Starting a simple church can be simple

We may have just helped to start another church.

Sometimes starting a simple church can be just that–simple. We’ve had a wonderful couple from a Hindu background who have part of the church in our home for a while. We’ve prayed with them, baptized them, rejoiced with them at the miracles they’ve seen. When they had a baby, fairly recently, with their jobs and all their other commitments, plus the baby’s sleep schedule, getting to our home on a Friday evening became nearly impossible for them. Tony and I had breakfast and fellowship with them on occasion but they were missing the regular gathering.

A few weeks ago. I was contacted by a young couple who lives near us, asking if I knew of a simple church near them. I invited them to come visit the church that meets in our home. When their baby’s schedule made that impossible, I had a sudden revelation (duh!)

Let’s get these two couples together and see what happens. Both couples were excited at the idea.

So we did just that, 10 days ago, and the six of us had a great time of fellowship–learning about each other’s lives over brunch in one of their homes.

They were all part of a pool party we had on July 4th at our home. (Because July 4th was a Friday, we had a party instead of our normal church. It was BYOB–bring your own BBQ– and everyone was encouraged to bring others. About a third of those who came were friends and family of those in the church).

It’s too early to be sure yet, but I think we may have just laid the foundation of another simple church. Some of you may be thinking, “Just bringing two Christian couples together is starting a church?” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It’s the presence of Jesus that makes it “church,” not the size. Now obviously more needs to happen. As they both reach out into their circles of influence, more people will get involved. But is it the basic building block of church? Yes!

July 4th sparklers

 

Missional community in a dorm

Here’s a great video from Campus Renewal Ministries whose mission is to produce unity between the different ministries on campuses and  to start missional communities. This video is from here at the University of Texas in Austin. The last figures I heard, they have more than 200 of these groups.

Jester M/C Story from Campus Renewal on Vimeo.

On CPMs and DMMs

It seems that the terminology is changing. People now are referring to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) rather than Church Planting Movements (CPMs).

After my last post on this subject, one where I am just beginning to explore the differences, a few people, who have far more experience (at least of DMMs) than I do, commented. Their comments were so insightful, I decided to post them where more people are likely to read them.

John King: 

Multiple factors have produced this change in terminology. Some suggested it because Jesus directed “make disciples,” while he is the one who builds his church. Churches (communities of faith practicing the “one another” passages) will result when people are discipled to Jesus. Secondarily, the shift happened because CPM terminology was being hijacked by folks who are not seeing rapid, multiplicative and indigenous growth. When terms are used to mean whatever you want them to, they really mean nothing (sort of like the guy shooting the side of his barn and then painting a bull’s eye around where the shot landed).

Intentionally discipling disciple makers forces you to:

  • Use only resources, tactics and strategies that the indigenous people group can readily replicate.
  • Strip away all the catalyst’s cultural “over-hang” and trust the Holy Spirit to guide family/friendship groups to contextualize the gospel as they learn and obey it (since different cultures already have strong, deep views of the context in which spiritual activities transpire and how they are conducted, that will impact the kinds of gatherings they develop and eventually call “church”).
  • Model and train discovery of who God is and how he wants us to live at every level of growth and maturity. Jesus’ discipling of the 12, 72 and 500 was as much through the flow of life as it was what he said. (Here we assume giving people new information will result in transformation. It won’t. On-the-job training, just in the nick of time additional training is critical to DMM).

Larry:

That is a great observation Felicity. Having been involved in a CPM in India I would say from my observation that to a certain extent a CPM is a disciple making movement. You can’t have a CPM without leaders developing leaders several levels deep. The exponential growth is a result of leaders being developed and trained to reproduce. To me that is a level of discipleship. You can’t make disciples without being first a disciple. However, I think the real question is depth of discipleship. You know the old saying, “A mile wide and an inch deep”. So on one hand a CPM is in itself a DMM to a certain level. But on the other hand, there is a need for the next level of a DMM to help sustain and grow the maturity level of each church.

Jay Pratt:

My study of CPM’s & DDM’s is that they are driven by what I call Ordinary Christians. They are non-professional, with no special theological training, who are average people but love to spend lots of time with Jesus. Many of these ordinary christians are just months or even weeks old. Another form these kinds of movement that has started in the US is the T4T Training with Jeff Sundell in North Carolina. He’s a former IMB Missionary who ignited a movement in Nepal but now is igniting one in N. America.

Anyone else with experience of DMMs like to comment?

The Rabbit and the Elephant from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

 

 

What is a church planting movement

One of the areas I’m exploring at the moment is the difference (if there is one) between a church planting movement (CPM)  and a disciple making movement (DMM). My impression is that they both result in multiplying churches, but there are subtle differences in how they come about. Many of those involved in CPMs now seem to be emphasizing DMMs.

The CPMs I’m most familiar with are in India. They use Luke 10 principles to find a person of peace and start a church in their home. For example, a few years ago, I met with two middle-aged housewives, one of whom was responsible at that point for having started 2000 churches and the other 6000 churches. The movement they are part of has seen 750,000 baptisms each year for the past several years.

In David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements, How God Is Redeeming a Lost World,  he defines a CPM:

A CPM is a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.

Three key points to note:

  1. It’s rapid–things happen quickly and appear out of control.
  2. It’s multiplicative–not growth by addition.
  3. It’s indigenous–the church planting doesn’t occur because outsiders come in (although they may be catalytic in the early stages) but because local, indigenous people are starting churches.
It’s further defined by David Watson as having at least 100 churches, three generations deep that have occurred within 2 years.

There are CPMs all around the world, but none that have been labeled as such here in the States. Church Multiplication Associates led by Neil Cole is probably the closest in this country. CMA has trained more than 45,000 people around the world since its inception.

Church Planting Movements are also characterized by things such as intense prayer and abundant evangelism, small groups usually meeting in homes, Bible study and discipleship. The churches themselves plant other churches.

Have any of you studied these areas? What have you found?

 

Video: Felicity Dale on the house church movement

Several years ago, I wrote a book called An Army of Ordinary People: Stories of Real-Life Men and Women Simply Being the Church. I recently rediscovered a video where I talk about how I came to write the book and I answer questions about the simple/organic/ house church movement. Enjoy…

 

Q&A with Felicity Dale from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

God at work in the Congo

Rolland and Heidi Baker are seeing an incredible move of God across Mozambique and other countries of Africa with miracles and deliverances, healings and salvations, resulting in thousands of churches being planted. We love what they are doing and have a particular interest in it for a couple of reasons.

  1. Tony was at school with Rolland (a school for missionary kids in Taiwan)
  2. We had the incredible privilege of being there at the beginning of the revival in Mozambique. I’ll never forget it. We were in the UK when we heard about major floods in Mozambique where half the nation was under water. Rolland and Heidi were given responsibility for feeding thousands of people in the refugee camps. Within a few days of our return to the States, Tony, along with a friend who is a nurse were on a plane with boxes of medicines for medical relief work. The United Nations would fly them out to areas of higher ground where a makeshift refugee camp had been set up and they would hold clinics, distribute food and preach the gospel.

A couple of months later, Tony and I and two of our kids went back there to continue the work. Everywhere we went we would hold a clinic, deliver food and tell the people about Jesus. Invariably almost everyone there would respond to the message and ask for salvation. Rolland and Heidi would follow up with one of the pastors they had trained, and so a church would start. We also held clinics on the city garbage dump where people eked out a living by scavenging through the trash the dump trucks brought in. The filth and the stench of burning trash were indescribable. I remember Heidi kneeling on the ground hugging and loving on some of the kids. It’s a revolution of love that’s going on. What a privilege to have witnessed Jesus’ love conquering the most difficult of circumstances.

Now the Bakers are seeing God at work in the Congo. Check out this video.

Women and the harvest

According to Jesus, if there’s a lack of harvest, it’s not because the harvest is especially difficult, it’s due to lack of workers.

The harvest is great but the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)

Jesus’ solution? We pray for workers for the harvest. These workers are not only existing Christians, but also those who don’t yet know the Lord. However, in the church, we often sideline half the workers for the harvest—the female half. Their engagement in the harvest is limited to inviting their friends to attend church with them. (I recognize this is often true for the men too.)

If we truly want to see great harvest, then women need to take on roles usually assigned to men. They need to make disciples and baptize them, to teach and train, to start churches, to give Communion, to strategize and plan for the harvest.

 

 

Stories from the church that meets in our home

I love the church that meets in our home. We are so blessed! How does one communicate the fun that we have just being together–the laughter and warmth as we share a meal? The joy in having visitors with us?

Usually we start the “spiritual” part of our time together by asking a question: “What has God done for anyone this week?”

This last Friday the following happened:

  • The “miracle baby” was with us for the first time and we celebrated God’s goodness to the family again.
  • A businessman shared how he had held a grudge against someone who had cheated him over a year ago. This week he finally forgave the person and his business took a sudden upswing.
  • A young woman shared how God has just set her free from years of incredible darkness with many medications. She’s a completely different person. It all happened following prayer.
  • A lady who was given a Bible at her baptism in December just finished reading the whole book through for the first time.
There were other great things shared too and we spent most of our time in praise and thanksgiving for God’s love and mercy and in prayer for each other.

God is so good!

 

 

The top three reasons it’s important to include women

Women are often undervalued and sidelined in the church, especially when it somes to strategic thinking and planning. Leadership equals servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28), and  we, the church, are supposed to be listening to our head, Jesus, and following what he says. Since women are used to serving, and they often hear him more clearly, it therefore seems very short-sighted not to include them. (If you have questions about the theology of this, check out a series of posts starting here.)

But there are more important reasons to include women. Here are the top three:


Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher via Compfight cc

 1.  The Harvest: When women co-labor alongside men, the workforce for the harvest potentially doubles.

2.  The Harvest: Psalm 68:11 (NASB) says this–The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host.

3.  The Harvest: Wherever we see a massive harvest going on around the world, women are often in the forefront. For example, in China, especially during the revival in the 1980′s and 90′s, female pastors and evangelists outnumbered males 3:1. In India, women apostles are responsible for thousands of churches. Women can often get into the places where men cannot go with the good news of the Kingdom. As Dr. Yonggi Cho once told us, “If you want to see a move of God, use your women.”

The easiest way to plant a house church

It’s probably not what you think!

Most Christians, especially those from a more traditional form of church background, assume the obvious way to start any kind of church is to invite a few Christians to their home for fellowship. As other believers join them and the group gets large enough, they will multiply out into two churches and so on.

This is not the best way for several reasons:

  1. The Christians will bring all their preconceived ideas about church with them. It will be more of a challenge to think in the fresh, out-of-the-box ways that simple/organic church requires. The temptation will be to do “Honey, I shrunk the church!”
  2. It is more difficult to be missional–existing believers tend to focus on the gathering. Many Christians don’t have non-believers within their sphere of influence.
  3. You are trying to create community where a natural one doesn’t exist. Yes, there is a “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” with all other believers, but as you add people to a group, it will take time for people to share their everyday lives together outside of meetings.
  4. Multiplication usually occurs very, very slowly.

It is far easier to make disciples of those who don’t yet know the Lord, and to work within their existing sphere of influence. As their family and friends find the Lord, multiplying churches are the natural result. The advantages:

  1. The problems and issues that come up are those of life, not theology or ecclesiology.
  2. Community already exists and their shared lives will continue outside of the meeting context.
  3. New disciples have a natural mission field all around them and evangelism follows spontaneously along relational lines.
  4. It’s easy to create a vision and expectation of multiplication.

What has been your experience?  Can you think of other reasons to primarily work with not-yet-believers?

Photo Credit: Tense (Creative Commons)