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Doc Lindsey: Church planting starts with neighborhood walk


ROCHESTER, Minn. (BP)–Home missionary Doc Lindsey is fluent enough in the language of technology to speak it without an accent.
Lindsey, director of missions and evangelism for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, built a radio when he was 5 years old, and he’s been a low-power QRP amateur radio operator for 36 of his 54 years. A computer enthusiast, he’s a Beta tester for Microsoft software.
But when it comes to starting churches, his approach predates the Dark Ages. “Jesus walked around the planet at three miles an hour,” he says. “I think we need to join him on his walk.”
A runner who has completed 30 marathons, Lindsey proposes neighborhood walks as prerequisites to church starting. It’s the best way to look for points of light and darkness in the community, he says. “Liquor stores, crack houses, children’s bicycles and toys in front yards, playgrounds — you won’t see these if you drive by,” he says. The goal is to find where God is at work and to meet a ‘person of peace,’ someone from the neighborhood God has prepared to help start a church.
Lindsey teaches this approach through Operation Lydia workshops, named for Lydia in the Bible, who started a church with her friends and neighbors. “It’s the way the early church did it,” Lindsey says. “No buildings, Bibles, budget, Baylor, Baptist Book Stores or Billy Graham — and yet they did what the Lord told them to do.”
Most people come to church the first time because of friends, Lindsey believes. “It’s relationships. It’s not programs; it’s not the preacher,” he says. “The wise pastor knows this.” Lindsey hopes the relationship-based approach will help increase the number of churches in Minnesota-Wisconsin from 141 to 400 by 2010.
A former evangelism consultant in Los Angeles, HMB staff member in Atlanta and associational missionary in Detroit, Lindsey accepted the position with Minnesota-Wisconsin because “it was a chance to see if the stuff I believe works,” he says. He believes it will, of course. A varied background has made him a bubbling casserole of ideas and confidence.
A talented musician, Lindsey once considered a career as a concert pianist. He was a member of the Army Special Forces in Vietnam. After the military, he started a business in Hawaii, importing Viking sewing machines. In a short time, one store grew to four. “Making money was easy,” he says. “But in the middle of all that, the Lord reminded me that I had a job to do.” And that job was missions.
Missions was so prominent in his heritage, Lindsey was not surprised when he felt the call. One grandfather was a “blood and thunder evangelist” and musician who traveled with a tent and a truck full of instruments. His uncle was an evangelist and a trombone player who had once won the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, a once-popular radio program.
At 13, after only a year of lessons, Lindsey toured with his uncle as revival pianist. “‘Just hit as many notes as you can,’ he told me,” Lindsey says. “He believed in me — he blessed me.”
Lindsey’s other grandfather was a church planter in California. His father was a pastor in Richmond, Mo., when called to become a home missionary and start a church in Iowa. Just out of high school, the young Lindsey postponed entry into Baylor University in Texas and went with his family to help.
The church they started is alive and well today. “I came up in the SBC evangelistic tradition,” Lindsey says. “I have all those threads in me.”
The job Lindsey faces now is to start evangelical churches in 90 unentered counties in Minnesota-Wisconsin. But not all church starts have to be Southern Baptist, Lindsey believes. Part of the convention’s strategy is to build relationships with other groups.
“We have worked with 14 denominations in Operation Lydia,” Lindsey says. “We don’t compete with others, we honor them.”
“I like to start new things,” he continues, and he’s not concerned who gets the credit. He’s quick to point out the ideas behind Operation Lydia were developed by Tom Woolf and Carol Davis of the Church on Brady in Los Angeles. Lindsey just wants others to benefit from this biblical model of church starting that helped Minnesota-Wisconsin start 25 churches last year.
“I don’t own it, I don’t charge for it,” Lindsey says of Operation Lydia. “I want to give it away. You can paint it green and call it whatever you want to — as long as you use its principles.
“I’m not a voice of God type guy,” he continues. “I can be a team leader, a sergeant or a private as long as I know where we’re going.”
And for the time being, he’s walking, running and riding the Internet through Minnesota-Wisconsin, teaching Operation Lydia workshops and promoting church starting and evangelism in seven associations that include 9.5 million people. “I’ve been in new work all my life,” he says. “I thrive on it.”

Reprinted from MissionsUSA, March-April 1997.