A successful pattern for multiplying disciples

It’s 2001, and Tony and I are in India where we are speaking at a conference. Another of the speakers is from India, and he’s someone we’ve wanted to meet for a long time because we’ve heard that he’s in the middle of an extraordinary, multiplying church planting movement. So in every break, I take the opportunity to pummel him with questions.

One of the first is this: “Where do you find the principles that are leading to the extraordinary growth you are seeing?”
His answer? “They come in Luke 10.”

In fact, it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, if you ask the people who are seeing exponential church multiplication, they come back to this same passage.

So let’s take a look at Luke chapter 10. Note that there are similar principles discussed in Luke 9 and Matthew 10. It seemed to be Jesus’ modus operandi when reaching out to places he hadn’t yet visited. We’ll meander through these verses over a series of blog posts.

*The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.* (Luke 10:1)

Often when we train people, we’ll have them study this passage looking for four symbols: a question mark (is there something you don’t understand?); a light-bulb (what was an “aha” moment for you in this verse, something that seemed to make things come clear?); an arrow (what do you need to do or change in order to obey this verse?) and an ear (who do you know who needs to hear what you’ve been learning? Who will you share it with?)

Here are some of the points that usually come out of verse 1.

1. Jesus chose 72 others. Who were they “other” to? The twelve (see the beginning of Luke 9). So in all, he had 84 disciples he was working with.
2. He sent them ahead of him to all the towns and places he planned to visit. If Jesus sends you somewhere, for example, if you change jobs, or move house, it’s because he wants to touch the new workplace or neighborhood via you.
3. He sent them out in pairs, not in large numbers. Often, when an established church is trying to reach a new neighborhood, they send out a team of people including a musician, someone who can teach, people to take care of the kids etc. That wasn’t the way Jesus operated.
4. Why in pairs and not alone? For support and accountability.

Jesus had a plan for that area and a strategy for reaching it. He sent the disciples out—“You two can go to this village. You two will meet someone at an inn on the road to this city….”

What did the disciples have to do? They listened to Jesus and then they obeyed him.

Does Jesus have a strategy for your area? Of course!
How do we find out Jesus’ strategy? We listen to Him and we obey him.

multiplication

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What in the world is God up to?

God is doing incredible things all around the world.

  • There are probably more Christians in China now than members of the Communist Party.
  • In Asia, the T4T training has resulted in more than 1.7 million baptisms over the past 10 years.
  • In India, a Hindu nation, one house church network with which I am familiar, is seeing around one million baptisms per year.
  • Now seems to be God’s time for the Muslim world. In one nation we know, there are thousands of house churches. In another area of the Middle East, there is a movement that has more than12,000 house churches.
  • A Buddhist nation has seen more than 110,000 new believers in the past 10 years.
  • In 1991, when the Communists lost control of Mongolia, there were maybe 4 or 5 known Christians. Estimates are that now, just over 20 years later, there are around 100,000.
  • In Africa, Rolland and Heidi Baker have seen more than 10,000 new churches formed in Mozambique and the surrounding nations.

A few years ago, all of this would have seemed impossible. We may not be seeing huge numbers here in the West, but God is on the move in much of the rest of the world. Most (not all) the examples I’ve given here have occurred with disciple making movements/church planting movements. In these movements, the emphasis is on what is going on outside of the traditional church building. Ordinary believers are making disciples and leading small groups that eventually meet as churches.

I know that numbers are not everything, but they are an indication of what God is up to. Several years ago, Wolfgang Simson did a survey of the largest churches in the world. If you include networks of churches that meet in homes, then numbers one through 19 are networks of house churches and number 20, at the time of his survey, was Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea.

Throughout the world, God is using ordinary people—just like you—to start churches. What is there to stop you doing the same?

Dandelion seeds

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Rethinking movements

I’ve had the incredible privilege of being part of various moves of the Holy Spirit–most recently, the simple/organic/house church movement. Right now, I’m putting considerable thought into the topic of movements. The reason: Others have encouraged me not to just sit back after publishing The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church but to consider whether God might want to do more.

I’ve begun wondering if what is going on with women may turn out to be a move of God. I recently met with Alan and Deb Hirsch, both of whom feature in the book, and they, too, encouraged me to explore it further. My longing is certainly that men and women partner together as co-equals for the Kingdom.

My thoughts on this so far are very non-technical and only just beginning to take shape:

A movement occurs when the thoughts and actions of a group of individuals begin to impact the prevailing culture.

There are various different ways a spiritual movement begins:

  1. God begins to speak to different people in various places about the same thing. They find each other, and begin co-operating together. Examples would include the house church movements of both the UK and the US, both of which had a profound influence on the church culture.
  2. Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich was once asked whether the best way to transform society was by revolution or reformation. His reply was, “Neither. You tell an alternative and compelling story.” Example? Luke 10:2b prayer went viral across the nations through the power of story.
  3. People actively engage in principles that are known to create transformation. Many church planting movements overseas are this way. There are well recognized principles to multiplying disciples and churches.

Obviously, we cannot manufacture movement. It takes a sovereign work of God. But we can co-operate with him. Many  Spirit-led movements are a combination of all three of these principles.

[Other secular movements may rely on resistance. For example, Gandhi or Mandela and peaceful collective action. The civil rights movement and the LGBT movements would also be examples. The people initially involved deliberately developed  strategies that changed nations.]

I have no idea if God will create a significant movement of men and women working together as co-equals, but I long that he does so. The indications are there. To me, it feels very similar to the beginning of other movements I’ve been part of.

What do you think?

If any of you are interested in hearing further developments as they arise (for example, there’s a round table happening later this month to discuss these issues further), you can sign up for email updates here. (If you’re already on the list of those praying for  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, you’ll automatically be included.)

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?

 

A true story that makes me angry (and sad)!

It takes a lot to render me speechless. Even more to make me angry. This story happened yesterday.

We have had a delightful lady church planter from India staying with us this week. She trains other women church planters and between them they have seen 50,000 to 60,000 baptisms of women over the last few years. In the network that she and her husband run, there have been around 250,000 baptisms. They have planted thousands of house churches.

This lady is in the United States to get her doctorate in ministry–she comes over once a year to attend the course in person. The course is about missions and how to reach the world for Christ.

I was driving her back to the airport and the subject of the book I’m compiling on women came up. I told her that in some circles, in this country, women are not allowed to speak in church.

“I understand what you mean when you say that ,” she said. “I am the only woman in the group taking this course, and I don’t say anything.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m not allowed to speak because I am a woman.”

“Do the people in the course have any idea what you are involved in?” I asked. “Do they know how many churches you have and how many people have become Christians through what you are doing?”

“Oh no,” she replied, “I haven’t been able to tell them. I’m not allowed to take part in any of the discussions that the men have.”

I asked her several questions to make sure I was really understanding her correctly. The men are allowed to speak during the course but she has to keep silent. They teach from theory but do not benefit from her experience. They have no idea what a treasure they have in their midst.

Here’s a woman who has seen what these men long to see–a move of God–and she’s muzzled.

It’s the men’s loss, but oh, what a tragedy!

 

 

Roger Bannister and your dreams

In 1954, British runner Roger Bannister proved that it only took one person to break the goal of a four-minute mile. Everybody said it couldn’t be done. Athletes had been attempting to break the four-minute barrier for years, and it was said to be a physical impossibility for the human body. Enter Bannister, a British runner who was training to be a physician. When he started his running career at Oxford University in 1946 at the age of seventeen, he had never previously worn spikes or run on a track. But he showed such promise that he was selected as an Olympic possible. Skipping the 1948 Olympics because he wasn’t ready, Bannister came in fourth place in the one-mile race at the 1952 Olympics. As other athletes inched towards the four-minute goal, Bannister, too, set his sights on the record.

The fateful event took place at a running meet in Oxford on May 6th, 1954, watched by around 3,000 spectators. Bannister won the race. The announcer spun out the results as long as possible:

“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event 9, the one mile: 1st, Number 41, R.G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which—subject to ratification—will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was 3…”

The remainder of the announcement was impossible to hear as a roar went up from the crowd. Bannister’s time was three minutes, 59.4 seconds. The four-minute barrier had been broken. Once it had been proved that the record could be broken, many athletes attempted and broke the four-minute barrier. It has become the standard for male, professional middle distance runners. Amazingly, the record has since been lowered by almost 17 seconds.

We’ve seen many Kingdom barriers broken in our lifetime–the most rapidly growing church planting movements in history (India and China), tens of thousands becoming Christians in countries that are traditionally hostile to the gospel, the rapid spread of simple/organic church concepts here in the US. All it has taken is one or more role models to show it can be done and then many follow in their footsteps.

Can we be that one individual who dares to believe the impossible can, with God’s help, become a reality?

One of the things I long to see is the culture in this country change to accept women as co-equals alongside men in the Kingdom.

What areas are you believing for?

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