Continual, Vigorous Church Planting

“The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else--not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes--will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial”. (Tim Keller Redeemer Presbyterian Church Feb. 2002 )

Simple Doesn't Mean Stupid or Unbiblical

I love this article written by a colleague here in Cape Town. We teach these principles, bu more importantly, we strive to live practice them as a way of life. If you want to make disciples of the lost, grow your church or start new churches with those who don't know Jesus, I think you will find the article immensely helpful. Or you can read the original at www.campusministrytoolbox.org   http://www.campusministrytoolbox.org/journal/viral-creating-disciple-making-movements-on-campus/

Blessings,

Floyd

VIRAL

By Daniel Wesley - April 5, 2013
viral jc fish green

Creating Disciple-Making Movements

Around the world, missiologists have recognized and described 100 different disciple-making movements that are exploding in some of the least likely places you would imagine.  Some of these movements have seen millions become followers of Jesus in a few short years.  One particular movement, among mostly Muslims and adherents to tribal religions, has seen 18,000 house churches planted in just 7 short years.[1]  The churches in this movement have 35 people on average and are entirely made up of former Muslims, Animists and Atheists.  There are movements in China and India that far surpass this numerically.  So what can we learn from these movements that may be useful to us in the context of college ministry?  It turns out- quite a bit. They all have common elements that are easily adapted into a university ministry.

China-house-church

 

FOLLOW THEN BELIEVE

There are varied names for the approach and various differences between different movements, but one common ingredient in all these movements is raising up “followers” among unbelievers.

Follower- someone who respects Jesus, is willing to learn from Him/about Him and even attempt to honor Him in his or her life.

This was the religious context into which Rabbi Jesus entered 2000 years ago. People would associate themselves with a teacher or rabbi, learn from him, follow him, and obey him. Jesus took it further. He was not content with merely showing His followers a way to live, but by showing He was the way to live life with God. He did not only want external obedience but inward transformation that came through faith. BUT He usually began by asking people to follow Him. It is important that we notice from Scripture that Jesus had people following Him in simple obedience before they had “accepted” Him or embraced the fullness of who we know Him to be.  In fact, many times they would help introduce Him to their friends before they really understood fully who He was. (John 1:43-46; John 4:28-30).

Needless to say, they eventually did come to fully believe, but their initial lack of understanding and/or poor theology did not keep them from Jesus, or keep Jesus from them.  The result was that these early followers turned the Roman world upside down within a century.  No doubt each of them had different points at which they understood who Jesus was, stepped into the fullness of faith and experienced regeneration, but amazingly many were called “disciples” before that happened! Don’t take my word for it, go back and read about the disciples (Luke 5-6, John 1, Matthew 10 and Mark 3).  As you read through the gospels, notice the different ways many of his disciples lacked basic Christology leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection and, in a few cases, after His resurrection.  It is interesting that most us have assumed that we must “get someone saved” before we teach them to follow Jesus. It seems the Jesus’ model is oftentimes the reverse. What if teaching them to follow Jesus is really critical to saving faith and to making future disciples? Doesn’t this correspond to our experience as well? We were intrigued, attended something, were exposed to Jesus, wanted to explore this more, maybe talked to others, and even sometimes did things we thought might honor God. Then at some point God’s Spirit and His grace broke through and we truly believed and truly committed our lives to Jesus. On the other hand, haven’t you known people who made a “decision” for Christ, but whose lives never changed?  Perhaps we should invite people to follow Jesus in obedience and let the Holy Spirit bring conviction in His timing. (I know this is mind-bending a little, but bear with me on this.)

So how do we help people to start following Jesus regardless of their “salvation status?”  It is quite simple actually. There are 6 simple transferable steps we can use to lead unbelievers forward in following Jesus.

 PREREQUISITE: GATHER A GROUP OF UNBELIEVERS

This might be the hardest step for many. But didn’t Jesus mix it up mostly with those who didn’t know Him? Didn’t He say He was called to the “sick”? They could be from a dorm, an athletic team, a club, a study group, or some neighbors. You could do this yourself, or better, have a student you want to train do this. In fact, the latter method is preferred if you are wanting to start a movement. Train, empower, release….this does not mean doing it for them! (Eph 4:12).  Of course, in your own life you should be modeling this as well with your unbelieving peers.

Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 1.29.12 AMInvite unbelievers to study the “life of Jesus,” the “teachings of Jesus,” or the “Bible for themselves.”  You will find that MANY are open to this.  Avoid inviting them to your large weekly meeting or to a Sunday service.  That MAY come later, but begin by just meeting with them one-on-one and in small groups.  Try to avoid having one unbeliever with 5 or 6 believers.  Have your students meet with unbelievers one-on-one and then have them invite THEIR unbelieving friends to join them.  Don’t let the unbelievers be “outnumbered.”  If you need to be at the first few meetings or so, fine.  But your goal is to release your students to do this.  You can meet with them outside that time to debrief and coach them further.  Here is the goal: find people interested in Jesus, help them start to follow Him, and get them to invite their friends to do the same.

Ok, so once we have a small group of unbelievers gathered, here’s what it would look like:

1. THANKS

Invite everyone in the circle to share something for which they are thankful.  Celebrate with them as they share their gratitude.  While we are teaching them to be grateful to God for “every good and perfect gift” (Jas 1: 17), it is not necessary to tell them this in the early weeks. Just let them share and celebrate with them.   [Message: Gratitude is frequently the first thing we express to God when addressing Him and is how the Scripture describes the process of coming into His presence.  (Psalm 100)] 

2. NEEDS

Have everyone share something for which they need prayer.  [Message: God is a living God who answers prayer and who is concerned with our needs.]

3. SCRIPTURE

Read a short passage of 5-15 verses. Read the passage in 2 different translations and let different people read.  Close the Bible and invite someone to share the story in his or her own words.  Make sure they understand that the goal is to merely repeat the story in their own words and not to draw conclusions. Screen Shot 2013-04-02 at 1.37.50 AMAfter the first person has shared the story ask if anyone wants to add details that were missed. [Message: Scripture is critical to following Jesus and is our first means of receiving truth.  Scripture is the plumb line by which we judge any word from God.] **Note: With International students, it is usually good to start with creation and move towards Christ slowly over time.

4. LISTEN

Have everyone wait on the Lord for 1 or 2 minutes to see what part of the passage the Holy Spirit would highlight for them.  [Message:  God speaks to us by His Spirit and it is proper to learn to hear His voice most frequently through Scripture.]

 5. OBEY

After sharing what God highlighted from Scripture, have everyone share an “I Will” statement which expresses obedience to what was just learned.  Something important happens in calling them to obedience to Jesus. Be willing to challenge people with statements that are measurable and specific.  Avoid letting someone end with a vague immeasurable commitment like “I will be more grateful this week.”  Set the standard in the early weeks and the fellow group members will hold each other’s feet to the fire! Challenge them to hone their statements down to something more tangible. [Message: Obedience is part of what it means to love and follow Jesus.  The Christian life is faith in action.  Of course action doesn’t save someone but it will lead to true disciples of Jesus who have learned the importance of obedience.]

6. CLOSE THE LOOP

Start your next meeting (notice I did not say “week 2” as you may want to meet more frequently than just weekly) by having each person review their “I will” statement from the previous meeting.  Be sure and CELEBRATE even partial obedience.  If a guy shares that he drinks himself to sleep every night and he reports that he went 3 days after the previous meeting without drinking, celebrate that fact and encourage him in how he grew in obedience.  Keep pointing them to Jesus as the “author and finisher” of our faith.

That’s it!  Now, we may have raised some questions (see below), but the basic idea is that we find people who respect Jesus and want to learn about His teachings.  We ask those people to meet so we can learn together what it means to follow Jesus.  We watch the Holy Spirit draw them and convict them through the process of learning to follow Jesus.  Then they go do the same with their friends. This appears to be the overwhelming model presented in the gospels. The epistles do an amazing job of expounding on concepts such as sin, faith and grace. However, let’s make sure we balance the gospels and the epistles in our approach to making disciples and watch God give us more incredible fruit, as He is already doing around the world.

ISSUES/CONCERNS

Naturally this model might raise some questions. I will attempt to briefly address a few here:

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Questions for Discussion

  1. What do you like about this strategy? Dislike? Are you possibly apprehensive due to a tradition? A Biblical issue? A fear? Or something else?
  2. Could you see any advantages to such a model if you are trying to make many new followers of Jesus on your campus?
  3. How could you implement this into your ministry?  Think of a pilot program with a few students. (think: who, when, where…)

Please let us know of any stories where you have seen this strategy implemented on campus in the comments section. We would love to hear how God is using these ideas.

 

“Daniel Wesley” is a Trainer for CPx (Church Planting Experience). Meet “Daniel” and all our CMJ authors here.

8 Signs of a Healthy Church and Healthy Leaders

Note from Floyd:  I found this article from churchplants.com to be very stimulating, so much so that I have added my own comments. Some leaders are not aware of what emotional health in their church family looks or feels like. Dysfunction is so common that most of us grow up "unhealthy" but don't know it. Perhaps reflecting on this article together with other leaders in your church will increase your desire and awareness of what it means to be an emotionally healthy church. It's been a life-long journey for me personally. Blessings, Floyd 8 Signs of an Emotionally Healthy New Church - from churchplants.com

By Paul Williams

Is the church you’re leading emotionally healthy? How do you tell if it is or isn’t? Is there a way to know if you’re on the path to good health or heading in the wrong direction? Discovering the answers to these questions is vital, especially for new churches.

For more than 65 years, the Orchard Group has planted churches. For many decades, the churches we planted were small and struggling. But over the last 15 years, our churches have grown quickly and thrived. People repeatedly ask what changed. My standard answer is to say that when you stick around long enough (I have been with the ministry for more than 30 years), God starts to feel sorry for you! In reality, we cannot pinpoint exactly what brought about our growth.

However, we are sure of one thing that has contributed to our turnaround. For 15 years, we simply have not hired a senior pastor unless we were convinced he or she was an excellent leader with the skills, wisdom and maturity to lead a great church. The older I get, the more I realize just how important emotional intelligence is to strong leadership.

In his book, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, author Edwin H. Friedman looks at the relational dynamics of family as a way of understanding the relational dynamics of a church family. He says the two hardest places to work in America are the family-owned business and the church. Chances are you’d probably agree.

Like families, all churches will have emotional processes they have to work through. Friedman writes that every church has “background radiation from the big bang of the congregation’s creation.” Discovering the source of that radiation and thoroughly dealing with it are critical to the ongoing health of your church. Consider what he identifies as eight signs of an emotionally healthy church (from a family dynamics perspective), and use these signs to honestly assess the deficits in your church family and what you as a leader can focus on to put your church on the path toward emotional health.

1. The church will be balanced between separateness and togetherness. 

It has differentiated itself and can say, “We are a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, but we are an independent church.” That kind of balance is rare in a new church. It’s more likely to happen in a healthy, growing church with strong leadership.

Floyd: A sure sign of emotional unhealthiness is identity confusion, i.e., when individuals and communities find their identity from being closely related to others. Symptoms: constant feelings of rejection, co-dependence, control and blame, insecurity. Unhealthy leaders are threatened by unhealthy followers and co-workers. Their identity is tied up in how "perfect" others perform. 

2. The church will show a connectedness across generations. 

Just 50 years ago, most churches were made up of multiple generations of people. Grandpa attended church with his granddaughter. In the megachurch age, that is less likely. In fact, many megachurches are generation-specific because the first generation of megachurches was populated primarily by Baby Boomers.

Newer churches tend to be focused on the Millennial Generation. It is rare to find a new church or megachurch that has successfully attracted multiple generations. This is one area of church stability not likely to change in the near future.

Floyd: multi-generational connectedness can happen via smaller units of aged based communities within the larger community...but there must be bridges that unite and build the connection. The bridges are common activities that unite everyone in the community. 

3. A healthy new church will have both volunteer leaders and professional leaders who show little enmeshment or fusion (the tendency to engage in overly involved, overly close emotional relationships).

The leaders know their issues, both personally and in the congregational environment. They might say, “We are all crazy around here. Most of the time we recognize it.”

Floyd: healthy self-awareness helps prevent enmeshment and fusion. Such awareness comes from humility and learning from life experiences, teachableness, good mentoring/discipling, and asking the Holy Spirit for correction. 

4. The church will also create a grace-filled environment.

This is appropriate in an age in which people are often converted to community before they are converted to Christ. There will be respect and support for those with different values and feelings, and the congregation will be aware of both the inside and outside influences on the church family as a whole. 

Floyd: welcoming pre-believers into the life of the community of faith requires both courage and clear conviction of core beliefs. One without the other will lead to compromise or confusion, or both.

5. Healthy new churches will also avoid triangulation at all levels.

Any two people will not feel the need to pull a third into a conversation. If triangulation is resisted at the staff and volunteer leadership levels, it will be modeled to the entire congregation. Nevertheless when people are involved, you’ll always find attempts at triangulation. The key is to confront it, and avoid being drawn into it.

Floyd: stated more simply, triangulation is the process of involving third parties in conflicts through gossip and manipulation. “Triangulation” is most commonly used to describe a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, which can lead to the third family member becoming part of the triangle. It is a term used to describe what happens in dysfunctional families, as well as work and church parties in conflict.

Triangulation can describe family members playing others off against each other, thus “splitting” the relationships. This is playing the two people against each other, but usually the person doing the splitting does so through gossip and character assassination.

6. In a healthy church family, there will be room for people to experience pain without the leaders of the church rushing in to save them. 

They will recognize that faith has seasons, or stages. Some people are in the stage in which they need rules, regulations and tight boundaries.

Others may be in a place of questioning, where they need room to move back and forth across the threshold of faith. Still, others have a mature faith that is far beyond focusing tightly on rules and regulations. All have to live under one roof. Leaders who are sensitive to this will walk the fine line between rigidity and chaos.

Floyd: People with pain don’t need someone to “fix” them. Those who constantly find fulfillment from “fixing people” may have an unhealthy need to “rescue” others. The need to rescue others demonstrates a lack of healthy boundaries in one’s own personality, and an inability to distinguish between being responsible “to” people and responsible “for” people.

Healthy church communities allow room for people be at differently places in their healing journey, and are not embarrassed by those in their midst with “problems”, whether emotional, moral or spiritual in nature. People in their church with “problems” intimidate unhealthy leaders - they believe it reflects poorly on their leadership.

"Pain" in a person's life must be confronted if it spills over into the community and causes deception, division, or damage to other members of the community. 

7. Healthy churches will believe in their church family and see its positives. 

They might say, “Of course we are messed up. But on our better days, we manage to reflect the image of Jesus, at least a little bit.” As a congregation, church leaders will understand what they are good at and where their weaknesses lie. They will maintain a healthy level of objectivity about the church they serve.

Floyd: healthy leaders focus on the strengths of others, not weaknesses. They create an atmosphere of appreciation and encouragement. Unhealthy leaders feel compulsion to correct and control the behavior and even the beliefs of others.

8. Finally, a healthy congregation will have members who utilize each other for genuine feedback, not as crutches.

In a church where the leaders are well differentiated (our ability to be objective and separate our feelings and thoughts from the environment that shaped us), genuine feedback is far more likely than in a church where too many enmeshments have occurred.

The lack of genuine feedback has been the downfall of many a charismatic church pastor. Every leadership team needs to have the strength to be honest and open with those in the highest positions of influence.

Floyd: all leaders struggle with criticism, and local churches seem to have more than their fair share of it. Yet those who are secure welcome both positive and negative feedback (as long as it is not deceptive, divisive, or damaging). Feedback is essential to create a learning, growing community. One mentor said to me, “Experience is not the best teacher, but evaluated experience is”.

 

I urge you to spend some time studying these eight signs both by yourself and with your leadership or launch team. How does your church fare? What can you do to improve in two or three of these areas? Start making a plan to improve. Paul Williams is the chairman of church planting organization Orchard Group, Inc., which has planted more than 70 churches, primarily in New York and the Northeast. He has served with the ministry since 1979 and during that time Orchard’s new churches have grown from an average of 50 at five years of age to an average of 500 at five years of age. Paul is editor-at-large and a weekly columnist with Christian Standard magazine, and serves as preaching associate at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colo., and Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia.

 

Six Types of People You Meet in Church Planting

6 Types of People You Meet in Church

Planting

By Acts 29 Network

by Todd Bumgarner

As a church planter, you are called to raise up disciples and leaders. It's an investment of time and energy that is critical to the mission of your church. One of the hardest truths early on in church planting is discerning who is with you and who is not. As I have worked with people, I’ve learned there are six categories into which someone falls. Categorizing people is helpful to determine where to focus your time and energy and to wake you up to the reality that some people, despite their excitement and interest, simply are not on board.

1. Family

These are the folks who are all-in. They’ve caught the vision and want to help in any way possible. They are servant-leaders and their commitment is apparent via a verbal conversation in which they express it. It is important to realize that simply showing up at things does not make someone part of the family (consistency does not necessarily equal commitment). A better gauge is to combine their consistency with their language. Folks who are in the family use phrases with first-personal plurals like “our church” or “we can do this.”

2. Fence

These are people who are interested in what you’re doing, excited about what you’re doing, have come to one or more of your vision meetings, or otherwise expressed their interest/excitement. People in this category require patience. Often people on the fence are plugged in to other church communities, and asking them to uproot from that to join what you’re doing is a complicated decision and process. I tell people on the fence that we are not in the business of stealing people from other churches, but to cast the vision and trust that the Holy Spirit will do his job.

In a church plant, people on the fence ultimately have to be called by the church planter to commitment. A church plant consisting only of interested and excited people (but with no commitment) will fail. This is the category where the most time and prayer will be spent. In addition, a prayerful ear to the Spirit’s prompting of when to call them to commit must be discerned. The goal is to move people from the fence to the family or discern if perhaps they are simply a “friend.”

3. Fans

On Facebook, having a lot of fans is great; in a church plant—not so much. Fans love what you’re doing, express their excitement, follow you on Twitter, meet you for coffee, let you buy them lunch, but never come to anything that you organize. Fans are typically podcasting Driscoll, reading Piper, and can give you the latest update on Chandler’s cancer faster than it takes for you to find it on the web.

Fans will suck the energy out of you. Often people in this category are another “F” word I like to use: “floaters.” They don’t have a church home, and float from one church to another, avoiding commitment, and seeing themselves as getting “fed” from guys they podcast. Fans love to talk about terms like “gospel-centered” and “missionally-focused” but fail to ever translate their talk to their walk.

Fans need to be quickly moved to the fence or the farm or they will consume your time and distract you from the mission.

4. Friends

Friends are typically gospel-centered people who are playing in the same league but on a different team. They are interested in what you’re doing, realize the importance of it, and want to support you in any way they can, but in the end are plugged-into and committed to another church. Friends are great, but they’re not family. You can call on friends for practical help and outside advice, but when you’re trying to build a family, sometimes you have to limit your time with friends.

5. Farm

The farm is made up of people who were on the fence and turned out not to be in the family when you called them to commit, or folks who were fans that you simply had to move to the farm, as they were much more interested in hanging out in the grandstands than ever making it onto the field. Instead of being all-in, they’ve verbally or non-verbally stated that they are out. The sad reality of a church planter is that once people are on the farm, it is typically a distraction from the mission to continue to pursue them. If they want to rejoin the fence, trust that they will on their own.

6. Foes

Foes are the critics and the opposite of “family.” We’ve had a few of these in our short history as a church plant, including one lady who accused me of trying to attract people to our church with beer, and another I’ve never met who sent me an email with some poor exegesis of 1 Timothy 3 and tried to tell me that I was not qualified to be an elder. I would have liked to meet her.

As a church planter, you will have a growing family, people on the fence, a host of fans, some good friends, a growing farm, and a number of foes. Your goal is to call people to commit and determine who’s in the family so that you can march forward with your mission to reach the unreached for Christ.

A Positive Vision for Church

A Positive Vision for Church by Joe Miller

From ChurchPlanting.com

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.

10 Reasons Some Leaders Don’t Follow Paul’s Example of Church Planting

Because of the orderly fashion in which the book of Acts is written, and because of the missions and leadership truths Luke deals with, we can assume he intended Acts to serve as a training handbook for those committed to spreading the Gospel. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders don’t see it that way.

I am convinced if spiritual leaders spent just half their time doing what Paul did, the world would already have been evangelized several times over. And the churches they planted would have been born with multiplication in their genetic code. Church planting provokes us to train leaders and reach the lost more intentionally. 

 So why don’t some missionaries and pastors follow the principles and practices of Paul demonstrated in the book of Acts? I asked that same question recently of a group of young missionaries in training with All Nations. Here are some of their answers:

1. Fear of Suffering and Sacrifice. Church planting is hard work. It means stress and in some cases, intense spiritual warfare. Paul’s methods for reaching the unreached and the unchurched are so radical that they guarantee opposition, even persecution and death, particularly when we plant churches where the gospel is least known.

2. Intimidation. Most of us don’t think we are a “Paul.” Pastors and missionaries excuse themselves by saying Paul was a “special person with a special anointing.” But Luke makes it clear that the whole church was moving out to spread the gospel. In fact, the powerful church of Antioch was started by anonymous laymen who moved from Jerusalem to Antioch to spread the good news of Jesus. Never under estimate what people will do when you believe in them and give them a chance to trust God!

3. Pride. Some leaders think they can improve on the way Paul did things, so they don’t take his methods and principles seriously. One missionary said to me rather flippantly, “If Paul were alive today he would change the way he did things.” When I asked him why he thought that way, he didn’t know. He just assumed Paul would learn from how we do things and make changes accordingly.

4. Unfocused Goals. Many spiritual leaders have unclear goals of what they want to accomplish. Staying busy in ministry can easily take the place of being effective in ministry. Being effective means planting churches. We won't reach lost people and disciple new leaders and plant more churches if we don't set goals to do so. In fact, I believe Satan loves to keep us busy doing 'good things', good church things, to keep us from doing the main thing: make disciples among the lost.

5. Unbelief. For some, the challenge to trust the Holy Spirit to break Satan’s strongholds over cities and nations requires steps of faith and obedience they are not willing to take. It takes faith to believe God for a new church to be planted, risk taking, daring faith. Church planters face the constant possibility of failure... but, they also see the greatest rewards in Christian ministry!

6. Ignorance. Few spiritual leaders have taken time to seriously study the church planting methods of Paul. Some even believe by planting churches Paul had not thought through the best way to advance the kingdom of God. Seriously, I have heard people say these things.

7. Confused Missiology. Another reason I see for the church not following Paul’s method of church planting is that people have changed, added to and amended how Paul did missions so much that he now gets blamed for all the slip-shod, unfocused, ineffective activity that is being done in the name of “missions.” This is especially true for short-term missions activities, where so much more could be done if the leaders of these outreaches would apply the principles and practices of the great apostle. It should be pointed out that many of the churches Paul started were established on “short term” outreaches, but those were short term outreaches with long term goals.

8. Poor Interpretation of Scripture.  Some movements and churches have neglected the Pauline methodology because of misunderstanding about what Jesus meant when he instructed his disciples to “...make disciples of all nations.” There is a grave mistake in the thinking of some that missionaries and pastors are commissioned by Jesus to reform society rather than spreading the gospel. This approach to church and mission actually devalues the important ministry God has given to local churches. Christians are to be salt and light in society, but that is not the calling of a pastor, church planter and cross-cultural missionary. We are to join Jesus... he said, "I will build my church". We get to do that with Him!

9. Inconsistent Application of Pauls Principles. According to Roland Allen (Missionary Methods: St. Pauls or Ours?), some people have neglected Paul’s methods because they have “...adopted fragments of St. Paul’s method and have tried to incorporate them into alien systems...” The failure that has resulted from these hybrid methodologies has been used as an excuse to reject the apostle’s methods. To quote Allen again: “For example, people have baptized uninstructed converts and the converts have fallen away; but Paul did not baptize uninstructed converts apart from a system of mutual responsibility that insured their instruction.” Obedience based discipleship based on hearing and obeying the Spirit as He instructs new converts is a much surer way to prepare followers of Jesus for baptism.

10. Disrespect For the Apostolic Calling of the Church. The Pauline approach to missions has lost it’s stature in some circles because some spiritual leaders have borrowed the term “apostle” to reinforce their position of authority or dominance over their followers. Others have wanted recognition or prestige in the Body of Christ. “We are apostles,” they claim, expecting have the same title means they deserve the same respect those early apostles had. Those were men of great courage who opposed the Roman Empire, withstood the fierce persecution of the Jewish leaders, and suffered and sacrificed to spread the gospel all over the world. If so called apostles were truly “sent ones” they would be giving their time and energy to pull down Satan’s strongholds in the 10/40 window, endure stoning and jail sentences, plant scores of churches among the unreached, and spreading the good news of Jesus with courage and passion.

 

How God Has Designed the Church to Transform Cities and Nations

Four Ways God Transforms Cities and Nations 

 

Mark 1:14-15 – Jesus began his public ministry by announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God. He taught more about the Kingdom than any other topic. It was his main theological framework. If we don’t understand the Kingdom, we don’t understand the teachings of Jesus. And if we misunderstand the Kingdom, we are susceptible to any number of heresies and false teachings.

It helps me to remember that the Kingdom of God is....

 

√ God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom – Jesus came as a servant king to sin the hearts of people – but someday he will return as the absolute king of every kingdom and nation.

√ God’s kingdom is a grassroots kingdom – Jesus came for every man and every woman, the poor, the broken, and least and the lost of society

√ God’s kingdom is a salt and light kingdom – Jesus preserves goodness in society through the lives of members of His Kingdom

√ God’s kingdom is an incarnational kingdom – Just as Jesus lived among people, so members of the Kingdom of God live among people, speak their language and live as their neighbors and friends

√ God’s kingdom is a transformational kingdom – Jesus has come to transform the world back to how he intended it to be

√ God’s kingdom is made up of true followers of Jesus Christ, the of everyday, ordinary people

√ God’s kingdom is a discipleship kingdom – Jesus’ Kingdom if for fully devoted, obedient followers of Jesus Christ

Four Ways the Change Takes Place

There are several hundred “disciple making movements” in the world today. These are movements where followers of Jesus Christ are powerfully impacting the lives of other people in such powerful ways that whole neighborhoods, even entire villages, cities and some nations are being profoundly transformed by the presence of Kingdom men and women.

Earth will not become utopia, free of evil, pain and all sickness – until Jesus returns! There is not going to be a world free of sin and evil until Jesus returns a second time and fully establishes his Kingdom on earth. When that happens, the earth and all those who remain will be transformed fully, and heaven the redeemed earth.

Meanwhile, we who are in the kingdom now seek to bring a taste of heaven to earth, to push back the forces of evil to give every human being an opportunity to freely embrace the King of the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ.

How do we do that? Four ways the Kingdom of God changes nations:

1. ENGAGE. Engage individuals. We engage in people’s lives by sharing the good news of Jesus. We engage their lives first by praying fervently for them. We engage by praying for the city and nation we live in. But we do not just appeal to God for people, we also appeal to people for God. One without the other is half the truth God wants us to obey. We engage our communities, our culture, and people personally. It starts with neighbors, family members, people at work, and spreads to every one in our sphere of influence. To engage a person is to pray for them and to share with them the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done for them by dying for their sins.

2. ESTABLISH. Establish small discovery groups that establish foundations in people’s lives. The goal of these small groups is to establish foundations of freedom from sin, being part of a spiritual family, experiencing the Father’s love, and each member learning how to tell others about Jesus and disciple them to grow in their faith. The best way to establish people is through both one-on-one intentional discipleship relationships and in a small groups of like minded people, what we call “discovery Bible studies’.

3. EQUIP. Equip people to hear God for themselves in the Bible. Equip people to engage others and to repeat the process of engage, establish, and equip, then empower. To equip is to gather a few people in discovery Bible studies focused on:

–      Self-discovery in God’s word together with a few others

–      Facilitate group members to intentionally engage others who don’t know Jesus

–      Obey what one learns through self-discovery in the group and accountability to the group about what is learned and obeyed

–      Serve as “outsiders” to raise up “insiders” in other groups to do the same thing and to keep on repeating the process over and over again

–      Focus on a few to reach many

4. EMPOWER. Empower the people in the small discovery groups to grow into small simple churches,  that in turn reproduce other simple churches. Empowered people change nations by learning to take responsibility for their own lives. Empowered people break the cycles of passivity and dependence of “big leaders” Empowered people to learn that everyone has a role in the church. Simple church experience is an empowering porcess.

God’s design for empowerment is simple but profound: engage the lost, establish foundations in their lives, equip them to do the same thing by starting other small, discovery groups, empower those small groups to become disciple making, transformation simple churches, that in turn, start more churches. These church churches can grow to be big churches, or they can multiply to become networks of small churches – but the main thing is not the size but that they become powerful channels of kingdom transformation in society.

God will never bypass the church as his main way of changing the world. The church is the hope of the world. Families of churches banding together are powerful forces for transformation in society.

These four steps outlined above are how God has designed the church to bring about transformation. It is a simple summary of a process we see over and over again in history, and in the first church in the book of Acts. If we ignore these four steps and the values found therein, we can still experience God’s revival presence, but it most likely won’t be conserved or have a wide and lasting impact.

 

The Signs of the Kingdom – When Disciple Making Movements Transform Cities and Nations

 

Acts 1:1-8

The Kingdom of God is the royal rule of God in people’s hearts and lives, and then through their lives, God impacts the world around them. The Kingdom of God has it’s beginning in the individual lives of His subjects and then extends beyond individuals to the rest of society.

We cannot overestimate the importance of the Kingdom. Jesus began His public ministry preaching the Kingdom, and everywhere he went to told people about the kingdom. He sent out his disciples to teach the kingdom, and He made it clear that no one could enter the kingdom unless they were born again (Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 9:35, 10:1 and following, John 3:3).

The mission of introducing the kingdom on earth has been given to the subjects of the Kingdom, those followers of Jesus called disciples. All those in the kingdom are to spread it around: at work, at home, with friends and family, through our work, and to the ends of the earth. Discipleship is intentional relationship.

But there is opposition to the Kingdom of God. The arrival of the Kingdom 2000 years ago provoked a response from the powers of darkness, from Satan and his minions. That warfare is still going on today. It is not a civil war between two equal forces, but a war fought by a deceived and fallen created being, a fallen angel named Satan. The final outcome has been decided at the cross when Jesus died and defeated Satan, where Jesus made the defeat of Satan an open and public triumph. But Satan still believes he can win the world – so the battle rages on.

Disciples of Jesus are busy doing the things Jesus did when he was on earth.

How do we know the Kingdom of God is at work among us? What kingdom work did Jesus do? What gives us hope that God is visiting us? We know the Kingdom is among us because God confirms the presence of His kingdom with kingdom “signs”. What are those signs? Here is what we can look for:

The Signs of the Kingdom

• Jesus is the First and Most Important Sign of the Kingdom of God (Luke 17:21, Matthew 18:20). We find Jesus working in people’s lives. They get saved. They get excited about Jesus. Jesus is talked about and loved and obeyed. He is the main sign of the Kingdom because he is the King of the Kingdom of God.

• The Preaching of Good News of the Kingdom takes place (Luke 4:18 -19). Kingdom people tell others about their king!

• Miracles, healing and deliverance from demons begins to happen(Luke 7:22). God confirms the breaking in of His Kingdom with miracles.

•  Salvation of people through being born again (1 Thessalonians 1:9, Romans 1:16, Acts 26:18)

• Suffering by those who seek to advance the Kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:21, Philippians 1:27-29)

• Peacemaking, mercy to the lost and kindness to the poor are signs of the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 5:16)

• Kingdom communities are started and multiplied. Churches spring up. New churches are planted and old churches get revived. (1 Peter 2:9 -12)

The signs and good deeds of the Kingdom are a signal of something new in our midst. It is a taste of what it will be like when the Kingdom is fully here in all of God’s power and glory, when earth becomes heaven, and all of nature and human kind are freed from sin and evil to love and worship God forever.

The Sermon on the Mount

Before preaching the sermon on the mount, where Jesus outlines the character and goals of his kingdom, Satan tempts Jesus with another kingdom:

Matt. 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9  “All this I will give you,” he said,  “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him,  “Away from me, Satan! For it is written:  ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

After resisting the offer of worldly kingdoms, Jesus begins His public ministry, teaching about the Kingdom of God.

Matt. 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach,  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said,  “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

It is interesting to note that Jesus was tempted with other kingdoms just as we are, yet without ever yielding to those temptations. When Jesus resisted Satan’s offer of false kingdoms, he could proclaim His father’s kingdom with authority, as one who said no to false rule, power and authority.

Jesus then set about to call his disciples and began his public ministry. Once he had called his disciples to follow him, Jesus began to do miracles, which resulted in large crowds following him. Though he had compassion for the crowds, he regularly drew away from the multitudes to teach his disciples about those things in life that were most important, more important than miracles and multitudes. Because his focus was his rule in the hearts of his disciples, he taught them about living life in the Kingdom, about how to walk out the lifestyle of submission to His rule. This is what Jesus taught about the kingdom lifestyle:

Matt. 5:1-12 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,

2 and he began to teach them, saying:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

After turning down the offer of earthly kingdoms from Satan, Jesus is anxious to make sure his disciples understand the implications of living under the rule of the heavenly kingdom. He carefully spells out what kingdom spirituality looks like, lived out on earth. He clarifies who it is that will possess the kingdom of God and on what terms.

He pronounces blessings on those who live in the kingdom – who live the kingdom lifestyle:

 

Blessed are those who are broken in spirit

Blessed are the meek

Blessed are those who hunger for spiritual things

Blessed are those who are merciful

Blessed are the pure in heart

Blessed are peacemakers

Blessed are those persecuted and falsely accused

He then makes it very clear that Kingdom people are commissioned people:

Matt. 5:13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

The word ‘blessed’ or ‘blessing’, literally means “happy, fortunate, blissful.” Jesus is describing the present and future inheritance of citizens of the Kingdom of God. He is defining how that inheritance can be received, both now and in the future. The beatitudes demonstrate that the lifestyle of the Kingdom of God is antithetical to the kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of darkness of this present age presents a happiness that is found in riches, success, beauty, entertainment, comfort, freedom of personal choice, and ungodly tolerance for one another. The real truth is the very opposite. True happiness is found in obeying the truths of the Kingdom of God, those truths we call the beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit – The opposite of self-sufficiency. This speaks of the deep humility of recognizing one’s spiritual bankruptcy apart from the rule of God in one’s life. It speaks of the beauty of repentance as an attitude of life, of recognizing and confessing our lostness apart from God’s grace on a daily basis.  Those who recognize their lostness apart from God are the ones who can inherit the kingdom.

Blessed are those who mourn – This speaks of mourning over sin, the godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation and restored relationship with God and others. The comfort spoken of is the comfort of forgiveness and restored relationship. The bible teaches about the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.

Blessed are the meek – Meekness is the opposite of weakness. Weakness is to give in to lust, greed, anger, bitterness, and self-protection. It is the sin of idol worship. To be weak is to find our comfort in false pleasures. To be weak is to be out of control. To be weak is to hide from God and others. Meekness is the opposite of weakness: it is the fruit of self-control that comes from being under the rule of God. It is surrender to the rule of king Jesus. It is strength under submission. It is passion refined and dedicated to our creator’s glory. The meek are the ones who truly enjoy the earth, not from a position of power but from unselfish delight in the world God has given us to enjoy.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – People hunger for many things in life when they don’t hunger for godly righteousness. That God-shaped void in the human heart is only truly satisfied when it settles on Jesus, true righteousness. The two main hungers of the human soul, beauty and adventure, or call it intimacy and purpose, are only fully satisfied in acknowledging and accepting Jesus as the king of our lives. That is the meaning of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. For some that hunger is unlocked in seeing a sunset, or surfing a wave, or stalking a dangerous animal in the Africa bush, or penning a poem of thanksgiving... but Jesus is the source of those longings; they are fulfilled in the ultimate expression of truth in the person of Jesus himself.

Blessed are the merciful – Kingdom people forgive – because God has forgiven them. They don’t hold grudges, or carry resentment in their hearts. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom characterized by the mercy of God for anyone who will welcome Jesus to be the king of their lives – and so, they give mercy to others as well.

Blessed are the pure in heart – God’s kingdom is not for perfect people, but members of the kingdom are taught and asked to keep their motives pure. In other words, they are to continually search their hearts and to regularly repent of the hidden sins of the heart, jealousy, lust, resentment, coveting, pride and so on. They resist pride of religion – that is, the temptation to look good to others while hiding secret sins of the heart. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom from the heart, from the inside out.

Blessed are the peacemakers – Kingdom people don’t seek war, but peace. They seek ways to reconcile enemies and races and families or other divided people. To be a peacemaker starts in our own hearts, but doesn’t stop there. Kingdom peacemakers seek peace between nations, such as Israel and Palestine, or between races, between Blacks and Whites.

Blessed are those who are persecuted and falsely accused – Those who live under the rule of King Jesus in the Kingdom of God will be persecuted by those who oppose the rule of Jesus. Their will be mockery, loss of jobs hatred and even in some countries, murder, torture and imprisonment. Jesus did not promise us that we would escape such difficulty, but that it is our privilege to follow in his footsteps as one who suffered and died for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report From a Remote Village in a Far Away Place

It took a 30 min walk to the river then we took a three hour canoe ride up river where we then walked 45 min through rice patties, mud and a rough trail at the base of the mountain.  What an amazing experience.  We visited with a family that received Christ last year and were very excited to see us.  Four more people came to the Lord, one being the chief of the village.  Then it was the return trip home.  It was a long day but so rewarding.  I am glad  I went but my body did complained the next day.  The guys will go to other villages in the next few weeks.

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.