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Quit Following Archetypes

Driving this morning I was listening to the local top-whatever radio station and they were interviewing this guy named Brad Meltzer about the new movie coming out this weekend called "The Watchmen". Brad is an author and comic book creator who absolutely loves the graphic novel by the same name. The discussion was the normal rock jock back-and-forth with the guest that pulls bits and pieces of truth out amid the craziness of an interview.

Basically Meltzer was saying that among comic book enthusiasts this (The Watchmen) is one of the greatest works of all time. He also went on to name so many of our modern day movies and attributes that first take place in this graphic novel.

Apparently the graphic novel and the movie are filled with familiar archetypes of characters. Similar to how boy bands were thrown together in the 90's based off of NKOTB, these archetypes of superheros make their presence known in 'The Watchmen' as well. His description is that this graphic novel and movie seek to explore the ugly side to the celebrated super hero.

What does this have to do with anything? Glad you asked.

I've been around church planting for roughly 10 years now. I've seen success and failure both externally and internally. One of the thoughts I had while listening to Brad Meltzer describe this graphic novel and movie that I have never seen was: "This is how so many people try to build churches." We use archetypes. Someone will watch a conference or check out some church site and begin to duplicate the archetypes of people. Someone will say "We need the pastor to preach this way...." or "We need the singers to wear ripped jeans." or "We need everyone on stage to wear Hawaiian shirts (or pastels) (or shirts from The Buckle)."

We (generic church leaders) take the archetypes of what God is doing elsewhere and try to replicate them in our own context and that's one of the dumbest things we can do. Not only that but I think it devalues the very people we're trying to emulate. Do you and I think we can really judge what makes great teams click just from sitting in their conference one week and checking out their on-stage presentation over a weekend?

Just like you can't recreate a successful boy-band by throwing together archetypes (O-town anyone?), you can't mix a few archetypes of preacher, musician and kids ministry to get an amazing church. Those people you want to emulate are actually much deeper. I've found them to usually be much deeper in character, work ethic, commitment, clarity of vision and have a God-given reason for doing what they do. If you think for a moment that the key is to get a few personalities and mix in some lights and video I think you're sadly mislead about what it takes to develop a great church team (or any successful team for that matter).

So often it's the intangibles that make the greatest difference. Do yourself a favor. Take time to study greatness. Take time to be stretched and pay the price (yes financial) to soak up the behind the scenes elements of great leaders. When I visited some amazing churches in November, churches like NewSpring, Elevation, Pine Ridge and Revolution among others, I didn't focus on the 'show'.

I wanted to learn about the people. In each of those environments I learned a TON about what makes for great organizations and none of what I have to report comes from the colors of paint or size of their sound system. It's found in the hearts and minds of the people of God who are called to those places.

Do yourself a favor, stop chasing archetypes and start begging God to mold you into a greater man or woman. Then and only then will you be able to build something that others will look back and see as the standard barer of all to follow.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Tuesday, March 03, 2009

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