Coaching church planters over several years helps one replace common myths with facts.
Myth #1: “To start a new church or cell, church planters must leave an existing church.”
Fact: Most church planters do not permanently leave their ‘home’ church or cell.
- Peter’s church planting team in Acts 10, as well as Paul and Barnabas, did not change their membership to the new churches. They maintained their relationship with their mother church.
- In movements, most workers evangelize other communities and train new leaders there without dropping out of their own “mother” church.”
Myth #2: “To start a new church or cell you have to “hive off” a substantial number of members (a ‘critical mass’) from a mother church to form the core of the new body.”
Fact: Hiving in that way is normally effective only in urban areas.
- Hiving is common among urban American churches where many new churches are started by “hiving” off numbers that are large enough to pay a pastor and practice a worship style similar to their mother church’s.
- Hiving has five weaknesses:
- A mother church must first grow big enough to send a large number of members to the new church.
- Leaders must be willing to release members, whereas, in most churches, they are not.
- Transportation must be convenient for worshippers to travel to the new church location.
- Since such churches start with little or no evangelism, there may be no real growth of Christ’s kingdom.
- Reproduction by hiving seldom serves pioneer, church-planting movements.
Myth #3: “To follow up new believers, one must bring them into existing churches or cells.”
Fact: The problem is with the word “existing.” In a movement, workers’ first goal is to form a new church or cell around a newly believing family. They bring new families into an existing group only as a last resort.
- Newly believing family heads normally open a vein of gold within their existing social networks.
- Many Western workers mistakenly extract new believers from their social network into an existing church body.
- In movements, evangelists keep new believers in a loving relationship with folk in the new believers’ own networks.
- The gospel flows along the same route as gossip does, from friend to friend, and from relative to relative.
Myth #4: Where churches and cells multiply rapidly, it is necessary for new believers to find or make new friends within an existing congregation.
Fact: The problem is with overemphasizing the word ‘new.’ In movements, new believers have old friends who come into a new church or cell with them.
- Most folk certainly need close friends in a church, or they will leave after attending a few times. These friends, however, do not need to be new. Most friends in a new church can be old friends.
Myth #5: “It takes lots of money to start churches.
Fact: It may take money to send full-time, supported missionaries, but churches that require no building or paid clergy can remain self-supporting from the start.
- Western traditions nearly always cost too much to sustain multiplication. Workers that shake loose from costly traditions normally need no more resources than what are locally available.
- Western-based mission agencies often create financial dependency in poorer countries, attracting unscrupulous, power-hungry schemers who are too eager to lead new churches and organizations.
Myth #6: “Only in a democratic society with freedom of religion can you multiply churches.”
Fact: Throughout history and in today’s world, most churches have begun in hostile settings.
- Jesus and his apostles set the example by their radical faith and willingness to suffer persecution.
- Believers around the globe suffer abuse at the hands of governments and local agitators. To live righteously brings abuse, and an eternal reward.
Myth #7: “You need highly-educated church planters to start churches that remain doctrinally sound and endure.”
Fact: Church planters who are educated far beyond the people they work with often fail.
- Workers having a higher educational level, more often than not, hinder multiplication.
- Church planters should be culturally similar to new believers and they should remain unfettered by traditions that allow only the clergy to do what Jesus commanded all His followers to do.
- Wise church planters and leaders coach novice church planters, and shepherds empower them to start and lead new churches, as well as to start training other even newer leaders, in turn.
Myth #8: “The Christian message weakens as it passes to daughter churches, granddaughters, etc.”
Fact: Every strong, healthy church alive today is a descendent of the first church at Jerusalem.
- The presence of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are granted by God to every new church, giving it the vitality and life it needs to remain vibrant and reproduce.
- What weakens the impulse in multiplication are liberal theology, legalism, dependence on outside resources, and growing too big before reproducing.
- According to 2 Tim. 2:2, Paul from Antioch told Timothy in Ephesus to train others, who included Epaphras in Colosse. These trained still others in other places, including Hierapolis and Laodicea (Col. 4:12-13). Coaching conveys the Word to all links in a chain of reproduction. Churches reproduce only as fast as you train new leaders. Mentor in this way in a pioneer field, and new churches will maintain their multiplication by God’s power.
Myth #9: “You must lay a strong doctrinal base before a church can grow strong enough to reproduce.”
Fact: If you help a new church lovingly obey Jesus by making new disciples, it will reproduce.
- Churches multiply as rapidly as newly evangelized families present Christ to other families. Detailed, doctrinal instruction should follow the initial gospel vanguard, not precede it.
- A westerner’s “strong doctrinal base” is often an organization’s distinct dogmas that seldom inspire faith or require loving action. Such ‘doctrinally-strong’ churches seldom multiply.
Myth #10: “You need strong churches before they can start birth daughter churches.”
Fact: The longer a congregation waits before obeying Jesus, the harder it will be to multiply.
- When reproduction is part of a new churches’ DNA, its own daughter and granddaughter churches will keep multiplication as an immediate priority.
Myth #11: “You need a permanent, church-planting team with good relationships among its members, in order to reproduce churches.”
Fact: There are no permanent, apostolic teams in the Bible, and most new churches today are started without formal teams.
- The best church planting ‘teams’ are workers from a nearby church of the same culture.
- Christ’s apostolic band lasted three years. Peter’s team that started the Cesarean church included believers from Joppa who did not continue to accompany him. Paul’s team continually changed members.
- A wise church-planting team focuses on each church plant as its primary purpose, not on maintaining itself.
Myth #12: “There are already too many churches.”
Fact: A third of the world’s population has no church relevant to local culture, and all major societies need churches that relate better to their younger generation.
- To discern if more churches are needed, do not count existing churches; rather count lost souls.
- There are churches in most cities where the neglected third of the world’s people live, but most of those serve an expatriate community, often speaking a foreign language.
Myth #13: “Church multiplication is a fad, a fetish of missionary agencies.”
Fact: Continually starting churches is the most effective way to evangelize and disciple any society.
- Wherever the apostles of Jesus went, churches multiplied. The same has happened throughout history when workers have made disciples in the way Jesus said.
- Most missionaries still serve “reached” populations and use methods that fail to allow churches to multiply in the normal, apostolic way.
Myth #14: “If workers start too many churches, then many will die prematurely.”
Fact: Where churches multiply rapidly, survival rates remain higher than elsewhere.
- Churches that fail to practice the ministries that the New Testament requires also fail to reproduce. They begin to decay, invisibly at first, eventually start to decline and finally die. What a tragedy when a church dies before it gives birth!
- In movements, churches birth healthy churches; their God-given DNA enables them to do so.