Transforming Communities through Entrepreneurship
Metamorphic is a church-planting organization focused on transforming communities physically, socially, and spiritually. Lindsay Clarke is the leader of this world-shaking movement.
Metamorphic is a church-planting movement based in Australia that trains church planters, with a vision to be the largest, most influential church planting movement in history. Established in April 2002, Metamorphic set out with a clear direction to change the way church planters established churches. One major difference was the way these church plants were to become dynamic and self-sustaining, impacting every area of the community. Since its inception, Metamorphic has planted almost 7,000 churches, and these churches have in turn planted an additional 28,000 churches.
As the founder of Metamorphic, Lindsay Clarke shares insights into the role of entrepreneurship in the kingdom.
How did you come to the Lord, and how did He call you to what you are doing now?
I did not grow up in a Christian home. When I was 20 years old, I was surfing in Bali, about to paddle into the waves, when I saw a vision. I saw a multitude of Asian, African, and Arab faces, hundreds of thousands of them. I saw hands raised, which I knew in the vision were the hands of a preacher. Strangely, over the next months, I had recurring dreams of exactly the same scene, over and over, until three months later, while reading the Bible in a park, I opened to the Book of John. Suddenly, the scene seemed to come alive right in front of me. I could see Jesus, and then I looked in the heavens and saw a waterfall.
I could literally feel the spray of the water. I physically felt God come to me, and I was born again and radically changed. With no theological background, I knew I had been saved not just by something, but to something: to a life with Christ.
That was one component. The other is that I had a praying grandmother. I was a special grandchild to her. My grandma prayed, and the day I gave my life to Jesus, she said, “My mission is done now,” and she died shortly afterward.
Right away, I realized that I was saved for a purpose. So now I had to find that purpose. I’ve always loved starting new things; I’ve always been a driver in my life, an entrepreneur. I went to Bible college, and wondered what I would do. Would it be missions, or planting churches? I had a personal passion to plant churches around the world, and I discovered that was the call of God.
What past experiences prepared you for church-planting and eventually leading a church-planting movement?
I had a management background, and after school, I went into retail management. I got to the top of the company at 19 years old, with staff working for me. Really, I was into structure and managing large groups of people. From there I went into commission sales. It was a strange journey.
Looking back, I realize I needed all those skills, the left-brained management skills and the right-brained creative sales skills. Management and sales are the two essential ingredients to being a church planter.
What would you say makes Metamorphic “unique” as a ministry?
I would say there are a number of factors. Firstly, it is the scale of what we do: when we plant churches, we go big. We’ve planted 6,800 churches in the last 17 years, and those churches have planted 28,000 second and third generation churches as they multiply. Clearly, one person can’t do that, but one person with a team can inspire a generation to plant more. We at Metamorphic don’t want to start one business, we want to inspire one thousand people to start businesses!
Secondly, it is the fact that we don’t need to fund the same church plants continually. They’re funded once, and they’re involved in small business through our micro finance program and this empowers the to become self-funding. Globally our churches don’t require ongoing funding, we train them to think correctly so they have no need of continued resourcing.
You say you train them correctly – what does that training look like? How would it differ from normal training for church planting?
Our training program is comprised of 5 key components:
We start by bringing in 20 to 30 church planters through a 12-day boot camp, where we attack head-on wrong mindsets, replacing them with Kingdom values and beliefs. From there, these planters move into a two-year mentoring program.
The first phase of the training, the personal development program, helps the church planter develop his own growth as a person. The church planter has a personal plan for his own personal leadership development, and a very clear plan for their church. This is more than a vision statement: not just a “why”, but a “how and what” document which looks outward.
We don’t want churches that just run meetings, we want churches that transform communities – that’s why our third step is in community development. That’s where our name came from – “metamorphic” means “transformation.” We’re really transforming communities. For step four, we teach them how to run a business and then fund the business. With the last step, multiplication, we teach them to plant churches that plant churches.
Over the two and a half years of training, we monitor their success in all 5 components. No one fails – unless they decide not to follow the principles we’ve given. Our commitment is to help them succeed in all 5.
Through this, we are raising up pastors who not only pastor their little local churches, but they end up shepherding whole communities, which will eventually impact the world.
“If you believe in people, they’ll rise up and surprise you again and again. If we believe in people and help them see that God is on their side, they can do extraordinary things.”
What would you say is the most difficult thing you’ve had to do with Metamorphic?
That would probably be getting the church to understand the importance of planting more churches. It seems like a strange thing to say, but business people get this while church leaders often don’t. For me, getting the church to understand that churches should reproduce churches is the number one challenge.
In the midst of this challenge, we prefer to partner with people who understand, rather than try to convince people who don’t. We look for like-minded people, those who carry the same DNA. These people may not necessarily be pastors, but it could be business people or any believers who love God, value networks and understand the Kingdom church..
This is such an important work, it must have had an impact on your own character. How would you say it has shaped you on a personal level?
I think it gives me godly confidence, as opposed to secular confidence or arrogance, because I can see God taking someone like me, an ordinary individual, to do extraordinary things. We don’t claim to be geniuses or especially brilliant. I have godly confidence for money, for leaders who want to work with us, and that God would give us nations, so our confidence is really in God.
What would you say are some of your biggest takeaways from having been involved in this work?
If you believe in people, they’ll rise up and surprise you again and again. If we believe in people and help them see that God is on their side, they can do extraordinary things.
I feel that I not only learn from my mentors, but even from the team and church planters, the people whom I mentor on a daily basis. Their feedback helps me grow as a person.
You mentioned that people will do extraordinary things if you believe in people. What are some of your favorite stories that have taken place through Metamorphic?
I love seeing God do amazing things through seemingly ordinary individuals. One story is about a church planter in Cambodia, Pastor Kun. He had been leading a church for 16 years and had a congregation of about fifty people. He came to Metamorphic’s church planting program when he was 60 years old, and he felt moved to plant one more church. When he did, his congregation grew to 150 people. He came back again to train for another year, and ended up sponsoring 120 churches, with 18,000 people in his network.
Now, he is in his 70s and has helped hundreds of people in business and birthed projects in 100 villages, including about two dozen schools, which educate more than a thousand children every week! All of this started when he was 60 years old! His son is on the Metamorphic Board and his grand daughter on our team in Cambodia.
Another story comes from Africa – we were talking several years ago with local leaders about church planting. These leaders also had several orphanages. We started talking with Christian leaders about good practices in community development. So we moved from the old mindset of funding orphanages, and trained the community to take care of orphans. Three orphanages are now empty, with the orphaned children living with families, and now they can use the orphanages as low-cost housing for the poor. The funds that used to go to the orphanages are used to pay the case workers to work with the families.
It started by finding a man in Africa, who saw what he thought was a liability (the orphanages) was actually an asset, and he turned it around. Since then, he has gone on to plant 150 more churches, with amazing projects including WASH and HIV clincis opening the door to connections with the government.
Those stories sound amazing! God changed entire communities through every day people with big dreams.
I have another story! One church planter we have is in Laos – his name is Nukom. After our training, he went back to his village and got a small business loan of $450. He started working on a fish farm, buying a shovel for digging trenches and putting small fish in the trenches to grow them big. He started preaching the gospel in his village of 400 people, and about 350 gave their lives to Jesus.
But this village had a neighboring village they were at odds with, and these neighbors burned their village to the ground. Nukom encouraged his people to rebuild the town, and watch what God could do.
About eight months after this, his fish were fully grown. God breathed on his business, and when Nukom brought the fish to market, he got a return of $30,000! Nukom then went back to the village and told his neighbors, “Because God visited us, I will share this, but on one condition – everyone must forgive each other’s debts.” They accepted, so he took the $30,000 and gave a portion to every family.
“God is a big God. We need to dream big dreams. He gives us the ability to create massive organizations. If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t a God dream.”
Poverty was broken forever in that community, and the spirit of forgiveness came on the village.
And that’s not the end of the story. As it turned out, the same village harvested an unusual quantity of fish again the next year, and they used the money to bless the neighboring village that had burned their village to the ground the year before. That neighboring village also got saved through this radical display of Gospel forgiveness!
Those stories make us realize the power of the Gospel, not only to save souls but transform entire communities. What would you advise young believers who want to obey the Great Commission to do?
The key thing for young people is to know that we can fail but we can get back up. Don’t be afraid of failing, as long as you know how to “fail forward.” Take risks, and when you fail, just pick yourself back up and move forward. I believe this is the door to a good future.
Another thing I want the youth to do is to learn not to depend on other people to give them opportunities. Instead, I believe we can create our own opportunities and dream big. Sadly, most young people go to school with the mindset of getting an education in order to work for other people.
God is a big God. We need to dream big dreams. He gives us the ability to create massive organizations. If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t a God dream.
I want to see a generation of entrepreneurs rise up, a generation of young people who are willing to push the limits and start businesses and run them on the principles of God’s Kingdom.
Lindsay Clarke is also the author of the book “The Metamorph Phenomena” which explores rising above change from a Kingdom perspective. To get a copy of Lindsay’s book or connect with the Metamorphic team email firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can follow Metamorphic endeavors around the globe at www.metamorphic.org.au