Jesus Started a Church

Perhaps the most radical thing Jesus did while on earth, besides taking the punishment for our sins on the cross, was starting a church. There is generally agreement amongst Bible scholars and theologians that what Jesus did with His disciples was not a church. But I disagree. Jesus said He would build His church – not just after His ascension into heaven. He started His church while He lived on earth, planning for it to multiply to the ends of the earth.

He and His band of followers did all the things we agree are essential to function as a church. They functioned as a spiritual family doing life together, pursuing relationship with the Father, and serving the world around them. They fulfilled the qualifications for doing church the way we see it modeled in the book of Acts.

The disciples learned the new way of being a covenant community from their Master. After His ascension, they realized He had given them a model to follow – and they followed it. It was more than a model, in fact, it was a way to live intentionally together.

Jesus didn’t add a lot of frills to His church. In fact, He subtracted from the Old Testament way of doing things: He took away the uniforms, He got rid of the barriers between men and women and Jews and Gentiles, and He empowered everyone to be a priest. He didn’t ask for their money, organize a choir, or choose one particular day over another to gather for worship.

No holy day, no holy priests, and no holy meeting place. When you stop to think about it, it was a radical model of simplicity and mission: worship and prayer, community and care, and reaching out as a way of life.

He taught them how to be leaders by serving. He walked beside His followers, not above them. Yet, He was clearly the leader.

He bridged the dualism of the Old Testament, calling for a radical new kind of spirituality. He taught spirituality of the heart, not outward behavior. Every person who followed Him was treated with equal value and given equal responsibility. Yet, with this new emphasis on being a spiritual family, He recognized and modeled the need for servant leadership.

I love how Jesus did church. He only mentions church twice in His teachings, and it is interesting to note it was Matthew, the most Jewish of the gospel writers, who records Jesus’ teaching on the “new church” way of being God’s people.

In Matthew 16 and 18 Jesus teaches about church...but that is for another blog post and another day....









10 Simple Discipleship Truths

Hello, the following article is lifted straight off Steve Murrell's blog, found at    Steve is the founding pastor of Victory Church in Manila with 105,000 members and still growing. His blog and regular entries are excellent! I highly recommend them for all pastors, church planters and fellow leaders in the upside-down kingdom.   Warmly,  Floyd McClung 

Posted by:  Posted date: November 20, 2013 | comment : 0 Comments

Last month Deborah and I were in Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan teaching Asian pastors, church-planters, and missionaries about discipleship and leadership. Same ole boring strokes, again. After our Sunday night session a young Indonesian leader asked, “how do you define discipleship?” Good question. Here’s my answer, and more.

1. A disciple is a person who follows Jesus.

2. Every Christian should be a disciple.

3. Every disciple should make disciples.

4. Discipleship is the process of helping others follow Jesus.

5. Discipleship is a life-long journey not a six-week class.

6. Discipleship happens best in community (small groups).

7. Men disciple men; women disciple women.

8. Evangelism and discipleship should not be separated.

9. Discipleship is relationship.

10. Jesus wants all nations to be discipled.

Making disciples is the job of every Christian every day.

Cultivating a relational discipleship culture, creating discipleship systems, and over-communicating discipleship principles was the core of my job description for over two decades as the pastor of Victory Manila. And I recommend that all of the above should be in every pastor’s job description.

Discipleship is not supposed to be complicated or confusing. In fact, it is so simple that a fisherman explained it to uneducated fishermen in two words: “Follow me.”

Are you following Him? Are you helping others follow Him? In other words, are you a disciple and are you making disciples?


My top 5 recommended books on discipleship:

Making Disciples by Ralph Moore

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Coleman

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoffer

The Lego Principle by Joey Bonifacio

WikiChurch by Steve Murrell

5 Ways the Prosperity Gospel Is Hurting Africa

This article is from Charisma Magazine. I did not write this article but I agree with it 100%. I have traveled in Africa for 43 years in 30 countries. I have lived in South Africa since 2006. What is written in this article is one of the most needed messages in Africa Today. 

Sad African Child
The prosperity gospel isn't really helping the people of Africa. (greg westfall/Flickr/Creative Commons)

I’m not an African, but in 2008 some Nigerian friends gave me a Yoruba name (“Akinwale”) because I have been to that country so often. My visits there, along with trips to Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Egypt, planted a deep love for Africa in my heart. My first grandson’s arrival this year from Ethiopia made the connection even stronger.

I’m often asked to describe how God is moving in Africa today. Since I’m an optimist, I usually tell of the large churches, the passionate praise and the intense spiritual hunger that characterizes African Christianity. But there is also a dark side, and I think it’s time we addressed one of the most serious threats to faith on the continent.

I’m talking about the prosperity gospel. Of course, I know a slick version of this message is preached in the United States—and I know we are the ones who exported it overseas. I am not minimizing the damage that prosperity preaching has done in my own country. But I have witnessed how some African Christians are taking this money-focused message to new and even more dangerous extremes.

Here are five reasons the prosperity message is damaging the continent of Africa today:

1. It is mixed with occultism. Before Christianity came to Nigeria, people visited witch doctors and sacrificed goats or cows to get prosperity. They poured libations on the ground so the gods would hear their prayers. Today similar practices continue, only the juju priest has been replaced by a pastor who drives a Mercedes-Benz. I am aware of a pastor who buried a live animal under the floor of his church to win God’s favor. Another pastor asked his congregants to bring bottles of sand to church so he could anoint them; he then told the people to sprinkle the sand in their houses to bring blessings. The people who follow these charlatans are reminded that their promised windfall won’t materialize unless they give large donations.

2. It fuels greed. Any person who knows Christ will learn the joy of giving to others. But the prosperity gospel teaches people to focus on getting, not giving. At its core it is a selfish and materialistic faith with a thin Christian veneer. Church members are continually urged to sow financial seeds to reap bigger and bigger rewards. In Africa, entire conferences are dedicated to collecting offerings in order to achieve wealth. Preachers boast about how much they paid for suits, shoes, necklaces and watches. They tell their followers that spirituality is measured by whether they have a big house or a first-class ticket. When greed is preached from the pulpit, it spreads like a cancer in God’s house.

3. It feeds pride. This greedy atmosphere in prosperity churches has produced a warped style of leadership. My Kenyan friend Gideon Thuranira, editor of Christian Professional magazine, calls these men “churchpreneurs.” They plant churches not because they have a burden to reach lost souls but because they see dollar signs when they fill an auditorium with chairs. A selfish message produces bigheadedopportunists who need position, applause and plenty of perks to keep them happy. The most successful prosperity preacher is the most dangerous because he can convince a crowd that Jesus died to give you and me a Lexus.

4. It works against the formation of Christian character. The prosperity message is a poor imitation of the gospel because it leaves no room for brokenness, suffering, humility or delay. It offers an illegal shortcut. Prosperity preachers promise instant results and overnight success; if you don’t get your breakthrough, it’s because you didn’t give enough money in the offering. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and follow Him; prosperity preaching calls us to deny Jesus and follow our materialistic lusts. There is a leadership crisis in the African church because many pastors are so set on getting rich, they can’t go through the process of discipleship that requires self-denial.

5. It actually keeps people in poverty. The government of Malawi is currently under international scrutiny because of fraud carried out by top leaders. The saddest thing about the so-called “Cashgate” scandal is that professing Christians in the administration of President Joyce Banda have been implicated. One of these people stole millions of kwacha from the government and hid the cash in a teddy bear! Most people today in Malawi live on less than $1 a day, yet their leaders have been known to buy fleets of cars and huge plots of land with money that was not theirs. Sadly, the prosperity gospel preached in Malawi has encouraged pastors and leaders to follow the same corrupt pattern. As a result, God’s people have been financially exploited.

When Jesus described false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing, He warned us to examine their fruit. Matthew 7:17 says, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (NASB). What is the fruit of prosperity preaching?

Churches have been growing rapidly in many parts of Africa today, yet sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where poverty has increased in the past 25 years. So according to the statistics, the prosperity gospel is not bringing prosperity! It is a flawed message, but I believe God will use selfless, broken African leaders to correct it.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is preaching in Kenya this week.


Global Trends

Global Trends That Should Impact How We Do Church and Mission

  • Church Planting Movements (see the book Miraculous Movements)
  • The "rest" is out doing the "west": 80% of all missionaries are from non-Western countries
  • Websites and other media allow fast flow of information easily accessible to everyone
  • Strategic partnerships and coalitions
  • Growth of Islam and Christianity
  • Closed countries to classical missions
  • Changes in approach in fighting world poverty, e.g., dependency, etc.
  • Increase of women and children at risk
  • Shift to the Pacific Rim
  • Rapid growth of Christianity in Africa lacks discipleship
  • Reverse migration of Asians
  • Migration of Africans to Europe
  • On the edge of a worldwide economic crisis
  • Mission force is primarily non-professional
  • Government aid will be out-grown by other channels
  • Shift from parachurch to local church based mission
  • Urbanization
  • Modern communication reduces reading
  • Globalization of business
  • Women in leadership
  • Business for mission
  • Alternative forms of church now widely accepted
  • Median age in many countries now below 15 yrs
  • Holistic discipleship

When is Church Growth Not Healthy Growth?

Mark Buckley via

to me
 I am a big fan and a friend of Mark Buckley, who pastors Living Streams Church in Phoenix, Arizona. Mark and his wife Kristine have been the guests of All Nations in the past and will come again next year, God willing. We are willing - just want to work out the dates with Mark and Kristine.
I love Mark's perspective on when church growth is not good growth...


December 2012                  Healthy Things Grow Naturally

Many people say “Healthy things grow. If something stops growing, it’s not healthy.” Some people apply that logic to churches and others apply it to businesses. I want to clarify that concept. No plants, animals or people keep growing indefinitely. All living things reach a maximum size determined by genetics and environment, otherwise they would become gigantic. When healthy things reach maturity, new growth comes through reproduction.

No business or church can grow indefinitely either. Healthy businesses stay focused on their customers and main products. If they get overextended they are vulnerable to all kinds of problems. Healthy churches grow to a size determined by the gifts, talents and opportunities given by God to the congregation and leaders. They reproduce by raising up mature disciples who establish new ministries and plant new churches. The apostles left Jerusalem to preach the gospel and establish new churches. Some of the new churches they established grew larger and lasted longer than the church in Jerusalem.

Jesus said, “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or toil.” (Mat. 6:28) Healthy things grow naturally. It is a flawed form of judgment to value people by the size of their ministry, business or bank account. That is like saying your mother was an incredible woman because she raised you in a big house. The impact of your mother, father, or friend is as great as the love they showed you and the wisdom they imparted to you. If Christ is in you, you may not be impressive to the world, but the faith and love you have can transform the life of anyone who believes your message.

One reason I enjoy the challenge of sports and games is the opportunity to make progress in ways that are measurable. A smoother golf swing improves my scores and helps me to feel like I’m learning and growing. We need to have a sense that we are growing in wisdom and understanding in life as well. After midlife, our bodies diminish in strength and energy. Life can be depressing if we focus on that decline. Fortunately, the Lord allows us to grow in grace and wisdom throughout our lives.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16) Inward renewal comes as we draw near to the Lord in prayer and experience his grace. I’m learning to trust God in deeper ways, so my faith stays alive under stress and pressure. Spiritual growth can be measured by peace in our hearts and confidence in God when we face the pressures of life.

Our six year old grandson Matisse captured a scorpion and released it recently. The next day he asked his mother, “If I can catch a baby scorpion, how can we train it to hunt? Do they have books on that?”

Matisse will grow in size, wisdom and understanding in the years to come, but he is precious to us right now. You too will naturally grow in wisdom and understanding as you read the word of God and put it into practice. Yet I hope you realize that you are loved as much today as you will be on the day you meet the Lord and receive your reward.


A Positive Vision for Church

A Positive Vision for Church by Joe Miller


Posted: 22 Nov 2012 08:50 AM PST

When I spoke at the 2011 House Church Conference in Florida, I met many wonderful people committed to living out their faith in a house church. But, when it comes to the discussion between House Church and Legacy Church people, I still pray for a more positive dialogue.  The name calling  along with the “spiritual” pretense that there is only one way to be a “New Testament” church is hackneyed and counterproductive. Books capitalizing on anger, hurts, and bitterness have made publishing houses and individual authors lots of money, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to move toward a more positive vision for church.

Tim Chester is a house church guy who shares some of my concerns.  In one of his older posts, he shares reasons why he has not read a lot of books on house church,

When I was first interested in household church I did read a range of material and I found most of it narrow, petty, reductionistic and reactionary. Either it defined itself in terms of what it was against. Or it was obsessed with debates over the minutiae of what may or may not have happened in New Testament churches. It all seemed a world away from the missiological engagement in which I was interested. (I can’t say whether any of this is true of Pagan Christianity having not read the book!) Most of the groups involved seemed insular – more concerned with creating the perfect church than reaching the lost. Obviously I want to be biblical, but I believe there were a variety of church practices and models in the New Testament so that we can be flexible. We can adapt to our context (1 Corinthians 9).

Chester’s observations are insightful and his advice is important for young church planters  Leaders, we must learn to be flexible in our methods of communal worship. That means instead of focusing energy on creating the most “biblical” worship environment, we should focus more on the mission of reaching the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Let each church follow its own collective conscience on ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ to worship and invest more energy encouraging our congregations to live out the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’ of the Gospel.

Vision From God and Finishing Well

-Paul- His vision helped him overcome his past. He was responsible for people's deaths and persecution. Phil. 3: it Freed him from guilt and shame. He pressed into the vision the Lord gave him. You can't change your past, but you can pursue your vision. Principle: keep your eyes on the vision. - Joseph - His vision allowed him to endure and overcome adversity. He exp 20 yrs of adversity. God uses the events of today to prepare us for tomorrow. We interpret events through our eyes according to what we see right now and we like it or not...

- Abraham - His vision allowed him to overcome comfort and material blessing. He was a prosperous man. Gen 13. He left his source of prosperity to to follow your dream. His vision inspired faith to leave his place that provided security and comfort.

- Esther - Her vision allowed her to overcome fear. She was in Iran, a Jewess, and her vision allowed her to overcome fear and rescue her people, at risk of her life. Esther 4:16. Women are leaders used by God.

- Gideon - His vision helped him overcome his insecurity. People was hiding. The angel said to him, "...mighty warrior..." Gideon says you got the wrong Gideon! My family is the least in the nation, and I'm the least in the family.

- Joshua - His vision allowed him to overcome his own insecurities and unbelief...self-doubt. And the hindrances and unbelief of others. He had to wait 40 years to see his vision to come to pass. For 40 years he was surrounded by death - he had to wait for people to die off first! Think of AIDs in Africa. He was probably happy when they were gone! He held onto to the promise and he inherited the promise. When joshua acted he didn't ask for the people's opinions, he had seen that for 40 years.

- Moses - His vision helped him overcome failure. He killed an Egyptian. He had to flee for 40 years. The problem he saw was accurate, but his response was wrong. Not 40 years at the spa! Living with guilt and failure for 40 years. When god spoke he was riddled with shame. I can't speak. Don't let past failures keep you from future successes.

- David - His vision helped him overcome lack of formal training. He had not formal training, he's a shepherd boy. He's not a trained warrior. He had a vision, a cause from God. See 1 Samuel 17. The soldiers saw Goliath as a threat to them, but David saw him as a threat to God's purposes. He was trained by fighting a bear and a lion. Goliath was 9 feet tall, his armor weighted 125 pounds. David saw Goliath and started running toward Goliath! He had no training - he had a vision from God.

- New Testament church - Their vision gave them courage to overcome the old ways, to step out in something new, to break out of established patterns of doing "church", to enter the new covenant.

Changing the City With the Gospel Takes a Movement Changing the City with the Gospel Takes a Movement

When a church or a church network begins to grow rapidly in a city, it is only natural for the people within the ministry to feel that God is making a difference in that place. Often, however, what is really going on is "Christian reconfiguration." When churches grow, they typically do so by drawing believers out of less vital churches. This can be a good thing if the Christians in these growing churches are being better discipled and if their gifts are being effectively deployed. Nevertheless, if this is the key dynamic, then the overall body of Christ in the city is not growing; it is simply reconfiguring. Reaching an entire city, then, takes more than having some effective churches in it, or even having a burst of revival energy and new converts. Changing the city with the gospel takes a movement.

When a gospel city movement occurs, the whole body of Christ grows faster than the population so that the percentage of Christians in the city rises. We call this a movement because it consists of an energy that extends across multiple denominations and networks. It does not reside in a single church or set of leaders or in any particular command center, and its forward motion does not depend on any one organization. It is organic and self-propagating, the result of a set of forces that interact, support, sustain, and stimulate one another. We can also call it a gospel ecosystem. Just as a biological ecosystem is made of interdependent organisms, systems, and natural forces, a gospel ecosystem is made of interdependent organizations, individuals, ideas, and spiritual and human forces. When all the elements of an ecosystem are in place and in balance, the entire system produces health and growth as a whole for the elements themselves.

Can we produce a gospel city movement? No. A movement is the result of two sets of factors. Take for example, a garden. A garden flourishes because of the skill and diligence of the gardener and the condition of the soil and the weather. The first set of factors---gardening---is the way we humanly contribute to the movement. This encompasses a self-sustaining, naturally growing set of ministries and networks, which we will look at in more detail below.

But the second set of factors in a movement---the conditions---belong completely to God. He can open individual hearts ("soil") to the Word ("seed") in any numbers he sovereignly chooses. And he can also open a culture to the gospel as a whole ("weather"). How does God do this? Sometimes he brings about a crisis of belief within the dominant culture. Two of the great Christian movements---the early church of the second and third centuries and the church in China in the twentieth and twentieth first centuries---were stimulated by crisis of confidence within their societies. The belief in the gods of Rome---and belief in orthodox Marxism in China---began falling apart as plausible worldviews. There was broad disaffection toward the older "faiths" among the population at large. This combination of cultural crisis and popular disillusionment with old ways of belief can supercharge a Christian movement and lift it to greater heights than it can reach in a culture that is indifferent (rather than hostile) to Christians. There can also be catastrophes that lead people of a culture to look to spiritual resources, as when the Japanese domination of Korea after 1905 became a context for the large number of conversions to Christianity that began around that time.

In short, we cannot produce a gospel movement without the providential work of the Holy Spirit. A movement is an ecosystem that is empowered and blessed by God's Spirit.

What is the ecosystem that the Holy Spirit uses to produce a gospel city movement? I picture it as three concentric circles:

First Ring --- Contextual Theological Vision

At the very core of the ecosystem is a way of communicating and embodying the gospel that is contextualized to the city's culture and is fruitful in converting and discipling its people, a shared commitment to communicating the gospel to a particular place in a particular time. Churches that catalyze gospel movements in cities do not all share the same worship style, come from the same denomination, or reach the same demographic. They do, however, generally share much of the same basic "DNA": they are gospel centered, attentive to their culture, balanced, missional/evangelistic, growing, and self-replicating. In short, they have a relative consensus on the Center Church theological vision---a set of biblically grounded, contextual strategic stances and emphases that help bring sound doctrine to bear on the people who live in this particular moment.

Second Ring --- Church Planting and Church Renewal Movements

The second layer is a number of church multiplication movements producing a set of new and growing churches, each using the effective means of ministry within their different denominations and traditions.

Many look at cities and see a number of existing churches, often occupying building that are nearly empty. It is natural to think, "The first thing we need to is to renew the existing churches with the gospel." Indeed, but the establishment of new churches in a city is a key to renewing the older churches. New churches introduce new ideas and win the unchurched and non-Christians to Christ at a generally higher rate than older churches. They provide spiritual oxygen to the communities and networks of Christians who do the heavy lifting over decades of time to reach and renew cities. They provide the primary venue for discipleship and the multiplication of believers, as well as serve as the indigenous financial engine for the ministry initiatives.

Third Ring --- Specialized Ministries

Based in the churches, yet also stimulating and sustaining the churches, this third ring consists of a complex of specialty ministries, institutions, networks, and relationships. There are at least seven types of elements in this third ring.

1. A prayer movement uniting churches across traditions in visionary intercession for the city. The history of revivals shows the vital importance of corporate, prevailing, visionary intercessory prayer for the city and the body of Christ. Praying for your city is a biblical directive (Jer 29:4-7). Coming together in prayer is something a wide variety of believers can do. It doesn't require a lot of negotiation and theological parsing to pray. Prayer brings people together. And this very activity is catalytic for creating friendships and relationships across denominational and organizational bounderies. Partnerships with Christians who are similar to and yet different from you stimulates growth and innovation.

2. A number of specialized evangelistic ministries, reaching particular groups (business people, mothers, ethnicities, and the like). Of particular importance are effective campus and youth ministries. Many of the city church's future members and leaders are best found in the city's colleges and schools. While students who graduate from colleges in university towns must leave the area to get jobs, graduates form urban universities do not. Students won to Christ and given a vision for living in the city can remain in the churches they joined during their school years and become emerging leaders in the urban body of Christ. Winning the youth of a city wins city natives who understand the culture well.

3. An array of justice and mercy ministries, addressing every possible social problem and neighborhood. As the evangelicals provided leadership in the 1830s, we need today an urban "benevolent empire" of Christians banding together in various nonprofits and other voluntary organizations to address the needs of the city. Christians of the city must become renowned for their care for their neighbors, for this is one of the key ways that Jesus will become renowned.

4. Faith and work initiatives and fellowships in which Christians from across the city gather with others in the same profession. Networks of Christians in business, the media, the arts, government, and the academy should come together to help each other work with accountability, excellence, and Christian distinctiveness.

6. Systems for attracting, developing, and training urban church and ministry leaders. The act of training usually entails good theological education, but a dynamic city leadership system will include additional components such as well-developed internship programs and connections to campus ministries.

7. An unusual unity of Christian city leaders. Church and movements leaders, heads of institutions, business leaders, academics, and others must know one another and provide vision and direction for the whole city. They must be more concerned about reaching the whole city and growing the whole body of Christ than about increasing their own tribe and kingdom.

When all of these ecosystems elements are strong and in place, they stimulate and increase one another and the movement becomes self-sustaining.


This article is an excerpt from Tim Keller's new book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, released today by Zondervan.

Tim Keller is the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, New York. He is also co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Tim Keller visit Redeemer City to City.

What Is The Need For Discipleship?

There is a great need... need for people who are morally pure... need for people to rethink and reshape what they believe and practice on kingdom principles... need for people who are passionate to spend time with Jesus... need for people who know how to disciple others...and do it! need for people who take initiative to share the gospel... and go for it! need for people who are not spiritual orphans...who know where they belong, who are faithful, and who are fruitful...

Churches are filled with spiritual orphans. A spiritual orphan is a Jesus follower who doesn't belong to a church family with a spiritual father or mother to disciple them. Spiritual orphans:

- become independent - carry rejection spirit - are spiritually isolated - don't know how to father or mother others - bounce from one spiritual family to another

Spiritual orphans run to other orphans to find out who they are, reinforcing in one another the worst traits of emotionally and spiritually disconnected people.

How do you get people free from spiritual orphanhood?

Invite them relationally to move from:

- Move from distant discipling, being "discipled" by a Christian celebrity through their books or music. The danger: it's not up close & real, haphazard, produces isolation, independence, super-spirituality, blind spots, lack of accountability and genuine community.

- Move from occasional discipling, the inconsistent hit and miss kind of discipleship. The danger: it's too infrequent, with different people you get different foundations, and selective accountability.

- Move to intentional discipling in a church family - blessing: clear goals for personal growth, accountability, spiritual depth, open to others in the body of Christ, strong foundations, reproducing fruit naturally

Right and wrong questions to ask about your church:

1. Wrong questions...How can I get people to be more faithful to my church? How can I grow my church bigger? How can I get people to volunteer and be faithful? How big is your church?

Discipleship in a local church is not a program for church growth.

2. Right questions... How can I disciple people to Christ? What is the process for building foundations and freedom in people's lives? How can we disciple people to make disciples in the harvest, who disciple others also?

What you measure in your church determines what you build in your church. Do you measure "disciples who obey" or "people who attend"? Do you disciple people to Christ or to your church?

Discipleship defined = it is intentional relationship. There needs to be a clearly defined process for discipling your people, simple and reproducible. Don't put pressure on yourself to disciple everyone, just those who want to be discipled. In every congregation there are crowds, curious, and the committed. Focus on the committed while you keep challenging the curious and inviting the crowds to more.

Give 80% of your time to the 20% who are most serious about obeying and reproducing. Most pastors do the opposite, and burn out because of it. They give 80% of their time and energy to the 20% who are least serious and most noisy and demanding.

Eight Principles For Church Growth

Jesus said he would build his church, and we are to make disciples. His part is building the church, and our part is making disciples. He won’t do our part for us, and we can’t do his part for him. Numbers of disciples are important. The book of Acts is filled with references to how many disciples were following Jesus. Why numbers? Why count the number of people who choose to follow Jesus? Because it’s a way of assessing if we are obedient and effective.

People tend to either put too much emphasis on church numbers, or not enough. They err by being enamored by numbers, or they discount them altogether. Both extremes are wrong.

For a healthy church, numbers are a good way to measure obedience to the great commission and the great commandment. Numbers allow us to measure obedience and to discern plateaus in growth and disciple making. If by numbers we are measuring the number of people saved, baptized and who are growing in their faith, it is a helpful measure of health. If by using numbers we can track how many abandoned babies are rescued and how many orphans are cared for, or not cared for, then numbers are invaluable in measuring our effectiveness. 
In my conversations with church planters and pastors, there are important questions about how to grow one’s local church, or the church planting movement they wish to catalyze. Below are values that I have learned through the years, and like to pass on to men and women who are serious about growing and reproducing churches filled with disciples of Christ.

Principles for church growth:

1. BEGIN WITH THE END IN SIGHT = The principle is to know what kind of church or movement of churches God is calling you to build, whether a cell church, house church, community church, Sunday school church, or church planting movement. Know the model and know your strategy.

Values are transferable to any model of church and any size of congregation, as long as the values are never compromised for the sake of size or growth. Values are like ingredients. It’s not the size or material of the mixing bowl when you bake a cake; it’s all about the ingredients you put inside the bowl.

Not only know what model of church you are going to build, but know what size of church you can effectively lead and manage. What is your long-term vision for your church? Numbers matter. They allow you to track and asses your effectiveness, or lack thereof. The early church was large and it grew fast. That seemed to matter to the early believers. Those numbers are recorded for us in the book of Acts.

By beginning with the end in sight, you are choosing how you want to make disciples and what kind of process you will follow to do that. True enough, you actually don’t have to worry about a strategy or model to plant a church, you can just take it as it comes. That may work for you, then again, it most likely won’t work, but you won’t know that without a clear vision of how you want to go about things.

The model of church makes a difference. I encourage the leaders I coach to “dream big, but build small” because we focus on catalyzing rapidly reproducing church planting movements in restricted access regions. That means catalyzing small, simple churches that “fly under the radar” so to speak. This model fits the cultures and political environments we work in.

The size of church doesn’t make a difference, it’s the values that matter. A small church is not a better church simply because it is small and organic. And a big church is not better because it is mega-big.

Resting comfortable in a small, non-growing church is not an option if we want to see people know Jesus, have their lives transformed and go to heaven not hell. We can build small churches and be biblical, if we dream about building many churches that see lots of people’s lives changed.

Approximately 95% of all the churches in the world are less than 350 people in size. There is no shame in being one of those churches. But there is shame if we have no vision or we have not reproduced more disciples for the kingdom.

There is nothing wrong with being a big church if we stick to our values and everyone in the church is relationally connected through a cell group or house church. Being connected through personal discipling relationships is what makes any size church, big or small, a good church.

Not every leader/pastor has the capacity or gifts to build a big church. Know your strengths and build on those strengths. Lyle Schaller, one of the more influential church consultants in North America, states in his book, The Very Large Church, that the two most comfortable church sizes are under 45 people and under 150 people, likely making them two of the hardest thresholds to pass through.

Many pastors would add that the next hardest number to break through is the 800 mark.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says 150 is the largest number of people someone can meaningfully relate to, which explains why many people do not like bigger churches. Understanding the social and relational impact of the size of a church community allows us to appreciate group dynamics and the challenges each stage of growth has on people. There are significant challenges and changes that come with each stage in the size growth of a church. Being clear about what size you want to be and what model you want to grow allows you to prepare for growth and to anticipate the challenges you will face.

2. THE LARGER THE CHURCH, THE MORE COMPLEX THE ORGANIZATIONAL SIDE OF THE CHURCH BECOMES = The principle is to anticipate what is needed at the next level of growth. To grow numerically without anticipatory planning will cause conflict and unnecessary growth pains.

For a church to grow in size does not imply it must cast off it’s theology or abandoned it’s values, but to grow in size without planning could cause the church to compromise those things unintentionally. You don’t have to choose compromise deliberately for it to happen, but it probably will happen to you if you don’t think through the challenges of growth.

As a church community grows, the values and vision should remain the same, but the organizational complexity doesn’t stay the same. Different sizes of local churches require different structures and management processes. Size affects the lines of communication, leadership structure and layers of leadership, accounting practices, how people access senior leaders, provision for families and children, facilities management, etc.

Church size does matter for how a church is run, just like a married couple who discovers life is a lot more complex with three children instead of one, or with twelve children instead of three! The number of children means a family cannot organize their life as simply as they did with their first child.

My idealism as a young parent was severely challenged as our personal family grew. We went from no children, just Sally and me, free to drop things on the spur of the moment and take off for weekend away, then one child, then two, and my idealism gone! The growing number of suitcases, bags, toys, equipment, etc., shattered my image of the simple life! I cannot imagine what it is like to run a home with five, seven or twelve children, much less travel with that many kids! I think many young pastors are the same. They live in la-la land when it comes to the challenges of managing a growing church family.

For further consideration on this point, I have outlined five stages of growth of an apostolic church/movement found in the book of Acts at my blog site in an article titled Five Stages of Growth of an Apostolic Movement. 

3. DON’T WORSHIP YOUR METHODS OR YOUR MODEL OF CHURCH = The principle is God has designed churches to go through natural stages of growth, just like he has designed people to experience natural stages of human development.

A healthy church will change its methodology or it’s model as it transitions through different stages of growth - if it will help reach and disciple more people.

Growth doesn’t always equate numbers, but it does equate fruit, and fruit means reproduction of disciples. If a church can make disciples, it can reproduce leaders, and if it can reproduce leaders, it can reproduce churches. That means growth.

Church growth means stretching our faith. Faith never plateaus. By its very nature, faith leads us to trust for more of God and more of God’s blessing on our efforts to be co-builders with him of his church.

A healthy church changes as it matures and grows. In fact, for a church to mature, it must change. The vision and values and sound doctrine don’t change, but the church itself does.

What kind of change? Change in structure, change in program, change in church government, and change in methodology. What doesn’t change are the values. So the test is about keep true to values, not staying fixated on methodology or model

If a church is unwilling to change to reach and care for more people, then it is guilty of method-worship, what one person calls method-olatry. Method-olatry results in confusing unchanging biblical principles, our values, with changing methods or models, what we should be open to changing. Method-olatry is just abhorrent to God as other forms of idolatry because it means we are giving our methods a place of devotion that only God deserves.

4. DON’T ATTACH MORAL VALUES TO THE SIZE OR THE MODEL OF CHURCH = The principle is we should be devoted to our values, but not to the model that allows us live out those values. There is an old ditty that goes something like this,

Methods are many Values are few Methods always change Values never do

I have spoken and written much about simple church, a particular model for doing church. But many people who hear me speak or read my books wrongly attach moral value to the model of church I present, without understanding the values that make the model effective in reaching and transforming lives.

I am passionate about the simple church model because it allows us to reach people who won’t participate in a more traditional church model, not because it is a better way of doing church. I have learned the hard way not to attach moral value to the way I do church.

Don’t attach moral value to church size, which will ultimately lead you to stagnate in your spiritual life and be disobedient to the great commission. The question is not whether you like the size or model of your present church, the question is whether it is effective in leading people to Christ and discipling them to be effective world changers.

More importantly, it is not about whether you like it or not, like a brand of toothpaste to be tasted and tested like any other consumer product, but whether God has called you to that church family. Get over “taste” as a way of choosing church. God doesn’t really care about your church “taste’ preference. He cares about your obedience, your character, and your obedience to the great commission and the great commandment.

I have pastored small and large churches. And I have spoken in countless churches in between on six continents, and I can assure you, size does not guarantee anything, whether a church is small or large. In fact, I know many large churches that do a better job of making disciples and caring for people than small churches. 
Many simple church members, especially those who value intimacy and close relationship with others, tend to overlook or even deny the importance of change and church growth. They judge large churches as “traditional” or “un-biblical”, as if the size means a lot to God. They seem to be more concerned about settling into a cozy set of familiar relationships than obedience.

5. IF YOU WANT TO GROW A LARGER CHURCH, YOU NEED TO PREPARE FOR SIGNIFICANT CHANGES NOW = The principle is to see ahead into the future so you are not caught by surprise as your church grows from one stage of development to another.

In his article on church growth, footnoted at the end of this article, Mark Driscoll points out some of the changes you will face as your church grows – if you choose to grow a traditional church model:

• You move from managing workers, to leading managers, to leading leaders.

• Your focus will shift from a survival-in-the-present mode to a success-in-the-future mode.

• Your expectations will move from informal leadership dynamic to more formal structure (elders, deacons, and members).

• You have to change from making decisions by general consensus to a handful of people making decisions.

• Your communication will become formal and written rather than informal and oral.

• People’s roles move from general responsibility to specialized responsibility.

• The church moves from being one community to being many communities (e.g. multiple services, small groups, etc.).

• The senior leaders shift their focus from being primarily caregivers to making sure people are being cared for by raising up leaders.

• The senior leader shifts from working in the organization to working on the organization.

• The members move from being connected to the pastor to being connected to other leaders.

• The focus shifts from drawing people through relationship to drawing them through events and dynamic Sunday services.

Admittedly, I struggle with the shift of focus from relationship to event as a way to draw people to a larger church. But I realize this is a matter of culture as well as personal preference. Some cultures, like middle-class America, prefer big meetings. And of course, some sub-cultures in America do not.

Black African cultures generally prefer big celebrations as a way of doing Sunday church, but on closer examination, big meetings in Africa and America have failed as a way of effectively discipling people. Relying on big events has left the church in Africa and America stunted in maturity and bereft of transforming impact on surrounding culture. Big worship events are not wrong per se, but they must not define church. When a church moves from defining itself as a once-a-week worship event, to a family that does mission together, that is an exciting church!

Big events can draw people, inspire people, even give a sense of vision and belonging to people, but they will never replace one-on-one relational discipleship. Programs and events cannot disciple people or produce genuine relationship. Only people can disciple people through personal relationship. 

6. SEEK THE COUNSEL OF PASTORS AND CHURCH PLANTERS MORE EXPERIENCED THAN YOU = The principle is that there are others who know more than you do and you would be wise to learn from them.

I have sought the counsel of pastors and spiritual leaders at each stage of my personal pastoral experience, realizing there are others who have gone before me and know more than I do. Some of these men and women have become friends; most have mentored me through their conferences and books. I recognize I don’t need a personal relationship with most of the leaders who have gone before me to learn from them.

When I pastored a large congregation, I sought advise from those who pastored churches the same size and larger. When I planted churches, I did the same. I sought the advise of church planters. No matter where you are on the journey, seek the wisdom, prayer, and mentorship of those more experience and more mature than yourself.

7. DISCERN BETWEEN CONVICTION AND CONDEMNATION IN SEASONS OF TRANSITION = The principle is you cannot please everyone and you cannot be all things to all people. Know who you are and be at peace doing church how God leads you to do it.

Know your strengths and preferences, stick to your values, and don’t strive to be a “successful” church.

A pastor friend in the States told me, “I know my level of skill and emotional capacity is a church of 500 people. If we grow larger I want to spin off more churches, not grow a bigger church”. It is a wise man that knows himself this well.

There are many stresses and pressures with leading a local church, whether 60 people, 600, or 6000. God assigns each of us a sphere of influence. Stick with that sphere in your local church. Resist the successful church syndrome. Better to be faithful to who you are than strive to grow the church to be more than you can handle. Remember, you make disciples, and Jesus builds the church.

“Proverbs 29:25 says that fear of man is a “trap” or a “snare,” depending upon your translation. Fear of man causes us to live for the approval of our tribe and to fear criticism or ostracism from our tribe. Fear of man is a form of idolatry—living to please someone other than Jesus Christ. 
Ultimately, when you get to heaven, you’ll give account to Jesus for your decisions and actions as a pastor. Strive to be faithful to Jesus, not to the demands of people”. (Mark Driscoll, 8 Principles for Churches That Want to Grow).

8. MAKE DISCIPLES AND TRAIN PEOPLE TO MAKE DISCIPLES = The principle is that God wants local churches to grow through new salvations not through transfer growth. God wants you to grow healthy disciples not weak Sunday “attenders”.

Church is about creating a discipleship culture through a healthy discipleship process. Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, not to go and make disciples of “all churches”. For Jesus, disciple making was how he brought people to faith in himself. The Jesus style of church growth is discipling people to conversion, not converting them to disciple them. If discipleship is not part of the process of joining your church, you will struggle to keep them in the church.

Go out of your way to discourage transfer growth, that is, Christians joining your church because they are unhappy with their present church. Ask them to wait three months before joining you. Interview them to see if they are running from problems in their church. Call their pastor to see what he advises. Tell them up front what is expected of them. Don’t cater to uphappy church hoppers – or you will be the next church they hop from.

Stake everything on growing your church through new salvations. In this way, you will grow at a pace you can handle. It will be natural church development, not a forced, too fast growth.

To prepare for such growth, develop discipleship processes that can handle new salvation growth. If you will focus on making disciples who are properly equipped and empowered to make other disciples, then health and strength and growth will happen naturally.

Forced church growth is like an eleven-year-old teenage girl dressing like a 23 year old. It’s not natural, and probably is happening because her mother is rushing her, or allowing her to give in to the pressure of a worldly concept of “growing up”.

It’s that simple. You make disciples, and he builds the church. As your church grows, develop a simple, culturally relevant process of making disciples Define the pathway for growth and development in your church. Teach everyone the basics. Define expectations. Pursue those who obey and apply what they are learning. Build foundations in people’s lives. It takes time. It cannot be rushed or forced into a formula or package.

* * *

 I have adapted the above article from an blog entry by Mark Driscoll, “8 PRINCIPLES FOR CHURCHES THAT WANT TO GROW”, found at

MORE ON MOVEMENTS: There are five stages of growth of an apostolic movement. I have written an article about these five stages that will help you discern the stage of development of your church and what ingredients are important to make your vibrant at this stage. You can find the article at my blog site, titled “Five Stages of Growth of an Apostolic Movement”.

FOR FURTHER READING: If you would like to read more about building a disciple making church, I recommend Wiki Church by Steve Murrell, and You See Bones – I See an Army, by myself. Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale is a great book about church planting movements.


I'm pleased to publish a guest blog by J. Lee Grady. Lee is the former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His latest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House). I value Lee's courageous stands on issues the church needs to deal with. Floyd Reclaiming the process of discipleship will require a total overhaul of how we do church.

I get funny looks from some charismatic Christians when I tell them I believe God is calling us back to radical discipleship. Those in the over-50 crowd—people who lived through the charismatic movement of the 1970s—are likely to have a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to the dreaded “D word.”

That’s because the so-called Discipleship Movement (also known as the Shepherding Movement) turned a vital biblical principle into a weapon and abused people with it. Churches that embraced the warped doctrines of shepherding required believers to get permission from their pastors before they bought cars, got pregnant or moved to a new city. Immature leaders became dictators, church members became their loyal minions, and the Holy Spirit’s fire was snuffed out because of a pervasive spirit of control.

"Reclaiming this process of discipleship is going to require a total overhaul of how we do church. Do we really want to produce mature disciples who have the character of Jesus and are able to do His works? Or are we content with shallow believers and shallow faith?”

I don’t ever want to live through that again. I know countless people who are still licking their wounds from the spiritual abuse they suffered while attending hyper-controlling churches in the 1970s and ‘80s. Some of them still cannot trust a pastor today; others walked away from God because leaders misused their authority—all in the name of “discipleship.”

Yet I’m still convinced that relational discipleship—a strategy Jesus and the apostle Paul modeled for us—is as vital as ever. If anything the pendulum has now swung dangerously in the opposite direction. In <blockquote

today’s free-wheeling, come-as-you-are, pick-what-you-want, whatever-floats-your-boat Christianity, we make no demands and enforce no standards. We’re just happy to get warm rumps in seats. As long as people file in and out of the pews and we do the Sunday drill, we think we’ve accomplished something.

But Jesus did not command us to go therefore and attract crowds. He called us to make disciples (see Matt. 28:19), and that cannot be done exclusively in once-a-week meetings, no matter how many times the preacher can get the people to shout or wave handkerchiefs. If we don’t take immature Christians through a discipleship process (which is best done in small groups or one-on-one gatherings), people will end up in a perpetual state of immaturity.

David Kinnaman, author of the excellent book unChristian, articulated the problem this way: “Most people in America, when they are exposed to the Christian faith, are not being transformed. They take one step into the door, and the journey ends. They are not being allowed, encouraged, or equipped to love or to think like Christ. Yet in many ways a focus on spiritual formation fits what a new generation is really seeking. Transformation is a process, a journey, not a one-time decision.”

Reclaiming this process of discipleship is going to require a total overhaul of how we do church. Do we really want to produce mature disciples who have the character of Jesus and are able to do His works? Or are we content with shallow believers and shallow faith?

A friend of mine had to face this question while he was pastoring in Florida. As a young father, he had a habit of putting his infant son in a car seat and driving him around his neighborhood at night in order to lull him to sleep. Once during this ritual the Holy Spirit spoke to this pastor rather bluntly. He said: “This is what you are doing in your church. You are just driving babies around.”

My friend came under conviction. He realized he had fallen into the trap of entertaining his congregation with events and programs, even though the people were not growing spiritually. He was actually content to keep them in infancy. As long as they filled their seats each Sunday, and paid their tithes, he was happy. Yet no one was growing, and they certainly were not producing fruit by reaching others for Christ.

How can we make this paradigm shift in to discipleship? How can we add “the D word” back into our vocabulary?

Churches must stop exclusively focusing on big events and get people involved in small groups, where personal ministry can take place. We must stop treating people like numbers and get back to valuing relationships. Leaders must reject the celebrity preacher model and start investing their lives in individuals. When we stand before Christ and He evaluates our ministries, He will not be asking us how many people sat in our pews, watched our TV programs, gave in our telethons or filled out response cards. He is not going to evaluate us based on how many people fell under the power of God or how many healings we counted in each service. He will ask how many faithful disciples we made. I pray we will make this our priority.

From Charisma, 600 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32750. Used by permission.

African Family Structure Speaks to the Heart of Being a Missional Church Community

My friend Bruce Chitambala from Zambia gave me some great insight into how to communicate “church” to emerging African leaders. Bruce said he has learned to speak of church as family not as institution. As soon as we speak about church in the more traditional way, it conjures up salaries, positions, titles, education and power. But when we speak of church as “family”, then we can are speaking the language of Africa. Everyone understands family is about belonging, sharing, honoring, and upholding the family values.

My African friends seem to view family and extended family in a deeper and often more profound way than myself and others of us from the West. Church as family is about belonging and caring and serving together.

Mission Agency or Mission Church?

Which are we? Local church or apostolic mission agency? 
I have pondered this question for years. IS it God's will for all he does to happen in and through local churches? Or is there a role, biblically speaking, for mission agencies?
I have worked on the side of the mission agency, then served as pastor of a local church, and now am part of a movement that seeks to integrate the two. I believe God never intended His church to be separated from His mission.
A friend recently used a picture of a new plant tied to stick to give it support. Think of the plant as the local church, and the stick as the mission agency. The stick is there to give support to the plant until it can stand on it's own.
Some gifted great apostolic leaders are pastors as well, and many pastor/apostles prefer to do everything in and from the local church, with good reason, as I explain above. The danger for apostolic/pastors, or their blind spot, so to speak, is their lack of cross-cultural church planting. They assume the model of church that has been successful for them in their culture, works everywhere. In this context, the mission agency can play an important role of providing expertise, wisdom gained from years of cross cultural church planting. Even for a apostolic/pastor who has visited many nations, there is the danger of thinking they understand the culture and context of planting church planting churches.
I believe there is one God, one mission of God, and one people to fulfill that mission, the church. The local church therefore, is to be the primary apostolic agency in the earth today. There is a place for trans-local agencies and ministries, but they are biblical and empowering to the degree they are sent from local churches and are committed to planting new local churches. 
Why is this important?
1. If we separate mission organizations from church communities, we have separated the mission of God (the great commission and the great commandment) from the people of God, the church.
2. Mission agencies and para-church organizations are practical structures that exist to serve the church and her God-given mission in the nations.
3. Missional activity that is separated from local churches are in actuality church people who don't acknowledge they are the church, so they don't function as church consciously and intentionally. This results in unhealthy mission organizations that are driven by goals and not community, and anemic local churches that are robbed of her apostles and evangelists.
4. Mission organizations that don't see themselves as church often draw away from local churches her apostles and evangelists; they model independence from the church, which has weakened local church communities. This reinforces the idea that to be apostolic you need to join a go-getting mission agencies or organization, which in turn weakens the church.
5. One of the freshest things happening in the church worldwide right now is the Spirit inspired trend of local churches and local church networks reclaiming the apostolic mission of God without being dependent on agencies and organizations. What is the role of mission agencies, then? To connect local churches to the harvest to plant more churches, to serve as bridges of God, providing cultural expertise and mission wisdom for local churches to engage in the great mission of God to reach the world with the transforming power of the gospel.
6. The local church is most natural structure for getting the gospel into the culture of a people, and therefore, the primary way God brings transformation to a city or nation. Missionaries come and go, but the local people stay. They are there, assigned by God to carry His good news throughout a city or nation.
7. Missionaries sent by agencies or by apostolic sending local churches are in effect, outsiders, sent to raise up locals, the "insiders". It is the local people, the insiders, that are best equipped by virtue of language, culture and being born in a place, that are the best ones to carry on the generation to generation work of the kingdom of God.
I believe that to the degree that we are holistic (local church and trans-local mission agency married in creative and empowering relationship) we are in sync with what the Spirit is saying to the church today. To the degree we separate these two dimensions of the church, the local church and the apostolic mission of the church, we are dualistic and unbiblical.
For more on this topic, I address this issue in greater depth it in my book, You See Bones, I See an Army: Changing the Way We Do Church. I also recommend Shaping of Things to Come by Hirsch, and the weightier Transforming Mission by David Bosch.