Is this necessary or just helpful?

I will never forget the day the town said no.

I thought it was the end, but it was actually just the beginning.

We had experienced a season of growth at Seacoast and felt it was time to build. We were doing five services on the weekend and had purchased additional acreage around us for a 4,000 seat expansion. We had been in discussions with the city for about a year and things seemed to be progressing well. At the last minute we were caught in a “not in my backyard” backlash with the results being a no vote from Town Council that made it impossible to build on the land we had recently acquired.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement.

The prospect of continuing five services or adding more seemed overwhelming. We were already beginning to plant churches, but that didn’t address our current capacity issues.

So, I did what I always do when discouragement sets in.

I shut the blinds to my office and turned on some Country music. In that genre, they always lose something: a horse, a dog, a girlfriend, or a truck. I wanted to listen to someone who understood my loss. I wasn’t ready to move on yet. Later, a church member helped me with my theology in these types of situations. She said, “Pastor, it’s okay to sit on the pitty potty, as long as you don’t sit there long enough to get ring around the hiney.” That sounded about right. So I sat in my pitty for a while.

Until I remembered this: “There are no surprises to God.”

God has never had a day where he said, “I never saw that one coming.” If he wasn’t as surprised as I was by the vote that day, that means he was probably already at work on a solution before I even knew there was a problem.

So we bandaged our wounds, rolled up our sleeves and went to work on finding where He was leading next.

We settled on multi-site as the best possible solution for our situation. We knew that adding more services at off peak hours had inherent problems. The further the service was from the “golden hour” of 11:00am-noon on a Sunday, the less likely people were to attend. What if we were able to add extra services at the optimum time? The only way to do that was to meet offsite.

So ultimately we added 30 more services in 13 additional locations.

How much did it cost?

A lot less than a 4,000 seat auditorium.

We used the phrase, “High impact, low regret” to guide us in the process. We wanted the highest impact for the Kingdom with the lowest amount of potential financial regret.

We also tried to define what was necessary and what was just helpful. If you mix the two up you can focus on the wrong things and find yourself with a lot of regret.

For instance: In life, food, water and air are necessary, while Guitar Hero and iPads are just helpful. If you get the categories wrong, you’ll be in a world of hurt.

In multisite: A good location, the right leader, and the leading of the Holy Spirit are necessary; while Hi-Def, live, and lots of low end in the sound system are just helpful.

In our situation, we still haven’t added most of the helpful stuff and we never did get to build the 4,000 seat auditorium. But we have multiplied the number of people that we minister to weekly and we have had very few regrets.

What about you? Whether it’s ministry issues or just life in general, have you worked thru the “necessary” vs. “just helpful” matrix?

Greg is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the early adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

9 comments
Tunde John Ojerinde
Tunde John Ojerinde

That's God boxing us into doing the right thing. The worst thing is that most of the time, we tend to focus on making God work things out as we have planned, when all this while, He has a better plan for us. Thanks for the insight.

Bonnie
Bonnie

I am blessed that Jesus included you in my walk with Him

Bonnie
Bonnie

I am blessed that Jesus include you in my walk with Him

Ron Hamilton
Ron Hamilton

As I come to God empty handed, I then have an opportunity to see His Kingdom break out around me'. Matthew 5:3

JANIE GIORGI
JANIE GIORGI

PASTOR GREGG, I LOVE YOUR ANALOGY ON COUNTRY MUSIC, SO TRUE. YOU ARE SO FUNNY. I ALWAYS FIND THAT THERE IS NOTHING IN OUR LIVES THAT YOU HAVEN'T BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. YOU JUST HAVE THE ANSWERS TO WHAT WE COULDN'T EXPLAIN. I CAN GO BACK TO THE STORMS IN OUR LIFE OR THE WRECK AND YOU PUT OUR EXPERINCES IN PERSPECTIVE. THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON WE HAVE LEARNED AT SEACOAST IS HOW TO LIVE THROUGH THE EYES OF GOD. AND WE CAN ASK OURSELF WHAT WOULD JESUS DO. THAT IS ALWAYS HOW I GET MY ANSWER NOW.

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson

I love reading about the history of our church. As a relatively new member (a year and a half) it is encouraging to me to have a pastor who has been through some trying times, sought God's guidance, and has become stronger because of it. I think our Church, via you're leadership and the Church's ability to adapt and adjust, is on the cutting edge of what God is doing. Most do not have the courage to go where our Church is going.

Jeff Stockford
Jeff Stockford

Thanks Greg! This was very helpful. While serving in a once large church in Orlando, I saw the results of what you are talking about. The helpful stuff can take on a life of its own and become the driving force in the church. It results in dissatisfied, malnourished people, staff disunity and financial deep pits. I can't help but think about Jesus said to Martha, "... only one thing is necessary." Referring to what Mary was doing at His feet. Don't let the helpful stuff rob you of the necessary. I'm probably not saying it as well as I would like. I enjoy reading your insights Greg. Please keep em coming!

doris sparks
doris sparks

Thank you for sharing your miracles. Miracles come thru God being in control & people following Him. You did.

Diane Green
Diane Green

Unfortunately, some church leaders have adopted the "If you build it they will come" philosophy, which often results in low impact, high regret. That philosophy takes a long time to undo!