If you plant churches or train church planters, then here’s today’s challenge. You should know the now conclusive evidence of what kind of churches sustain a large and expanding church planting movement, where God has prepared the harvest.
A large number of fields, including a growing number in America and Europe, confirm how church planters can bring thousands of new believers into simple but healthy churches. You can multiply such churches without sacrificing your doctrine or historical identity, without forcing older churches to change, or spending a lot of money.
Churches that multiply like rabbits have certain things in common; money is not a necessary component, nor a particular doctrine or liturgy, buildings, degrees, big meetings, or eloquent speakers. For most Western churches, normal multiplication entails starting a “second track” of simple churches that retain the mother church’s doctrine and historical identity, but require no church practices except what Christ or His apostles required. In these movements, churches practice certain things that we also see in the book of Acts. They:
- Focus on the powerful presence of the living, healing Christ.
- Pray fervently and continually for the Holy Spirit’s power to witness boldly for Jesus.
- Meet in homes, keeping churches tiny so they can multiply like rabbits.
- Help new believers tell their friends and relatives at once about Jesus.
- Empower new believers, volunteers, to plant most of the churches.
- Form closely-knit clusters of tiny, highly interactive congregations
- All believers use their spiritual gifts during worship and during the week, not just teaching.
- Keep most church plants so simple that they are usually not even budgeted.
- Train shepherds to model pastoral skills for their apprentice leaders, coaching them the way Jesus and Paul did, on the job.
- Church planters from outside an area start only the first few churches, and move on, as Paul and his co-workers did, to start another small cluster of highly prolific “mother” churches in the next city or region. Their converts reach the rest of their area.
We Western church planters often find it hard to repent of practices that hinder these activities. I had to repent of loud showmanship that kept me in prominent public leadership. I also had to learn to delegate responsibilities to many new leaders, as Paul did. I also had to repent of paralyzing perfectionism, trying to grow one or two congregations to maturity before letting them start daughter churches. I soon saw that the best time to start daughter churches is during a mother church’s infancy; its members are still close to many pagan friends, among whom the gospel spreads faster than measles, provided our perfectionism does not stifle the free flow of God’s grace. When opening new work in another culture, I also had to stop receiving helpers from conventional churches and count on local converts to do the job. Being an outsider, I had to keep a low profile and mentor workers behind the scenes. This avoided stigmatizing the faith as a Western, American religion.
Will you help stir up widespread interest in launching church planting movements? Let’s explore the issue together.