Let your church multiply daughter and granddaughter churches in any neglected field, by implementing seven dynamics that God consistently blesses. Even if you are not a church planter, you can help prepare church planters by forming a small group that equips them. Let new church-planting workers practice church planting skills in your group.
When missionaries first arrive in a field, they do not put into practice what they had read or heard in lectures; rather they imitate what they used to do in their church back home. [‘Home church’ has two meaning in your documents: (1) a missionary’s sending church and (2) a little church that gathers in a home.] The skills that workers need to acquire include no new formula or esoteric knowledge. Workers may need to lighten their baton, that is, to pass on to others only what God requires. Following are seven dynamics that you can discuss and put into practice with your group.
1. See a Field that is Ready to Reap.
In Samaria, Jesus told His disciples to “See that the fields are ready for harvest.” They found it hard to watch Samaritans receive God’s grace. Look with God’s eyes, discerning which people He has readied for harvest. Send workers to a neglected field, and to the receptive folk within that people, and stay focused. Do not let anyone detract your trainees or you when they say your church is already “mission minded” or want your church to support pet projects that, although worthy, will never reach the world’s neglected peoples.
We’re mission minded! We send kids for a vacation over the border into Mexico.
They’ll help build an orphanage or something like that.
it’s easy to raise funds for that sort of thing;
even pagan businessmen donate.
Coach “criminals for Christ”. Nearly all of the world’s neglected peoples ? about a third of humankind ? live where authorities outlaw evangelism; their laws make it so that only a criminal can plant a church. Unfortunately, most missionaries are weak in underground, criminal experience. Let workers go where Christ has not been named (Rom. 15:20). Too many workers still go to already-reached fields where they are neither needed nor wanted.
To help your church become relevant in today’s world, prepare workers to penetrate the current frontier, planting non-institutional churches. Let workers learn to form tiny, clandestine churches that multiply. Workers can gain most of their needed skills here in the bosom of your church, the Body of Christ. After all, your church is God’s instrument to reach the nations.
Across the past two centuries, Christ’s workers penetrated several frontiers, first coastal cities in ‘dark’ continents, later their interior, more recently the vast array of ethnic groups, and now where churches are illegal.
Avoid trying to push a camel herd through the needle’s eye. Workers who “shake the dust from their feet,” leaving resistant people to go seek a breakthrough elsewhere (Matt. 10:14), rarely need to change their residence; they have only to shift to the working class. Jesus worked with fishermen and despised tax collectors in Galilee where folk spoke with an accent, not among the influential of Rome or Jerusalem, who would have crucified Him prematurely. Jesus made it clear that some “camels” do get through the needle. Some affluent believers lead movements among the poor.
Discern where house churches give better results. Countries with hostile authorities only allow ‘registered’ churches, some of which become large; even so, illegal “rabbit” churches normally win more people to Christ. In some fields, “elephant” churches serve as training centers for house church leaders who multiply rabbit churches.
We love and serve one another. Elephants don’t trample on
the rabbits and rabbits don’t nip elephants’ toes.
‘Rabbit’ churches can multiply without formal organization or budgets. A church can become a hybrid, “rabbifant” and enjoy the advantages of being both big and small by forming cells, tiny churches within a big one. Some church associations form two ministry tracks, one for elephants and another for rabbits. Paul also provided two tracks for another reason; he condemned circumcision in Gentile Galatia yet he circumcised Jewish Timothy who worked with Jews in Lystra, thereby showing respect for both cultures. Unity in Christ does not require conformity of practices; Christians are to be all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22).
2. Tell Seekers the Truths Jesus Said to tell, and Let them Sense His Presence.
In His Great Commission in Luke 24:46-48, Jesus said to declare three facts to all nations: His death, resurrection, and promise of forgiveness to all who repent. Some merely explain His substitutionary atonement, neglecting Jesus’ resurrection as part of His saving work. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Paul considered Jesus’ resurrection and our participation in it as an essential truth of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and all the apostles gave prime emphasis to Jesus’ resurrection when proclaiming the gospel.
Go ahead; omit a main point of the apostles’ witness!
Healing in Jesus’ Name was part of the apostles’ evangelism, as He commanded (Luke 10:9). In church planting movements, most people who come to Christ have been healed or they know someone close who has been healed. Workers from the West can be surprised at what they see happen in pioneer fields.
3. Let the Gospel Flow Freely Through the Kinds of Channels that the Apostles Did.
Do not extract seekers from their social circle. Do help new believers love and tell friends about Jesus (Acts 16:31; 10:24).
Most people come to Jesus through the prayers and testimony of new believers who share their faith with family and friends. Christian workers bring on needless persecution when they extract converts from their social network, breaking relationships with unsaved friends. Workers influenced by individualistic American culture embrace a “personal” private faith that proves destructive and unbiblical. Let workers evangelize entire families and social networks.
Use methods and equipment that are available to new believers. Many have tried to follow up those who made “decisions” following a gospel movie, only to encounter a complete blank. They hear some folk say, “I’ll come to your meeting when you show another movie.” You will get better results by employing methods that the New Testament describes. Train workers in a way that they can imitate easily in training others. Use high-tech equipment only on special occasions. If expensive equipment is your main evangelistic tool, then new believers cease to take responsibility to evangelize, and the movement halts. Work in a way that new believers can imitate; Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
4. Make Disciples in the Way Jesus Said.
Having all authority in heaven and earth, Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples by training them to obey His commands. Assume that you learn a language, ride in a packed bus to a new overseas home, unpack your toothbrush, take a deep breath, pray, step outside and find fifty thousand people living nearby who think Jesus was Mohammed’s mentor. Now what? What you do first can decide the direction of your work for good or bad, for years to come.
Be wary of highly detailed definitions of a church. A church that can multiply in a pioneer field is “a body of believers who gather in Jesus’ presence and lovingly obey His commands above all else.” This definition would get a low mark in the school where I studied theology, but the more you details you add to the definition, the harder it will be to start a church that can multiply. Now, the term ‘church planting’ is not in Scripture; and God gives no spiritual gift for it. Nevertheless, wherever anyone makes disciples as Jesus said, teaching them to obey His commands at once, churches multiply.
Some seminary graduates cannot list Jesus’ commands. Some will mention love and then add Sunday School, choir, youth work and other practices that are not in the New Testament. They cannot make disciples as Jesus said, because they do not know what a disciple does. Many books on discipleship are only doctrinal studies; these may prove Christ-centered and edifying, but they overlook Jesus’ instructions for making action-oriented disciples.
You can summarize in seven basic commands all that Jesus ordered, which the first church obeyed from its beginning. Following Pentecost, 3,000 new disciples started obeying all that Jesus commanded in its embryonic form (Acts 2:37-47). Please pause now to memorize these basic building blocks:
1) Repent (This requires believing and receiving the Holy Spirit). Avoid mere decision-making rituals (Mark 1:15; John 20:22; Acts 2:38).
2) Baptize (Let the repentant live the new, holy life that baptism initiates). Avoid non-biblical requirements or probation times that delay baptism; in pioneer fields they profoundly discourage seekers; our doubts about their faith are contagious (Acts 2:38, 41; Rom. 6).
3) Celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Let believers sense Christ’s presence; enjoy the divine mystery (Luke 22:19-20).
4) Love. We are to love God above all, our needy neighbor (in a practical way), fellow disciples, and our enemies (forgiving them). Acts 2 does not use the word ‘love,’ yet love is seen in the believers’ fellowship and giving (Luke 10:25-37).
5) Pray. Trust God to work (John 16:24; 15:4-5; 14:12-14; Matt. 10:7-8).
6) Give. Be stewards of time, talents and treasure. This might involve ‘tent making’ (earning your own living as Paul did) (Luke 6:38; Acts 18:1-3).
7) Make disciples. Obey God’s word and teach other to do so. Shepherd the flock, send missionaries (Matt. 4:19; 28:18-20).
5. Practice the Same Worship Procedures that the Apostles Did.
A secret church in North Korea or in Mecca lacks what most Westerners associate with worship. It would have no chapel, no crowd, no loud musical instruments, no sound system, no experienced worship leader, and probably no highly trained expositor of the Word. If you take that all away, what is left? A tiny house church can do one thing far better than a large congregation can; it can achieve a family atmosphere while practicing the many New Testament “one another” commands. Interactive worship proves so powerful that believers in “rabbit” churches normally will win far more people to Christ than the same number of believers in “elephant” churches will win. The Holy Spirit convinces seekers powerfully in a small group when it lets all members take part in instructing (1 Cor. 14:24).
There are over 60 “one another” commands in the New Testament. These include teaching one another, loving and forgiving one another, bearing one another’s sufferings, exhorting, strengthening and encouraging one another, confessing our sins and correcting one another, praying for one another, and many, many more. Have all believers meet in mutually edifying groups that are small enough to let everyone talk, including children. In many pioneer fields, there will be more children than adults present in gatherings.
Tiny house churches should celebrate Communion in a heartfelt way, preserving the mystery of Jesus’ Presence (1 Cor. 10:16). Some church officials prohibit non-ordained lay folk to serve the Lord’s Supper, thereby forcing new churches to disobey Christ, by placing a man-made rule above the commandment of the true Head of the church. Although most denominations have a history of licensing lay workers to officiate the sacraments, some modern clergy feel threatened by this and forbid it.
6. Activate the Five Types of Leaders that God Promises to Churches.
Ephesians 4:11-12 lists five types of ‘Body builders’ that God gives to all churches:
Since one home church or cell will usually not have all five of these types, it must work closely with other groups. The word “church” in Scripture applies not only to a local congregation or to the universal body of Christ, but also to a cluster of home churches in an area. The “church” of Jerusalem was made up of many, tiny, house churches, as was the “church” of Ephesus. Isolated home churches or cells cannot harmonize the work all five types of leaders. They also fail to engage such workers if they seek only to have a conventional, full-time, professional leader.
Besides every paid professional, God gives the same gifts and abilities to dozens of non-ordained, self-supported workers. Besides every paid apostle, a church-planting movement has hundreds of volunteers who plant churches nearby without pay. Besides every famous prophet such as Ezekiel or John the Baptist, God enables thousands of ordinary believers to “prophesy” in small groups and house churches; God wants “all” to prophesy in the New Testament way, to edify, exhort and console one another (1 Cor. 14:3, 24).
Avoid monologue lectures in a home church. Let all believers, including children, exhort, narrate or dramatize Bible stories, compose songs or poems, or draw symbols. New believers in pioneer fields sing enthusiastically when they compose lyrics and tunes in their local music style. Since most new leaders in pioneer fields are too immature to preach monologues well, they often merely scold.
Mobilize self-supporting volunteers to serve in the five key areas of leadership as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Some mission agencies find it hard to send personnel who support themselves, so recruits raise full-time support and merely pretend to be self-supporting. Nationals will soon see how such a foreigner sustains a lifestyle more costly than what he is earning from a business that serves as his “cover”, so they will suspect that he is either a spy or, worse, a sneaky missionary. Such a phony lifestyle often causes severe psychological strain.
Self-supporting personnel in a foreign field need a vocation that allows them to mix with the common people; so they should avoid working in a government school or institution, if they plan to multiply secret churches. Small businesses and development projects get better results. Also, even when the self-supporting have a lucrative business, they should still receive some support from home churches, lest folk forget to pray for them and to hold them accountable. Christians pray more readily for those in whose work they invest.
When you send a church planting team, keep it a temporary task group. Excessive emphasis on team unity and permanence causes workers to bond with each other instead of with the people God sends them to serve. There was no permanent church-planting team in Scripture. A team of foreigners is expendable scaffolding, so remove it as soon it establishes a church. The apostles started only the first few churches in a region, leaving it to these churches to plant others. Let new believers plant new churches nearby, and have any expatriate workers coach them in the background. The best church-planting team consists of members of a nearby mother church of the same culture.
When opening a culturally distant field, try to include on your team workers who are culturally near to the people. Foreigners should never take on a high profile, so let any foreigners coach national leaders in the background. Foreigners who appear as leaders of local churches stigmatize the faith as a foreign religion, which delays the church-planting movement for at least a generation.
If you join an existing team or mission, then first get your church to represent you if you plan to do things differently from what older team members do. Remember, new workers cannot assert what they will do, and no experienced field director heeds a new missionary. Therefore, a sending church should compose a letter or memo of understanding, stating what the church has commissioned its workers to do, for which it holds them accountable. The receiving mission or team should agree to that document. If it will not, then consider seeking a different mission or team.
7. Train New Leaders on the Job, as Jesus and His Apostles Did.
George Patterson began training Honduran pastors in a theological institution, and assumed that graduates would plant churches and pastor them. However, most graduates found that their diplomas enabled them to earn more money by working for a banana company. The few who became pastors were still immature; some had never had a job so they needed salaries from their churches. The new, tiny churches therefore had no shepherds. When Patterson’s raspy supervisor asked him how long it would take to establish churches, at the current rate, in all the towns in their area of responsibility, Patterson confessed it would take over 2,000 years! The supervisor replied, “Shut down your Bible institute, and train mature men who meet scriptural requirements for shepherding elders.” Patterson later explained, “He handed me an old saddle, explaining, ‘This is the Chair of Evangelism and Church Planting in your new extension Bible institute.’”
Extension training enabled workers to coach family men in mountain villages and cities. Those men’s crops, jobs and family responsibilities kept them from attending a residential academy. On-the-job coaching yielded substantial growth, not by a few congregations growing big, but by slowly multiplying many small ones, just as Jesus’ parables promise. New pastors in a pioneer field need coaching, because their churches have urgent needs that require immediate attention.
A coach has trainees report on what their churches are doing or lacking, as Jesus did when His disciples returned from their field trip (Luke 10), in order to coach and to assign studies according to current needs and opportunities. New workers grow rapidly under coaching; and good extension education includes coaching. Since formal, academic, theological training and extension education both have their place, a flexible educator discerns the conditions that favor each. A pastor should coach the leaders of its new daughter churches, until each new church body is doing the ministries that the New Testament requires, which grow out of the seven foundational commands of Christ.
POY! List of VITAL CHURCH MINISTRIES
A church or cell is fully planted when it has started practicing the activities required by the New Testament. These include:
Correct and restore. Watch for wolves and weak lambs.
Cultivate loving fellowship. Provide time free from scheduled activity, for spontaneous interaction.
Evangelize. Witness for Jesus and baptize
Extend Christ’s kingdom. Prepare and send workers to neglected peoples, nearby and afar.
Give. Be stewards of time, talent and treasure
Make disciples. Train believers to obey Jesus
Organize. Serve one another and other congregations, using spiritual gifts in harmony.
Pray. Intercede, have daily personal & family devotions, do spiritual warfare and pray for healing.
Show mercy. Serve the hurting and needy.
Start churches and cell groups. Keep congregations multiplying.
Strengthen family life and marriage. Coach privately persons or families with problems.
Teach God’s Word. Equip believers to serve
Train leaders. Model shepherding skills for apprentices.
Worship. Let all believers participate actively, celebrate Communion regularly.
Let God’s Holy Spirit integrate vital ministries in each Body. Churches multiply easier when workers combine pastoral training, evangelism, mercy work and church planting in one coordinated effort, as 1 Corinthians 12 requires. The following guidelines facilitate the synergism.
- Let a newly believing family head start a church in his home. Coach him. Do not take his family to a distant mother church until his own church is well established, lest they become confused as to which is their family’s church.
- Help new workers grasp the vision and project concrete plans. Let them draw rustic maps of their area, tracing arrows from mother churches to places for potential daughter and granddaughter churches, along with names of potential workers.
- Practice “apostolic succession” as in the mentoring chain seen in 2 Timothy 2:2. “The things that you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Four links of a chain were Paul, Timothy, ‘faithful men’ and ‘others also.’ Paul and Barnabas’ home church in Antioch had sent them to make disciple in other nations. They later left Timothy in Ephesus where he coached shepherding elders, including Epaphras in Colosse, who coached others, including Nympha who had a church in her home in Hierapolis. Colossians 4 and Acts 19 show how this chain produced hundreds of churches in that region.
Since apostolic coaching causes explosive growth. traditional leaders often fear such rapid multiplication allows false doctrine to creep in; however, history shows the opposite. The demonic doctrines that have weakened churches around the world do not come from new churches on the cutting edge of a movement for Christ, but from old, sterile churches and seminaries that have become ingrown, making up their own rules and doctrines. Did the Holy Spirit weaken as He walked from Jerusalem to Antioch, then to Ephesus, Colosse and Hierapolis? Do daughter churches receive a weaker Jesus than their mother churches? The birth of each new church is God’s supernatural work, allowing chains to start all over again. Otherwise, there would not be a vital church left on earth after 2,000 years of passing on the baton.
Ah, yes, church growth!
Keep your own church growing forever larger; birth no new churches.
Think of the money! To start new churches, you’d have to
cut the cake into smaller slices. Soon all you’d get
is crumbs. And you’d lose control!
- Focus on one cultural group. Paul knew whom God wanted him to reach (2 Cor. 10:12-16; Acts 16:6-10; Gal 2:8). A church planting team must focus on one definite cultural group. Churches that mix culture groups do not multiply. Workers who fail to define the people for whom they are responsible jump from one opportunity to another like a nervous frog. One such frog boasted, “I am winning Honduras for Christ.” He would leap from city to city, preaching in prisons and army camps, and bombing illiterate villages with tracts from his airplane. It was fun and people back home eagerly financed it, but he planted no churches.
- Establish a new church’s local identity. If you invite outsiders to attend the first meeting of a new church, it may die at birth. New believers who find themselves among Christians from other churches feel no identity with them. Let new believers look at each other and say, “We are the church here!”
- Deal first with the male head of a family. Tell fathers Bible stories that they can tell to family and friends, in turn; some will do so even before putting their faith in Christ. In most cultures, if you win a husband, their family follows, but if you win a wife first, you divide the family.
- Baptize repentant believers without delay, entire families if possible. Delaying baptism to make sure converts are sincere, causes many to fall away because of your distrust; so let God’s grace slop over on the unworthy (Rom 5:20-21).
- Practice a culturally relevant worship style that new elders-in-training can easily lead. Do not invite the public until local leaders can lead meetings. Coach them behind the scenes, and do everything in a way they can imitate. Celebrate the Lord’s Supper often and avoid sermonic monologues until local believers are mature enough to teach in an edifying, humble way.
- In pioneer fields with no experienced pastors or well-organized churches, name provisional leaders as soon as some mature adults receive Christ. Explain to them that they are not yet proven as 1 Timothy 3 requires of permanent shepherding elders; rather they are provisional leaders. Show them how to shepherd fellow believers. Like Paul, let mature adults God serve as leaders as churches multiply, lest the new disciples have no leaders (Acts 14:23). Do not remove new shepherding elders from their people to train them in distant schools. Rather, meet with them every two or three weeks, more often if possible, until their churches are doing all vital ministries required by the New Testament.