Bang! There Goes My Theory

I had this theory about the edgy, innovative, and awesome churches that have influenced me over the years while I was in vocational church work–Willow Creek, Saddleback, NorthPoint, Fellowship Dallas, McLean Bible, etc.–and why Knoxville didn’t have a church like any of them.  After a particularly frustrating staff meeting one day I sat down with my Technical Director and together we came to the conlusion that Knoxville was the problem.

Willow Creek has Chicago, Saddleback has L.A., NorthPoint has Atlanta, Mars Hill has Seattle, etc.  The common denominator among these churches seemed to be a certain critical mass of urbanity surrounding them that Knoxville didn’t have.  The theory was that Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, and Mark Driscoll would all fail in Knoxville not because of a lack of leadership skill but because Knoxville couldn’t demographically support a cutting-edge church.  These leaders succeeded mostly because they chose fertile ground for their church planting efforts.

The theory was useful because it helped us cope with the reality that we weren’t in an über-cool, über-missional church and the church we were in wasn’t interested in becoming one.  After all, it wasn’t our fault that Knoxville couldn’t support such a church, was it?

The theory held up well until I discovered NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC.  Anderson is a city with a population of 22K in a mostly rural county with a population of 172K.  NewSpring’s weekend attendance swings between 7.7K and 9K (you might want to read those last two sentences together again slowly).  And NewSpring is just about the coolest, most daring, on-focus church I’ve come across.  Really.  They opened last Sunday’s service with "Friends in Low Places" and rocked the house for the Kingdom.

That big bang is the sound of my theory blowing up.

One common denominator in these churches really is Level 5 leadership at the top.  NewSpring has Perry Noble, Willow Creek has Bill Hybels, Saddleback has Rick Warren, NorthPoint has Andy Stanley, and Mars Hill has Mark Driscoll.  And they were all in positions to execute their decisions and drive the process.

So I guess I need a new theory.  Suggestions?  Is Level 5 leadership in churches so rare that there aren’t enough to go around? 

Would you go to a church like NewSpring?  What would your reaction be if the 1st song out of the gate on a Sunday morning was "Friends in Low Places?" 


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