Lake Church or River Church?
A crucial distinction for church multiplication
Beau Crosetto introduced me to Larry Walkemyer. Well, not personally… I only met Larry for the first time a few years after Beau told me about him. He was Beau’s pastor at Light and Life Free Methodist Church in Long Beach, CA.
A quick shout out to Beau. He is the best evangelism trainer I know. His book, Beyond Awkward, is great, go get it, go read it. Check out his website, beaucrosetto.com
Here’s how it happened. I met Beau at Exponential West Coast. Can you imagine that two extroverts might spontaneously start talking to each other? Well, we did. Anyway, I have two friends in LA, Jake and T’Nique, who were looking for a church, but LA is tough bc driving anywhere is hard! We needed something close to them in North Hollywood. Beau says, “hey, our church, Light and Life, is sending a woman out to plant a church in North Hollywood,” and no lie it was around the corner from their house!
I started wondering… “what do you mean your church is sending out a woman to plant a church?” Turns out they have sent more than 30 planters out to launch new churches.
What on earth? What kind of church is this!?
If someone feels a call to plant a church, they can! They can even take some people with them from Light and Life to go start the new thing.
Larry and Deb Walkemyer got to Long Beach in 1989. The church was dying. But it started growing. A lot. They had a big problem. They only had 39 parking spaces. They had a much larger facility than they had parking for. They made arrangements with nearby businesses for parking. If they wanted to grow even larger, though, they really needed to get more parking. But… you can imagine how much real estate costs in Long Beach, CA.
They made a decision. They were fine with the size of the church, and they thought that maybe they should put their effort into launching new churches, that the Kingdom would grow much more doing that, than if they got more parking and built bigger.
They came to this point after Larry and Deb had spent a week in prayer. And they got an image, a picture, a vision, from Ezekiel 47, where Ezekiel sees the temple rebuilt after the Babylonians destroyed it. And a spring came from the Temple, a trickle that grew into a stream, then deeper and wider as it ran through the desert, until it was a river that brought fishermen to its banks… in the desert.
They realized they needed to be a river church, not a lake church. A lake is made by damming a river, building a large pool of water behind the dam. Larry and Deb said they saw that God was calling them not to dam up a river, but let the water keep flowing through. They might not grow as big, but they would always have a flow in and then out. That was their image, to have people as long as they had them, to prepare them to go out. So while their Kingdom would not grow, God’s Kingdom would.
That decision, bathed in prayer, has launched a lot of churches and led a lot of people to Christ, many more than if they had decided to try to grow a mega church in Long Beach.