It must be something in our DNA. When someone comes up with something unique, eye-catching, or especially effective, we jump on the bandwagon and try to create our own version of it.
Who doesn’t love Dr Pepper? (It’s required by law if you live in Texas.) C’mon, it’s Dr Pepper. Others have tried to mimic it. Maybe they think others won’t notice. We noticed.
If companies think they can make money jumping on one bandwagon, perhaps they can make even more by jumping on three simultaneously!
The evangelical church is no different. If a church experiences phenomenal growth or a pastor amasses a big following, we’re quick to publish a how-to book or promote a church growth conference based on that church/pastor. And if we can create such a conference where we can also sell those books, all the better!
I am not dismissing these conferences or books. (Well, not most of them.) One of the most well-known books includes this caveat: This is what worked in our culture and setting. It’s not a plan you should mimic.
But that doesn’t keep pastors and church leaders from trying to mimic it.
I want to revert back to my glory days as a four-year-old and scream, “STOP BEING A COPYCAT!”
The Stradivarius violin is readily acknowledged as the best violin. Antonio Stradivari died in 1737, and he took the secret of his process to the grave. For almost 300 years, luthiers have tried to recapture the unique sound and characteristics of his violins.
It’s quite possible Stradivari did not know his own secret. Joseph Nagyvary, a Texas A&M biochemist (now retired) has studied the Stradivarius violin for years. He stumbled on a seemingly minor detail, but during the years Stradivari was crafting violins, there was a wormwood outbreak in his home of Cremona, Italy. The trees were treated with borax, a preservative that prevents woodworm. Dr. Nagyvary found that the borax bound wood molecules differently. He built a violin with maple and spruce treated with borax, and the finished violin had a sound that experts could not distinguish from a Stradivarius violin.
By the time Stradivari died, the wormwood outbreak had also died, and the trees were no longer being treated with borax. Even Stradivari likely did not know the secret to his violins was a bug killer.
The best thing Antonio Stradivari did was use what was right in front of him. Some would say Stradivari— and successful pastors—just happen to be in the right place at the right time, but let’s not lose sight of one critical element:
God places each one of us where we are.
He gives you your gifts, passions, and personality, and He wants you to use them. God doesn’t need you to be like the Bible study leader down the hall … or the pastor with the bigger name. In whatever place you find yourself in the kingdom of God, God will use you to reach people no one else will. You will bring honor to Him in ways no one else will.
Don’t try to find the magic formula; there isn’t one. Just use what God has placed right in front of you.
- “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10).
- “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14).
Then when people come to you wanting to know your secret for living the Christian life, point to nothing and no one but Jesus.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
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