Small, unfunded, family-based churches remain the primary units of reproduction in spontaneous Christian movements.
Whilst movements do result in some classical congregations, a continual starting of new, little ones remains part of their strategy for continuous multiplication of believers, disciples and leaders.
Little, organic, face-to-face, Christ-obeying communities or gatherings, that remain free to reproduce in every kind of venue, are becoming more and more a necessity, besides a method or tactic.
Consider the following current social trends that make classical congregations difficult to maintain or to justify. You can question these and site other trends in your comments to this post.
1. Population increase. Happily, human beings in most countries are living longer, healthier lives than every before.
Whilst this phenomenon calls for better conservation of environment and greater social justice, it means that traditional evangelism and church planting could never keep up with such ‘exponential’ growth.
Therefore, national churches and their cooperating missions must adopt much more reproductive forms and methods of making disciples and of raising up competent leaders.
2. Open-border immigration. Western countries whose leaders have adopted globalist philosophies are making immigration easier, and they are legalizing undocumented workers, in an effort to weaken traditional values, to lower wages and to ensure a compliant underclass.
This works into amazing opportunities for church planting amongst previously-unreachable peoples, in a short term. Most immigrants remain open to family-based approaches, even while rejecting Western-style religion.
3. Declining economy. The global, industrial-military-government-banking complex is rapidly removing most wealth from national economies.
One result is that working and middle-class citizens can no longer support voluntary organizations at the levels they were able to do so for a hundred years.
Million-dollar chapels, salaried staff members, missionary budgets and building maintenance have become impossible for most Westerners and never were possible in the South and in the East.
Churches must morph into networks of little, home-based, budget-free gatherings that mentor their leader on the job.
4. Anti-Christian violence. Islamic jihadist cells, black-flag operatives, homeland security squads, psychiatric patsies, Satanist cabals, homosexual activists, and independent “copy cats” have attacked churches in several countries, including those in North America.
Is there any reason to imagine that this trend will not intensity against publicly-visible expressions of traditional Christianity, such as chapels, schools and birthing centers.
5. Illegal Christian values. Several biblical teachings have come under sever criticism and attack in Western media and funded organizations. Some governments have made certain biblical doctrines illegal, and they imprison church leaders who dare to teach parts of the Bible.
Consider these out-lawed, biblical teachings: God’s fiat creation of the universe; God’s abhorrence at human sins that include homosexuality, infanticide, extra-judicial killing, and drug trafficking; Jesus as the Messiah; Jesus’ claim to be the only way leading to God, forgiveness and eternal life; marriage as union of males with females; the coming return of Jesus Christ to judge the world.
Christians who teach these fundamental, biblical doctrines must do so clandestinely.
6. Chapel burning and seizure. Governments that prove eager to confiscate land, property and financial assets go after religious organizations that teach banned doctrines.
Other enemies of the Good News about Jesus destroy Christian chapels, and they sometimes maim or murder Christian worshippers who gather in chapels.
Since there appears in the New Testament of the Bible, neither requirement nor example of Christians constructing, financing or gathering in chapels, they may as well abandon that tradition in favor of highly-mobile venues.
7. Clerical tyranny. Not all opposition against obedience towards Jesus Christ comes from Satan-inspired outsiders. Some traditional, Christian clergymen supply plenty of their own tyranny by insisting on unbiblical qualifications for church elders and other leaders.
Consider which of these the New Testament requires of those who lead gatherings: theological education; any education; ordination; central-office approval; fluency in an official language; male or female gender; tribal, caste, class or ethnic background; pro or anti-charismatic; pro or anti-Calvinist; graduate of an approved school; religious background; crimeless record; income level; years spent in a church; outside source of support. What else?
These observable trends do not imply unalterable, inevitable future certainty, but they seem to imply a need for a rapid shift, by Christian missionaries and planners, from slow, expensive, traditional methods that benign governments and mono-cultural populations fostered.
Galen Currah, 21 April 2013