The Up the Middle Church

Matt Keller won my heart right away in his book, The Up the Middle Church, and he kept my heart and mind engaged all the way through. He writes,
We love to hear the stories of churches that start in faith, and within a few short months are living the long bomb....thousands in weekend attendance....We dream of what it would be like to be a part of something God visits that way....

But their story is not my story.
Matt is a highly successful pastor (as most tend to measure success) and his Next Level Church in Fort Myers, Florida, is a highly effective church. But he shares openly and vulnerably from his experience of falling in the trap most church planters and church leaders succumb to of wanting to be a "long-bomb" success story...when they would do better to follow an up-the-middle strategy.

Boy, could I identify with Keller and his story. And most of what he said resonated with me. I highlighted broad swaths of the book. Some of those:
Up-the-middle churches design effective programs that serve their "most likely to attend" audience. Too many churches design programming based off past church experiences, not present-day realities. "We always had that..." or, "We did it that way in my last church," statements that have no place in an up-the-middle reality.

We are committed to being for every church in our city. We filter all of our communication with the community through the lens of one question: "Could any of our language be construed in any way as competitive or negative toward another church?" If the answer is yes in any way, then we rework it completely."

Protecting the culture of your church requires having some hard conversations....As a new or small church, you inevitably have some well-meaning Christians who begin attending but have a preconceived idea of what they think church should look like....You'll feel the temptation to bend or compromise your culture in order to appease or keep those people....However, protecting the culture you feel led by God to create is your responsibility.

Because of pressure or desperation, too many pastors compromise the culture of their church in order to accommodate an individual or small group of people.

One of the biggest keys to self-care is being okay with getting away.

At the end of the day, it's not about how many people were in the seats, or how big the offering was; it's about the lives that were changed. In redefining success, this one must hit us the hardest....Never underestimate the lives that are being changed every week.
Keller and his church are not where I am. But they've been where I am. And by God's grace, I pray they are where we are going.

If you are in ministry--whether as a church planter, a pastor, elder, ministry leader, or in some other role--I highly, highly recommend The Up the Middle Church. And if you're starting a church (or have started one), consider it required reading.

1 comment:

  1. Bob,

    This is so cool to see your review of Matt's book. I can say from first hand experience that Matt and Next Level Church are the real deal. We did a worship conference for Next Level about 5 years ago when they were a "young pup" and I think they impacted us much more than we impacted them.