Here’s Seth Godin on how we underestimate “lifetime value” (by a lot):
If an Apple upgrade breaks your phone and you switch to Android, it costs Apple more than $10,000.
If you switch supermarkets because a clerk was snide with you, it removes $50,000 from the store’s ongoing revenue.
If a kid has a lousy first grade teacher or is bullied throughout middle school, it might decrease his productivity for the rest of us by a million dollars.
Torrents are made of drips.
The short-term impact (plus or minus) of our work or our errors is dwarfed by the long-term effects. Compounded over time, little things become big things.
This got me thinking about church planting, especially the way we’re doing it:
- Focused first on investing in people’s discipleship and growth over the long haul rather than trying to fill up a room as quickly as possible,
- Embracing truly formational worship and community practices (even if some people leave because they don’t want to be bothered), rather than keeping everything on a que sera, sera level,
- A strong “front door filter” that lays our most “controversial” cards on the table right away (check our the “Culture” section of our theological influences page, for example), rather than a shallow and wide front door that eventually turns into a bait-and-switch later.
As we do this, I’m always tempted to measure our short-term “success” and feel discouraged. It’s not an efficient way to gather a crowd, for sure.
But torrents are made of drips, and we’re banking on the long-term effects of our work taking deep roots in people’s lives and in the neighborhoods and communities we’re part of. We’re counting on the fact that “compounded over time, little things become big things,” in Godin’s language.
Or, in Jesus’ language, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
This is the unseen dynamic of God’s kingdom that we are counting on by planting this way. As we gather for worship, fellowship, and discipleship, we are participating in divine life, steadily being transformed into the likeness of Christ as a community.
And we’re trusting that these small participations will become transformations that compound over time to create something larger and more substantial that can stand the test of time and provide spiritual food and shelter for hundreds of years.