When the 26 year-old Methodist pioneer, Francis Asbury, arrived in the American colonies in 1771, he believed he was called to fulfill a great destiny. He was right—although that destiny was far greater than he ever imagined. In 1771 there were only 300 American Methodists, led by four ministers. By the time of Asbury’s death in 1816, Methodism had 2,000 ministers and over 200,000 members in a well-coordinated movement. By 1830 official membership was almost half a million, and the number of actual attenders was six million. Most of these people had no previous church connection before they became Methodists.
Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples
This issue of Mission Frontiers tracks the power of movements over the course of history. Movements to Christ have always been the way that God has reached entire peoples. While movements have become much more frequent in our day, they are not new. They have been a continual reality for two millennia as God has worked according to His sovereign will to reach entire peoples with the gospel. We highlight a few of these movements in this latest edition of Mission Frontiers.
This Month's Articles
Movements to Christ have always been the way that God has reached entire peoples. While movements have become much more frequent in our day, they are not new. They have been a continual reality for two millennia as God has worked according to His sovereign will to reach entire peoples with the gospel. We highlight a few of these movements in this latest edition of Mission Frontiers. There is, however, something quite new and unique about the movements taking place in our present day.
As I write, millions of acres are burning in Australia. Most attribute the fires to winds and climate change, but authorities have arrested over 180 people for starting the fires, 27 deliberately. Movements in history are similar. While they are propelled by the wind of the Holy Spirit, God uses people to start them and plans to spread them. To see what long lasting movements have in common, I have begun studying over a dozen movements in history that lasted over 100 years and impacted hundreds of thousands of people. Here is what I have found so far.
Luke begins the book of Acts by telling us that what Jesus began to do and teach, he now continues to do through his disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit. Luke’s story of the early church is the story of the dynamic Word of the gospel that grows, spreads, and multiplies resulting in new disciples and new churches. We get to the end of Acts and yet the story doesn’t end. Paul is under house arrest awaiting trial; meanwhile the unstoppable Word continues to spread throughout the world. Luke’s meaning is clear: the story continues through his readers who have the Word, the Spirit and the mandate to make disciples and plant churches.
When John Wesley was born in 1703, four million out of Britain’s five million people lived in absolute poverty— unless they found enough food for that day, they would begin to starve to death. When John Wesley launched a Church Planting Movement in this context, he not only changed the eternal destinies of an estimated one million people who came to Christ through his ministry, he changed their economic status as well
No one would have predicted that John Wesley would be among the great founders and builders of a multiplying movement. Wesley, the founder of Methodism, went to America hoping to convert the Indians. But he returned to England despairing of his own salvation, wondering, “Who shall convert me?”
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Francis’ father was furious. He had endured his son’s wild living, but Pietro Bernardone would not allow Francis to squander the family’s wealth on the poor. He dragged Francis before the Bishop of Assisi for a ruling. As a rich silk merchant, Bernardone had plans for his son to one day take over the business and become a leading man in the city of Assisi, but Francis disappointed him.
I stood in front of the American congregation and urged them to send short-term teams to my Asian people group. “On a two-week trip, you can win a household or two to faith and begin a church with them.” They were tracking with me until the word “church.” At that 400 sets of eyes glassed over.
In 2010, a number of events celebrated and reflected upon the 1910 Edinburgh conference. The one most focused on what we refer to as frontier missiology was held in Tokyo that year. In a next edition we will be publishing an entire group of articles looking at Tokyo 2010. The articles will be written by those who presented papers in 2010, and each will be looking at how we see things ten years later. Stay tuned!
Since the release of our book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, we’ve had the privilege of training hundreds of pastors from across the country, and even some from around the world. Through the process, I constantly see pastors wrestling with how to implement DMM in their churches. Do they leave the church alone and just do this DMM thing on the side? Do they implement some of the principles in their church? Do they take their church through a major transition? Do they just move on from their church and do this somewhere else?
I saw a funny video some years back. The clip showed a kid trying to run up a slippery, wet slide. He would back up, get a running start and go for it with all his might. A few steps up the slide, it would get the best of him. Down he went. Watching him go down, spinning, and flailing was hilarious (it’s a little sick, but we seem to enjoy watching others fall grandly). Undeterred he attempted to go up the slide again. He’d shake himself off and giggle loudly. Lowering his head, with a running start, he attacked the challenge ahead. Finally, after a mad dash at it, he somehow made it to the top. There, hands raised in the air, his high-pitched voice screamed with the thrill of victory! I can still see his joy, even in the many attempts it took to get to the top. He was determined, unfazed by failure and thoroughly loved participating in this test of the will.
Steve Smith’s book, Spirit Walk, moves many of his readers, including me. In his book, Steve presents a pathway to walk in the Spirit via the acronym S.W.A.P. As a quick reminder, S.W.A.P. stands for: Surrender to His will and His every word Wait on God in prayer Avoid sin, and let God root out all unrighteousness Pursue the promptings of the Spirit. As I read about the absolute necessity of surrender and waiting on God in prayer to aid us in walking in the Spirit, this question came to mind: How often in serving cross-culturally do we unintentionally stifle people’s ability to surrender completely, wait on God, and obey His promptings?
If Martin Luther were alive today what might he nail to the door of the Church? This is the topic which global mission leaders will ask when they gather in May of this year in Tokyo, Japan. Ten years after Ralph Winter gave a call for the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation, the original organizers of this gathering are reconvening to ask a crucial question: In what areas do we need reformation today in order to see world evangelization in our generation?