Creative Leadership

The High Cost of Being a Sheep

I was talking to our creative team at Cooke Media Group recently about the number of churches and ministries who take the easy way out by copying more successful organizations. Our Lead Strategist, Dawn Nicole Baldwin spoke up on the issue, and I thought her take was worth sharing:

Dawn:  I watched a herd of sheep recently, and without being disrespectful, I thought of some churches I’ve visited in the past. Sheep aren’t courageous pioneers. They don’t follow new trails. They simply follow the other sheep in front, who’s probably being guided by a barking dog (or whatever is making the most noise.) It made me realize that when it comes to churches and ministries, the truth is, it’s really easy to follow the crowd or to imitate what everyone else is doing or to want a website, logo, outreach program, (or fill-in-the-blank) just like a Big Name Church or Ministry.

(Side note: If I see one more website—or get one more request—for a website that looks just like Hillsong Church, I’m going to poke my eyes out with pencils.)

But I believe the price of being a sheep is much steeper than we can imagine when it comes to ministry. When you copy a successful church or ministry, you’re robbing the world of what it is your church is uniquely wired to offer. You’re forcing their identity on yours – rather than celebrating the calling and story of what makes your organization distinctive.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting inspired by others who’ve gone before me and look for ways to build upon those ideas to make them my own. But as my friend Mark Batterson has so eloquently put it, “When inspiration stops short and becomes imitation, it’s suicide.”

Discovering your purpose and braving new trails is hard. It takes work, and yes, it can be very lonely. But I can tell you that after working with hundreds of churches and ministry organizations across the country, I can confirm that the reward is worth it.

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9 Comments

  1. Phil, since part of the high cost of being a sheep includes persecution, and since you’ve been shot for the sake of the Gospel, could you write a book about your experience with the persecuted church? Or perhaps your biography? We had a bishop from Siberia at our church this weekend, and to hear those stories from the person directly dispelled the romantic myths some people have of this. At least mine.

    1. Actually sheep don’t get much persecution. They just do what they’re told and move along with the group. It’s the one’s who stand out that get shot at. You should check out the documentary film we did called “The Insanity of God.” That takes a pretty hard look at how difficult it is to be a Christian in many parts of the world.

  2. Dawn! I want to encourage you not to poke your eyes out with anything, it won’t help. Plus, I believe it would be a very unpleasant experience. Great input though. Thanks!
    I remember hearing an elder from a mainline Protestant church with a big stone building; complain about a newer church which meets in a movie theater and high school, who were taking all the young people. Not long after that I was sitting in the auditorium of the nondenominational church I belong to, on the mainline which is an affluent area near Philadelphia, looking around at the people thinking, churches seem to have personalities.
    I think churches can have identity crises. When looking for guidance for a website, logo, or an outreach strategy, the first place to seek guidance is the Lord. Another thing is, many people in churches just don’t understand. Like you said in the last paragraph, after you worked with hundreds of churches and organization they found the rewards to be worth it. It seems that many churches need help from people like yourself who can give them guidance. But will they take it? One really good place to find guidance in this area is your book Unique.

  3. Dawn! I want to encourage you not to poke your eyes out with anything, it won’t help. Plus, I believe it would be a very unpleasant experience. Great input though. Thanks!
    I remember hearing an elder from a mainline Protestant church with a big stone building; complain about a newer church which meets in a movie theater and high school, who were taking all the young people. Not long after that I was sitting in the auditorium of the nondenominational church I belong to, on the mainline which is an affluent area near Philadelphia, looking around at the people thinking, churches seem to have personalities.
    I think churches can have identity crises. When looking for guidance for a website, logo, or an outreach strategy, the first place to seek guidance is the Lord. Another thing is, many people in churches just don’t understand. Like you said in the last paragraph, after you worked with hundreds of churches and organization they found the rewards to be worth it. It seems that many churches need help from people like yourself who can give them guidance. But will they take it? One really good place to find guidance in this area is your book Unique.

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