever practical my mother in law wanted to stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things on the test drive of Ford Escape Hybrid so I parked just outside the door of her favorite market and waited while she ran into to get “a few things.” Half an hour later she emerged with a two bags of groceries and climbed in the hybrid car.
It was then the drama began. I hadn’t turned the car off because it didn’t seem to be running so I didn’t turn it on either. When I started forward it was a strange sensation not to hear an engine rev. It must have been strange also for the lady who walked right in front of me as well. Fortunately the brakes are conventional, they worked exceptionally well as they created a threatening screech!
I am sure that it never occurred to the lady holding a bag of groceries coming out of the store that a car not making a sound could be a threat to her health. She grew up in a world where cars made sounds, engines revved when they move and especially when they move from a stand still.
Her world had now changed! Her old paradigm had brought her in harms way and her survival depended on her changing her thinking and behavior. Hybrid cars that possess both gas engines that rev and electric engine which don’t make much noise had entered her world. No longer could she count on hearing a car coming at her, she must now understand that cars move silently propelled by an electric engine. It was this moment that gave birth to a new way of thinking about how I did “church.”
In 1994 I began a journey to establish a “Willow Creek” model church. After 11 years Shoal Creek was approaching 800 people and growing. It didn’t take a Einsteinium mathematician to figure out that our current facility had an expiration date.
Having planted the church from 6 people in my living room, I was sure that I only had one church plant in me. The clawing for viability while raising a family left trace elements of stress, fatigue and aging! This was the primordial soup which formed the the beginning of a journey to find a scalable strategy that would both reduce the dependence on facilities and allow us to continue to aggressively participate in seeing the lost found.
This journey visited all the typical venues; multi-site, rapid church multiplication, video venue, house/simple church, missional communities conferences as well as the typical list of books and mp3s from the latest gurus on everything church. Yet on that journey a constant irritation was a story from India of unbelievable proportions that became a annoying splinter in my mind.
After each visit to these experiences, much evaluation and discussion led to the same conclusion; our current format was not easily reproducible. 2 Which then lead to a fork in the road, do we change how we do what we do so that we could find a scalable model?
In the middle of this journey to find this “scalable” model, I had a dream. To be honest it was more like a nightmare. We were attractional and proud of it, so in a dream God gave me the answer to my prayer
Faithfully I prayed for the 300,000 people within a 30 minute drive of Shoal Creek. My hope and prayer is that we would make it hard to go to Hell for these people. They had been assaulted by emails, billboards, postcards, radio ads, newspaper ads, Facebook ads, personal invitations and the list goes on. We had gone to extraordinary lengths to encourage them to come.
Sound asleep the dream starts. People from all over this area begin to come on a Sunday morning. Thousands of them driving, but quickly the roads, highways and freeways started to get crowded. Those who started early got to the parking lot and filled it and the auditorium quickly (seats a thousand!).
The rest got stuck, massively stuck because the infrastructure of my city won’t support 300,000 people descending on any one spot not even our professional sports stadiums. As the frustration of their spiritual interest collided with the inability to get where they wanted to go, they began to turn around and go home. Maybe next Sunday, maybe never who knows!
The dreamed turned nightmare (click link below to read on.)