An interesting phenomenon exists in the U.S. church: unless your congregation was started by some missional expression such as GSE – regardless of size – it was based on an elephant church model. The founding pastor model has been the most used approach to starting churches since at least the 1960s. This model hopes to produce numerically large churches. Even if your congregation is numerically small, it was birthed and grown within the elephant/ founding pastor system. It is all you know.
Because it is all you know, a church of 20 holds itself accountable to similar expressions as a church of 2000. But they also have the inferiority complex that it breeds. Since this is systemically true, what can we do about it and how can we move into Jesus’ harvest field more effectively and aggressively?
First, we need to move away from the elephant church model and toward the rabbit church model. For example, the columns below show structures of elephant churches compared with rabbit churches and how those structures impact the harvest.
Elephant Church Model
Sunday morning emphasis
Passivity during meetings
Money largely supports itself
STRONGLY modalic in structure
One key leader
Cumbersome decision-making process
Mothering approach to discipleship
Closed approach to discipleship
Primarily knowledge focused
Emphasis on discipleship before service
Individuals need “permission” to serve
Fights chaos and chaotic outcomes
A collecting agency
Fishes in the fish tank
Fishes with a hook?
Rabbit Church Model
Any day emphasis
Active, multi-voiced meetings
Numbers do not matter
Money can spread
STRONGLY sodalic in structure
Simple decision-making process
Fathering approach to discipleship
Open/field discipleship process
Disciples are released continuously
Individuals can lead expansion
Seeks chaos and chaotic outcomes
A sending agency
Fishes in the ocean
Fish with a net
This blog is not to dismiss or utter words of distain about the elephant church – not at all! We need elephant churches, and they will always be with us. What we must come to understand is how multiplication and harvest work is impacted by elephant thinking and adopting elephant behaviors.
How do you see “elephant behavior” as detrimental to harvest work?
How can an elephant church truly multiply?
To learn more about Elephant vs Rabbit structures in the church, contact me.