Photo credit: rightee (Creative Commons)
Vision is one of our greatest challenges here in the West. We think too small, and act accordingly. Our dreams are limited by what we believe we can accomplish. This post is the second part of a vision statement put out by an apostle from Asia who is constantly seeing things that amaze us. You can read the first part of his statement here.
Among all the issues and challenges, lack of vision is the greatest weakness. With all our small thinking, hiccups, resource crunch and other failures and hang-ups, is making 10 million new connections doable in three years? Just by mobilizing your disciples to catch one person per month and training them to do the same, can your disciples add 10 million to the Body of Christ in 3 years? Can we agree to this target for 2012-15?!!
Is it possible to reach the whole world and bring them to faith in the Lord Jesus in this generation – the answer must be ‘Yes!’ Simply by being obedient to two of the commands of the Lord Jesus – Follow Me and Make Disciples!!
What will it take for you to start this chain reaction and for it to go viral?
- Debunk all existing myths surrounding the traditional church, even the house churches that are not multiplying. Go for the flexible “Third Place Discipling Church” that happens wherever you spend 8 hours of the day. That way no one will have the excuse of being too busy. Focus on small group discipling as worship rather than on large group gathering and singing as worship.
- Filter out all those who have excuses. Don’t waste time on them but invest time and resources only on those who are willing to invest their own time and resources. Most of the resources are in the harvest field. Regional training and apostolic visits are the only times you may need external resources.
- Opening of e-gates. Use mobile phones and the Internet which are now ubiquitous (five billion mobile phones in circulation worldwide; companies are planning to add another billion customers in 2012). Provide facilities for downloading Bibles in their language, God story and Christian music (Great Commission songs ). Send SMS to non-believers instead of sending wonderful gospel messages to well meaning but non-performing Christians. Use mobile phones not just for voice communication but for multi-tasking. Can be used for discipling, providing privacy and safety to both the mentor and the mentee.
- Focus on young people. All the disciples of Jesus and Paul were young people.
- Focus on women as they are relational and have access to closed doors in restricted communities.
- Focus on the supernatural rather than on a cognitive, academic, intellectual approach.
- Focus on “Church Planting Movement Planters (CPMPs)” rather than on evangelism.
- Focus on discipling rather than on preaching, where Christ has not been named.
- Focus on rapidity (instant baptism) rather than on stability (the same people gathering every Sunday).
- Be intentional in sparking a CPM (Church Planting Movement) but it must end out of human control. spontaneity (Holy Spirit driven).
- Focus on developing local leadership and passing the baton to them, but keep the connexion.
- Periodically monitor to see that the goals are being achieved and if necessary, do a course correction.
- Measure your success not by buildings, bodies and budgets, not even by the missionary force on the field or graduates coming out of your Bible schools. Instead measure it by disciples made, baptized, equipped, sent, People Groups reached and territories possessed….until the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.
First Corinthians 12: 27-28 says this:
All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages
What many people take from this is that apostles hold the most important position in the church, the top of the hierarchy. Prophets are second most important, teachers third etc. So to be an apostle is to be the most important person in leadership. Like this:
The problem with this view is that leadership in the New Testament is not positional, but functional. Another way to view it would be like building a house. First you need an architect, then someone to lay the slab, then someone to frame the house. Later would come plumbers and electricians etc. It's a question of function. The architect is essential to lay the plans for the house, and his work comes before the work of the electricians and plumbers, but without all these other functions, the house would not be built.
An apostle is one who is sent out (meaning of the Greek word apostello). He/she is the one who is usually the first person in a place or people group with the good news of the Kingdom.
A.W. Tozer wrote this:
"The God of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much within the constitution. Never breaks our bylaws. He's a very well-behaved God and very denominational and very much one of us, and we ask Him to help us when we're in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we're asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn't a God I could have much respect for, but when the Holy Ghost shows us God as He is, we admire Him to the point of wonder and delight." (The Quotable Tozer)
Here's what Paul said:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Col 1:15-18)
Who leads your church?
We can ask God to bless our plans, our programs, our vision. Or we can join God in what he is doing, following where he leads us, responsive to his every whisper.
Let's make "Jesus, head of his church" a practical reality.
One of the problems with the "Honey, I shrunk the church!" approach is that it is too complex to be reproducible, especially by new believers. Since most people's greatest fear is of public speaking, that makes giving a talk a huge hurdle for people to attempt, even with a smaller audience. What if there is not a skilled guitarist in the group? Or no one is used to leading a meeting?
If we are to see rapidly multiplying churches, then the one thing that makes our times together reproducible is simplicity!
Let's apply that principle to what might happen in our times together.
Meals: if we produce a gourmet home-cooked meal when we get together, then what it says to others is that they could only consider hosting something if they can produce something similar. Anyone can arrange a simple potluck when everyone contributes.
Praying: if someone prays 5 minute sermon prayers, this will inhibit anyone but the most experienced Christian from praying. Brief sentence prayers are much wiser–everybody gets a turn, or even multiple turns.
Teaching: this is an idol in many Western churches today. Many pastors spend hours preparing a sermon–but according to research conducted by the Barna group, the typical attender cannot remember the topic 2 hours later. No, the important thing is that people learn and apply Biblical truths, and they are far more likely to do that if they participate themselves. People remember 20% of what they hear, 50% of what they see and hear and 70% of what they say themselves. A participatory study of the Bible is far more effective than a talk or sermon, and there is no preparation required.
If simple patterns are introduced right from the start, then anyone can facilitate a simple/house/organic church. We've even had believers who are only a few weeks old in the Lord lead simple church gatherings once a simple pattern has been demonstrated.
In the last post, we described that we are not looking for, "Honey, I shrunk the church," where someone leads from the front and there is pre-organized worship and teaching.
But before we look at what a church meeting looks like we need to answer an important question, "What is church?" All of us know it is not the building, but how many of us think of it as the event, the meeting, as in, we GO to church. But church is never described as a meeting in the New Testament.
There are three main pictures of church given in the New Testament:
1. A body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12): All the members of the body are important, and so is the diversity. The Corinthians passage makes it plain that we should celebrate our differences. The body doesn't consist of all eyes, or all hands. Each is important. Not only that, greater honor should be given to weaker members of the boy. As each person contributes what the Holy Spirit gives them and according to their gifting, Christ is more fully demonstrated in our midst. Jesus is the head of this body and all of us are connected to the head.
2. A temple (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20): A physical building cannot contain God (Acts 7:48). We are living stones built into a temple. God no longer dwells in buildings, but in this living temple. Jesus is the cornerstone of this temple.
3. A family (Ephesians 2:19): You do not go to family. Being family doesn't depend on meeting together, but on relationship. Now healthy families will get together–often–but it is not the meeting together that makes us family, but our relationship together. We are all sons/daughters of God (John 1:12) Jesus himself is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:19)
Last week, I sent out a tweet asking people to vote on the next topic I will be covering in this blog. The votes are in! By a 2 to 1 majority, people would like to hear more about the subject of church planting. So over the next few weeks, I will be covering that topic.
I often hear the comment, "Jesus did not tell us to plant churches, he asked us to make disciples." This is indeed true. However, the phrase, "make disciples," only comes once in the Gospels, or indeed in the whole of the New Testament for that matter, and that is in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. But both disciple making and church planting are very clearly demonstrated throughout the book of Acts. The two are inseparable. When disciples were made, a church was the result. The job of the apostolic teams that were sent out was to preach the good news of the kingdom. The result? New disciples gathered into churches.
On another note, I am excited to see that the new book by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet is in the Amazon top 10! (http://amzn.to/9j6hqd) Congratulations to both!