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I’m an Evangelical, and as an Evangelical I have the right to join my Evangelical brothers in confessing a currently-devastating sin, in repenting from it, and in making amends. I fear that the majority of us Evangelicals have been covering up one of the most significant truths of our modern age: More people are coming to faith in Christ around the world than ever before in history, while our Evangelical denominations in the West are declining.
Many concerned leaders have been asking why we in the West are not seeing the kind of growth and vitality that are taking place in Asia and in Africa. While traveling and consulting in other regions of the world, I became aware of the following two contrasting realities:
- Churches and movements that are experiencing explosive growth deliberately keep their ministry structures and practices quite simple and imitable, by conforming these to New Testament patterns.
- Western churches have adopted many complicated structures, methods and practices that make it practically impossible to attain the kind of dynamic multiplication seen in the New Testament and overseas.
In conversations with church and ministry leaders about their structures and practices, I learned that most of them have had to make a break with the practices, though not the theology, of their missionary-founded churches, in order to see explosive growth. Also, most had also been influenced by experienced trainers and consultants in church-multiplication.
Many denominations’ ministries have rekindled the Spirit’s fire and seen N.T. dynamics and growth, often for the first time. Without changing their theology, they simply implemented the apostles’ practices as seen in the New Testament. These include:
- Find those whom God has prepared to receive the Good News.
Jesus said to look on the fields that are ready to harvest, and to shake the dust from our feet (leave) where people do not respond.
- Evangelize and baptize entire households, as the apostles did.
- Each family that comes to Christ is potentially the nucleus of a new home church.
God expects believing heads of families to start at once to shepherd their own families; it is often easy to bring friends and relatives into the new group.
- Help new believers witness to relatives and friends.
Where there is explosive growth, most people come to Christ through new believers’ testimonies.
- Make disciples that lovingly obey the commandments of Jesus.
Seven general commands sum up all that Jesus commanded: 1) Repent, believe and receive the Holy Spirit, 2) Baptize, 3) Celebrate the Lord’s Supper, 4) Love, which includes forgiving, 5) Pray, which includes healing and spiritual warfare, 6) Give, 7) Make disciples who obey Jesus before and above all else.
- Start authentic churches.
To be an authentic church, a congregation obeys Jesus’ commands, including the sacraments, and equips its members to reach and serve others during the week.
- Recognize and motivate those who can plant a simple church.
Believers with any of the spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture can plant churches; in the New Testament churches were planted by two or more working together.
- Let new churches start their own daughter churches at once.
If a church waits until it has become mature to plant a daughter church, then it usually will have become accustomed to being sterile. It has failed to heed Jesus’ Great Commission, and has ignored Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 to witness about Him in the power of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem (locally), Judea (nearby), Samaria (other cultures) and the farthest parts of the earth.
- Train and coach generations of workers on the job, as in 2 Tim. 2:2.
Let coaching new leaders and church planting be one and the same ministry; train on the job.
- Provide action-oriented, affordable training materials that implement these dynamics.