If I could say one thing to church planters around the world, it would be this, "Please do not follow our popular Western example of how to do church." We have failed miserably to equip the people in our churches to be disciple-makers and church planters. We have failed miserably to instill in believers the biblical vision of the Great Commission. There are far better church planting models to follow -- a number of which are presented in this issue. Rather, let us in the West learn how to do church from the great movements which God is initiating around the world so that all believers everywhere will be equipped for the work of ministry.
Do We Need to Change the Way We Do Church to Reach the Unreached?
Some readers may ask, “Why all this talk about how to do church? I thought this was a missions magazine?" As we bring the gospel to the unreached peoples, an essential question is what type of church and ministry we will establish among them. Will they be churches that reproduce themselves rapidly by effectively equipping all believers to be disciple-makers so that entire peoples are rapidly discipled? Or will we bring some of the failed models from the West where churches rarely reproduce themselves and few believers are equipped to be disciple-makers or church planters. The kind of churches we plant will also determine whether or not they will in turn send out missionaries.
This Month's Articles
As disciples throughout history have made it their priority to see the kingdom explode among lost populations, they have often seen churches multiply rapidly generation by generation through ordinary believers. Unfortunately, as churches become established, a tendency emerges to consolidate efforts and focus more on the church development than on kingdom expansion. Which priority is right? Kingdom first or church first? Both are important, but to get church right, we must get kingdom right.
If we face the "brutal fact" that most churches in the world are small, and that this is how God usually works in His churches, then we know that the normal patter is to have small churches -- thousands and thousands of them! Which will bring God more glory: To work to start many small churches, or to start and grow only one or two larger churches? It is churches planting churches by average believers that seems truly amazing!
Viewing the Great Commission through the lens of Acts, rather than our traditional lens is the key to discipling both the established church and the newly planted ones. Christ's world-wide discipleship plan effectively discipled the first-century world and can disciple the twenty-first century world as well.
In Church-Planting Movements (CPMs), many people think we advocate only starting house churches. While the house church model is the most common model around the world, a number of models cam be adapted to work along similar CPM principles. Let's look at a few current models of church.
Tim Martin, Mission Pastor at WoodsEdge Community Church in Houston expresses what many church leaders describe when they hear of and are amazed by all that God is doing through Church-Planting Movements around the world. “I think it’s starting to bounce back to America, causing us to radically rethink our whole paradigm of church and mission. I now believe there can be much more, and there must be more.”
The common practice of attracting people to a building for a large meeting, rather than seeking people far from God where they are, impedes the Western church (and many others around the world) from becoming a Church-Planting Movement (CPM). But the North American church is a luxury liner making full steam on a course plotted with full financial backing and a wealth of tradition. Notwithstanding an iceberg-type crisis, why worry?
Victor John is one of the leaders of a massive Church-Planting Movement among the 100 million+ people of the Bhojpuri language group of North India, formerly known as the “graveyard of modern missions.” John points out that despite the presence of the church in India for almost 2000 years dating to the Apostle Thomas, 91% of Indians remain unreached with the gospel! He believes this is mainly due to a lack of leadership development.
From time to time I will have the people I’m discipling write out their own pastoral obituary. I ask them to write out how our enemy would take them out, rendering them unable to serve their family and communities. As you can imagine, the answers vary, but it always serves as a really helpful exercise as they are forced to confront issues of character, etc. Taking the same exercise I’ve used with pastors, for the past year I’ve been thinking how the enemy would/might be trying to take down the American church.