Tuesday, October 21, 2008


At CTK we are trying to become an organic, relational movement, instead an institutional, attractional ministry. Functioning organically means taking a different approach on various issues, but none more noticeable than how you approach variation. Organizations eliminate variation. Organisms embrace it.

By variation, I mean differences. Differences in look and feel. Differences in style and shape. In an organization, everything needs to look the same. An organization punches out widgets on an assembly line, and variations are tossed aside. But in organic life, variation is characteristic, expected and welcomed.

From generation to generation in organic life there is both repetition and revelation. In some ways things will look the same. In other respects there will be differences. Take, for instance, your children. In some ways they "look like you." There are certain characteristics that are passed down from generation to generation. In other ways, they will "look different than you." As a parent you sometimes even wonder, "Where did that come from?"

At CTK we should not expect every small group or Worship Center to look exactly the same. There will be similarity in mission, vision and values, but differences in style and personality. This is normal and natural. "There are no two snowflakes alike." It behooves us to appreciate the remarkable variety that can be found in offspring.

I have often said, "If you've seen one CTK Worship Center, you've seen one CTK Worship Center." As I have visited CTK Centers around the world, I always come away with two feelings: 1. This is CTK. 2. I've never seen anything quite like this before. But I think the same thing about each of my children, too. Each of them has two arms, two legs and one nose. It is even clear that they share the same parents. But that is where the similarities end and differences begin. Each of them is very individual, a real revelation.

At CTK we are not attempting cloning. We are trying to build an ever-expanding family of relationships. We want to be more like a family than a factory, more like a forest than a tree farm. In a tree farm, trees are planted in rows, and groomed so they look self- similar. In a forest, a remarkable variety exists, of big, small, straight and crooked. When you get back from a forest you see a pattern. But upon closer inspection you observe immense variation.

In the CTK story our mission, vision, values (our core DNA) gets worked out with varied emphasis. I saw this clearly when I took recent trips to Africa and India. Both are third world countries, and CTK has expanded rapidly in both of these places, with hundreds of new leaders. Both movements manifest CTK's commitment to the priorities of worship, small groups, and outreach. But they do so in varying ratios.

In Africa, the dominant trait is small groups. We have always contended that small groups are the primary convention for the people of CTK, but in Africa they have taken this ideal to another level. As best as we can tell, there are 862 house fellowships throughout the continent. In some communities there are 5-10 small groups meeting, and they have yet to have a public (temple courts) meeting, because they are so intensely focused on the value of community, and small groups as the basic building block.

In India, the dominant trait is outreach. We have always contended that we need to keep the arrows pointed out - that it is not our goal to get everyone to come to us, but to get us to go to them. In India CTK evangelists have visited over 1000 villages, many where the gospel of Christ has never been preached before. Circuit riding is common. From district to district, they are establishing Worship Centers. They are taking "arrows out" to a new level.

A great mistake, in my opinion, would be to try to get the African groups to behave more like the Indian groups, or vice versa. That would be a typical, top-down, organizational response. By being a part of organizations, we have been trained to look for differences and eliminate them. But in the CTK story we have to think family, instead of factory. I wouldn't advise you as a parent to remove all variation you see in your kids. And the same advise applies to spiritual parents, with spiritual offspring.

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