Denominations Play Crucial Role in Making "Disciples of Nations"
by Jim Montgomery
Denominations have come in for a lot of abuse over the years.
Some have suggested they are a modern expression of the jealousy and strife Paul wrote about to the Corinthians. One would say, "I belong to Paul." Another, "I belong to Apollos."
Others have rued the impression that Roman Catholics are unified (not true) while Protestants are split into a thousand pieces.
Denominations are a sin, some say, because they deny the oneness Jesus spoke of in John 17.
Itâs true, of course, that denominations can result in pride, party spirit, exculsive-ness and can prevent the Body of Christ Rom functioning as a body.
On the other hand, if their energies and resources can be effectively harnessed, denominations can play a powerful role in the completion of the Great Commission. They have the muscle, the machinery and the money to make things happen. If they didn't exist, we might have to invent them.
You might be aware of the classic and enduring case of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in the Philippines. But you might not be aware of the denominationally related activities that made it all happen.
To review, it took them 75 years to plant their first 500 churches. Challenged by the burgeoning DAWN movement, they adopted in 1975 a program called "Target 400." This plan called for starting that may new churches by 1980.
In the next five years they planted almost as many new churches as they had in their first 75 years! With this remarkable achievement came new faith and boldness. So they developed a new program whose goal was to reach a membership of 100,000 in the next three years.
While growing rapidly during those years, they fell short of their goal. Instead of becoming discouraged, they evaluated the reasons for their failure and developed a new, even more ambitious program which they called "Two, Two, Two."
Their dream in this endeavor is to reach a membership of two million worshipping in 20,000 churches by 2000 A.D. Furthermore, with their previous experience, their degree of commitment, their well-developed plans and the continuing great responsiveness to the gospel in the Philippines, it does not seem unreasonable that they can reach this goal.
And if they do, by the way, they will have seen 180,000 more people come to Christ and to active membership in their churches than they would have had they continued at their former rate of growth.
Here are some of the things they did to produce such excellent growth and excitement.
They formed a powerful joint committee of mission and Church leaders, including their district superintendants. With their national goal in mind, each local church was commissioned to establish its own goals and establish local committees for coordination of seminars, prayer groups, finance and others.
Pastors, lay pastors, lay preachers, lay leaders and ordinary church members were motivated and mobilized through seminars, short-term institutes, summer schools, Theological Education by Extension, training manuals, how-to-do-it materials, tapes, films, brochures and even such reminders as stenciled T-shirts, book marks and calendars.
To further keep the program alive and growing, they developed a quarterly publication called The Target. This excellent newspaper kept a steady stream of statistics, stories of growing churches, leading personalities, editorials on principles of growth, prayer reminders and news notes pouring out to the whole constituency.
They developed a Bureau of Census and Statistics and charged it with gathering, interpreting and reporting statistical data. In this way, problem areas were quickly identified and appropriate changes made.
To keep up with what was now a large and rapidly growing denomination, they found it necessary to provide materials and to train local churches in accurate and effective record keeping and reporting. Charts and graphs were distributed and a huge board was kept up to date at headquarters.
Financial support for the project was the joint responsibility of Church and Mission. Local churches were encouraged to make a faith pledge every year and take offerings on special occasions. Other income was derived from the sale of literature and from gifts and grants-in-aid from other agencies. The Mission added a substantial sum to the project each year.
Undergirding every aspect of the program was a strong emphasis on prayer. Every church was implored to organize prayer cells with the result that many hundreds came into being. These focused on all the local aspects of the program÷including individuals being witnessed to÷as well as the national goal.
The normal resistance to change had been overcome. Pastors who at first laughed at the program and called it "FORGET 400" changed their minds. At the national level, seemingly insurmountable problems had been met and overcome.
A sleeping giant had been aroused and rallied to the cry of reaching more and more responsive Filipinos for the Savior.
Can't local churches do many of these same things? Of course.
But if we are to work at discipling nations, we need to mobilize all the local churches of a country. Try getting 7,000 independent, local churches, for example, in a country like Ghana to each develop programs like this.
Within a few years, his national staff had increased to 19, and the number of local churches involved in what they called the New Life for All campaign increased to about 700. Many of them had doubled or tripled in just a year or two. The program was immensely successful.
But they had about arrived at the limits their resources and energies÷and there were still 6,300 churches to go!
Now they have completed the first four of eight planned regional DAWN congresses. They haven't dropped their local church ministry, but the DAWN strategy is now spreading the vision of church multiplication geometrically.
In each congress, there is a time for pastors and leaders to gather by denomination to set their goals and make their plans for the future.
When they were confronted with the real ty that there were still 167 unchurched villages in their district, they immediately set a goal of 167 new churches in five years No single congregation could have imagined such a goal, let alone accomplished it.
It is through such denominational programs that whole nations can be discipled. They are the heart of the DAWN strategy: all the denominations of a country rallying around an overall goal, and each denomination setting its own goal and program to reach that goal.