The first time my eight-year old eyes did a double take at a tugboat pulling a tanker was in a picture in a school textbook. It didn’t make sense to me that something so small should be pulling something so big, but truth is often stranger than fiction.  Our minds have accepted a fiction that contradicts that picture. You are the tugboat. Your church is the tanker. Tugboats are meant to pull churches, but you’ve been taught that it’s the other way around. You’ve been told that the church pulls you, and tells you what you should be doing. Usually that amounts to little more than giving money and bringing more people who also have money. That’s all that’s expected of you when you’ve been undervalued. You’re also allowed to do church chores. You’re allowed to keep the machine going. As long as you continue to pour your time, money, and energy into the machine, you’re not going to have time to be released in what makes you powerful. This means that instead of being quick, punchy, risky, and powerful, they become miniature versions of a tame system on a leash.  The huge church system doesn’t facilitate personal responsibility, but fosters the illusion that “you need us to do it for you”. Bring them here. We’ll reach the world for you.

But being small is what makes you so valuable. “Judge me by my size do you?” Yoda asked Luke Skywalker. And when push came to shove against Count Dooku, Yoda proved more dangerous than a midget on fire.  Believers operating like the Apostle Paul did; poor, prayerful, and precarious, penetrate communities because they’re not counting on the big guns. They operate like Navy Seals.

Pastors are navigating the challenge with large battleships. They manage a large group of people when it comes to evangelism, launching large-scale full frontal assaults like an admiral from the decks of the large ship.  It can be very effective.  Established churches have the power to fill stadiums, hire bands, and blast gospel preaching through the airwaves.  Truth be told, most church planting authors owe a great debt to such churches and came to faith through established churches employing these tactics.

While established churches can bombard the enemy at the gates with powerful mortars, planters have been trained for infiltration and extraction.  They parachute like the 101st airborne into enemy territory and steal undetected across No Man’s Land to accomplish the mission.  They operate like a Navy S.E.A.L. Our military brass entrusts our most important and critical missions to SEAL teams because they can penetrate extractions where naval battleships fail. You need the right tools for the job. The challenge at hand calls for the splinter cell approach. The missional movement has started to tap into what church planters have known for years. Boil down most missional books and you’ll find a simple rediscovery of what happens when you…actually…get…around…people…

Stories have piled up about communities changed by small unassuming everyday believers blundering into mission as they discover new and innovative ways to connect with the people around them. Like the saying goes, big doors often turn on small hinges. Tugboats turn tankers. Navy Seals can win a war. Navy Seals can do things Admirals can’t. They duck dive over the railings, and plunge into the deep.  Immersion into hostile waters is an occupational hazard of being a Navy Seal. If you’re doing it right, you’re going to get wet. Guerrilla tactics make you a fast moving, light footed, low to the ground reconnaissance weapon.  You don’t move in big numbers.  You don’t bring heavy artillery. You’re perfect for the job in a way that your church never will be.

This explains the statistic that church plants are 70% more effective at reaching the unchurched than established churches.  No matter what we do, no matter how many programs we launch, stadiums we fill, or outreaches we put on, 60% of unchurched American populace will NEVER come to church.  Period.  This is why infiltration is so important.  Each individual believer engaged on mission is a one man, one woman arsenal, armed to the teeth with spiritual weapons, carrying the C-4 to demolish enemy strong holds and liberate the captives.

Church planters possess this missional mindsets out of necessity.  Without the monetary or human resources of an established church, there is no other choice.  Planters know that there’s no cavalry riding over the hill. There are no big guns. No back up ground support. There’s no rescue team coming. It’s do or die. You are a hunter-killer that seeks and save the lost.

A member of one of our church plants discovered a group of dog walkers meeting up at the school where her church plant was launching.  Before joining a church planting team she would have relied on the Admiral to rotate the range and increase the boom of the ship’s big guns, to reach them, but being a part of a church plant awakened a commando spirit within her.  As a dog groomer, she bagged four dog biscuits and stapled them to the church’s card displaying the name of the church across the top, and joined them walking their dogs during the service. She became a sleeper cell. She became one of them. Just like Jesus.

Our current model is failing us because they all rely on getting people through the doors of a church. The church is NOT the key. You are.

Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.


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  1. So much yes. To win the war, you need both the artillery and the strike team. Rarely do you win without both working together. Perhaps this is something we are missing (meaning the artillery and the strike teams working together to accomplish the goals of the Kingdom)?

  2. Hey man! I have a question! At what point does a church plant become an established church? Is it about size? Or attitude? Or something else?