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The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 2

The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 2

– By Steve Smith –

In part 1 we shared two essentials for helping groups become churches. Here are the other two.

  1. Make sure you have a SPECIFIC LESSON (OR LESSONS) ON CHURCH and its ordinances in your early discipleship.

You should have a clear biblical definition of church and model church-like meetings during each small group meeting. If you do, it will be easy to help the group become a church when you go through the “church” lesson in your short-term discipleship. If you want groups that become churches and plant churches, include one or two lessons on becoming a church by about session four or five. Make sure this is something that group members can obey and pass on to groups they start.

Have a specific goal in mind when you go through the church lesson: This week we will commit to becoming a church and will add in any missing characteristics of a church.

For example, when a group goes through the lesson(s) on church, one of two things usually happens:

1 Step: A group recognizes it is already a church and is practicing the characteristics of church. At this point it takes the final step by committing to being a church together (gains identity and covenant).

2 Steps: More often, a group recognizes that it is lacking in some of the elements of church. It takes two conscious steps forward to 1) add in those elements (e.g. Lord’s Supper, offerings) and then 2) commit to becoming church together (covenant).

  1. Use CHURCH HEALTH MAPPING to help a group evaluate whether they have all the elements of church life.

A great diagnostic tool called Church Health Mapping (or Church Circles) can be used with a group, or the leaders of a group or network of groups, to help them determine if the group is a church. This tool helps them spot weaknesses and correct these. It also helps them see which groups may not yet be a church.

CPMs commonly do this by making church circles the lesson on church. After a small group identifies the basic elements of a church from Acts 2 (they usually come up with around ten), they draw symbols for them and evaluate whether or not their group is practicing them.

The church lesson makes the following application:

As a group, on a blank paper, draw a dotted line circle representing your own group. Above it, list 3 numbers: the number regularly attending (stick figure), the number believing in Jesus (cross) and the number baptized after believing (water).

If your group has committed to being a church, make the dotted line circle solid. Then put an icon representing each of the remaining elements inside or outside the circle. If the group is regularly practicing the element itself, put it inside. If the group is not, or waits for an outsider to come do it, put it outside the circle. 

SYMBOLS:

  1. Covenant – solid line instead of dotted line
  2. Baptism – water
  3. Word – book
  4. Lord’s Supper or Communion – a cup
  5. Fellowship – heart
  6. Giving & Ministry – money sign
  7. Prayer – praying hands
  8. Praise – upraised hands
  9. Evangelism – one friend holding hands with a friend he led to faith
  10. Leaders – two smiley faces

Finally, you can give your church a name. This helps you establish an identity as a church in your community. Remember that your goal is to develop a multi-generational Church Planting Movement to the 4th generation and beyond. So including the generation number helps you see where you are in seeing God start a movement in your community.

At this point, it is fairly easy to see what is blocking the group from really becoming a church. Though they may be lacking something, you now see a way to transform this group into a church, and they see it too! This very empowering, practical process lets the group prayerfully brainstorm how to add each of the elements into the circle. These become clear action plans for the group.

Generations of Churches

You must train the disciples you are training to purposefully help groups become churches. This should happen at a key stage in the short-term discipleship process by having a specific lesson(s) on becoming church. Church health mapping can also help you in that process. Then becoming a church will be a natural step in the process of discipleship. And you will have passed a major milestone toward a Church Planting Movement. How exciting when many generations of believers form their groups of new believers into churches at about the fourth or fifth meeting! When this happens over four generations of new churches, Church Planting Movements emerge! 

 

If you have no church lesson or purposeful reproducible process of transforming a group into church, then expect very few new churches!

 

If you include a simple church-planting process with a church lesson early on, then you can expect new generations of churches!

 

This may not be a process you are familiar with yet. It may challenge your ministry paradigms, but let’s not be afraid to sacrifice our paradigms for the sake of seeing God’s kingdom come! It is a helpful process to help us return to the original discipleship revolution of the Book of Acts. It is a helpful process to help us return to some of the more explosive movements in history. It is a process to help us more fully cooperate with the Spirit of God. 

 

The very simplicity and purposefulness of this process means that any believer, empowered by the Spirit, can become a church planter. Churches are not meant to multiply only across the landscape of the mission field. They should be and are multiplying in homes, community centers, schools, parks and coffee shops throughout the world. May His kingdom come!

Using the Four Helps with the Team from South East Asia

As I worked through the four helps with the team in South East Asia, we came to the fourth Help, church health mapping, or “church circles,” for short. I called one of the longer-tenured workers to the white board. I asked him to describe one small group of believers to the class. As he described this Bible study group, I represented it with a dotted-line circle on the board. Going through Acts 2:37–47, I asked him to assess which of the elements of the early Acts church were happening regularly in this small group. If an element was happening, we drew a symbol representing it inside the circle. If it was missing, we drew it outside the circle.

 

As we all stepped back to assess the status of this group becoming church, the diagram showed a couple of clear weaknesses. The group was not practicing the Lord’s Supper nor were they giving to meet needs. The symbols for these two elements were drawn outside the dotted-line circle.  I drew an arrow from Lord’s Supper to the inside of the circle and asked my colleague: “What would it take for this group to start practicing the Lord’s Supper?” The worker thought for a moment. He then said that when he returned to his place of service, he could easily coach the group leader how to implement the Lord’s Supper the following week. As the colleague gave his answers, I summarized them along the arrow as action plans.

 

I did the same with giving, drawing an arrow to the inside of the circle. Once we had brainstormed action plans to put that into practice, I wrote these action plans on the arrow also.

 

Finally, I got to the core question: “Does this small group see itself as a church?” After some thought, the worker decided they did not. I suggested that if the group could commit to being church, they would have an identity as church and truly become a church. If that happened, then we would color in the dotted circle as a solid-line circle. I asked the worker what it would take to help the group take that step. He felt that two things would finalize their transition from an outreach group to a genuine church. First, taking them through a study of Acts 2:37–47, then helping them make a firm covenant to God and each other. I wrote this action plan on the dotted-line circle representing the group.

 

With excitement the worker and the group eyed the three major action plans on the white board. All were very possible. In fact, the worker planned to do these things the next week with two nearly identical small groups. This worker, serving in a remote location, trembled with excitement. For over seven years, he and his family had worked to share the gospel widely. They had trained national partners and discipled new believers into groups. All the while they had longed for the first churches ever to be started among this people group. Now through a simple, yet focused and purposeful step they were going to witness the birth of the first churches!

 

I saw this worker again last week, just over a year after that training event. Not only have these groups become churches. They are now helping other new groups walk through the same process of becoming churches.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Adapted from an article originally published in the September-October 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 25-26, and published on pages 74-86 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

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The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 1

The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 1

– By Steve Smith –

Going from Group to Church

In Church Planting Movements, we devote much time to finding persons of peace, winning them and their household, grouping them and discipling them. 

 

But where do churches fit into this mix? When do these groups become churches, if ever?

New believers must be gathered into churches. This is God’s design from the beginning of history. Living in community as church is the King’s way to equip His people – to be what they were designed to be and do what they were called to do.

 

Any CPM approach should purposefully form groups into churches at a key stage in the early discipleship process. Getting to church is a vital milestone in the Church Planting Movement process.

 

Not all groups become churches. Sometimes they become home-based cells of a larger church but still carry out the functions of the Body of Christ. The essential point is to help new believers become a part of the Body of Christ in a reproducible form that fits their community.

 

Two guidelines govern CPM churches:

 

BIBLICAL: Is this model and/or each aspect of church consistent with the Scripture?

 

There is no standard biblical model of what a church must be. We see numerous examples of culturally-adapted models in the Scripture. In CPMs we do not propose only one model of church as THE biblical model. Many models of church can be biblical. So the question is: “Is this model (and its elements) consistent with scriptural teaching?”

 

CULTURALLY REPRODUCIBLE: Is this model of church something an average new believer can start and organize? 

 

Since many models of church can faithfully serve the scriptural teaching, the secondary question becomes: “Which one best fits the culture and can best reproduce in our community?” The general guideline is: “Could an average young believer start and organize such a church?” Otherwise, church planting will be left to a few highly trained individuals.

 

With these two guidelines in mind, CPM approaches help believers start simple churches that enable disciples to faithfully follow Jesus as the body of Christ. When initiating CPMs, for the sake of reaching all the lost, we advocate CPM churches that are relevant and reproducible. That type of church will need to emphasize smaller church meetings in easy to find locations. These might include homes, offices, coffee shops and parks rather than locations that are costly to purchase or build.

Four Helps in Getting to Church

I was training a group of workers in Southeast Asia when we came to the subject of helping small groups (e.g. Bible study groups) actually become churches. The workers in this context were struggling to get churches started, not to mention the larger goal of a Church-Planting Movement (CPM). I took them through a set of four helps in the church-planting process—really a rather simple, but purposeful exercise in birthing authentic communities of faith.

It is not difficult to start reproducible churches if you have a clear process in your evangelism and discipleship. Clear purpose is vital. You must have a clear lesson(s) in your early discipleship which helps a group of believers consciously become a church. To establish churches that will start new churches, we have found these four practices especially helpful. 

  1. Know what you are trying to achieve: a CLEAR DEFINITION of when a group becomes a church.

It is difficult to start a church if you do not have a clear idea in mind of when a group moves from being a cell group or Bible study to a church.

Scenario: A group has been meeting independent of any church for three months. They have great worship times and deeply moving Bible studies. They listen to the Word and try to obey whatever it says. They are making plans to visit a nursing home to minister to the needs of people there. Are they a church?

There’s probably not enough information there for you to decide. Is it a church or a great Bible study group? If your definition of when a group becomes church is not clear, you might be tempted to call this group a church. The first step in starting churches is having a clear definition of what a church is—the basic essential elements of a church. We start small training groups that intend from the beginning to become churches.

Acts provides a concrete example that can be helpful here:

Activity:  Read Acts 2:36-47. Try not to make things too complicated. Boiled down, what made this group a church?

Write down your answer.

Here is an example of a definition of church created from the Acts 2 passage. It emphasizes the ten elements of the 3 Cs of church: Covenant, Characteristics, and Caring leaders.

  • Covenant (1): a group of baptized (2) believers [Mt.18:20; Acts 2:41] who recognize themselves as Christ’s body and are committed to meeting together regularly [Acts 2:46] 
  • Characteristics: they regularly abide in Christ through the characteristics of church:
  • Word (3): Studying and obeying the Scripture as authoritative
  • The Lord’s Supper or Communion (4)
  • Fellowship (5): loving care for one another
  • Including giving offerings (6) to meet needs and minister to others
  • Prayer (7)
  • Praise (8): whether spoken or sung
  • They live out a commitment to share the gospel (evangelism) (9)
  • Caring Leaders (10): As the church develops, leaders are appointed according to biblical standards (Titus 1:5-9) and exercise mutual accountability, including church discipline.

For the sake of church planting, the 3Cs are in order of priority. The most important C is “Covenant.” The group sees itself as church (identity) and has made a commitment (covenant) to follow Jesus together. This does not mean they must have a written covenant. They have simply made a conscious step to become church. Many times a church will give itself a name to signify this step.

The second part of the definition is “Characteristics.” A group may call itself a church, but if it lacks the basic characteristics of a church, it is not really a church. If an animal barks, wags its tail and walks on four legs, you may call it a duck, but it is really a dog. 

Finally, a healthy church will quickly develop indigenous (local culture) “Caring Leaders.” A church may exist before these leaders develop. We see a good example of this at the end of Paul’s first journey. In Acts 14:21-23, Paul and Barnabas visited the churches they had planted in the previous weeks and months and appointed elders for them at this point. For the long-term health of the churches, caring leaders should be raised up from within.

The first step in starting churches is: Know what you are trying to achieve and have a clear definition of when a group becomes a church.

  1. When you start a training group, MODEL from the beginning the parts of church life mentioned above.

A church planter was having a hard time helping the groups he was training to become churches. As he described to me his training groups, the process sounded like a sterile classroom experience. As the group worked through the lessons, they received knowledge but not warmth. In this classroom setting he was teaching them to start something different in their homes. He was modeling something different than what he hoped they would do. I suggested he change his training meetings into a format similar to what he would want the churches to look like. This would make it much easier for these groups to actually become churches.

The easiest way to transition a new small group into a church is to start living as church and modeling church from the very first meeting. That way, when you get to the discipleship lesson on church, you have already been experiencing it together. For example, in each meeting starting the first week, T4T employs a three-thirds discipleship process. This involves looking back to evaluate the previous week, looking up to receive more from God, and looking ahead in order to obey and serve Him faithfully. These three-thirds incorporate the basic elements of church such as worship, prayer, Word, fellowship, evangelism, ministry, etc.

Do your best from the first small group meeting to model what you want this new church to eventually look like. The lesson on church should come as no surprise. You don’t want to spend 4-5 weeks together as a “class” and then announce: “Today we will have the lesson on church and become a church,” and completely change your manner of meeting. Becoming a church should be a natural next step in the process of meeting together.

In part 2 we will share the other two essentials for helping groups become churches.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Adapted from an article originally published in the September-October 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pp. 22-25.

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Part 3. God-Sized Vision and Expansion

Part 3. God-Sized Vision and Expansion

By Trevor Larsen –

Our initial goal in 1998 was 200 groups in one Unreached People Group; that was the vision: “God give us 200 groups.” When I said that, I thought: “Should I even tell anyone? They’re going to think I’m crazy!” Because there had never been any progress for decades, in fact centuries. But now, after starting from that one UPG, 75 other UPGs have many believers in this family of linked movements among Muslims, (except one Hindu UPG). As it spreads from our country to other countries, some Buddhist-background Communists are being reached. But the greater focus is on Muslims. Even in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand with Muslim minorities, we focus on the Muslims who live in those countries.

That’s in the DNA that we cultivated from day one. It grows out of my sense of stewardship. From the beginning we decided to count only Muslims in groups, to keep our focus there. We’re in a country in which Muslims are the dominant majority, so we get invitations to other blocks where there are large numbers of Muslims: South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Turkic bloc, and the Central Asia block. And I ask: “If the Lord is giving more fruit in our country right now, even though it’s not the same variant of Islam as other places, can our story build up faith and sharpen ministry models so that other teams might bear fruit elsewhere?” So I’ve been coaching people in the Middle East, who have gotten to movements. We have also been coaching people in other areas who have gotten to movements or emerging movements among Muslims. In some places we have made commitments to a three to five-year period of regular coaching with selected people who are ready to improve their model by aligning with the fruitful practices we discovered.

 We did a lot of ethnographic studies, to fit our model into one UPG’s culture. I did a study on the social-political power of Islamic leaders, and my national partners could ask a lot of questions as my research assistants. I assumed that our model, developed to fit our context, might have relevance in only that one unreached people group we were initially trying to reach. But then our movement bridged over into other unreached people groups. We discovered that our pattern of deeply researching local culture and context implanted the DNA of context-fittedness into our model. This flexibility has enabled us to adjust to different contexts as the gospel spreads. Seeing that gave me more confidence to accept an invitation to the Middle East. I could see it was working in a lot of different cultural contexts. Then some of the participants in training we did in the Middle East who were starting to multiply small groups, joined together with me for a coaching circles series by Zoom. We coached each other while they learned the coaching circle skills. After some time, the fruit of these coaching circles helped two movements develop.  This increased my confidence that I should use part of my time to train and coach outside our country, helping other teams implement the fruitful practices God was teaching us. 

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the spread of the gospel into more places and people groups in our country, and also glad we can help ministries advance their fruit in other countries. I pinch myself at the end of each quarterly evaluation and say: “Am I really in this dream? Lord, what’s to keep it from expanding to the next phase?” When I look at our last five years’ history before COVID, it has multiplied by 13 times, this makes me really excited about the next five years. We keep asking, “What obstacles are preventing growth? How can these be minimized? Let’s keep growing!” 

I think about the parable in Mark 4:26-29, where Jesus talks about the farmer who goes to sleep after he plants his seed. Jesus says, “He’s sleeping, and he doesn’t know how, but the seed sprouts and grows! It grows all by itself!” That is how I have felt many times. It doesn’t mean you don’t plant your seed with diligence as best you know how. But there’s also a sense that after you finish a day’s work and lay down your head on the pillow, you can just sleep, because God is working and he’s going to take the fruit of the gospel forward through other people. 

Since 2008, when we multiplied past 50 groups, I started writing articles after every quarterly retreat. (We have three days of quarterly retreats with the local movement catalysts, and I usually write three or four articles based on our discussions, for these 14 years. That’s lot of articles!) And I’ve been asked to teach a lot of courses for bachelors and masters and doctoral programs. So I have a lot of courses on biblical, mission, and leadership topics related to movements. I’ve sorted these articles into a set of 12 books under development. I’ve partially written each book, and three books are finished so far. They’re available on a website: www.focusonfruit.org. If you want to dig deeper into this, you can download the digital books that have been finished so far. We write first in our national language based on our long dialogs with field leaders. I type while movement catalysts discuss what they have been learning. It is quite a long process: rechecking it, cross-checking, making sure we have triangulation from different church planters in different populations and settings before we become confident that a fruitful practice has emerged. One of our completed books is on fruitful practices, another is the core skills that fruitful catalysts train over and over to their leaders and are reproduced through the generations of groups. Other books are biblical tools that leaders of multiplying sets of believer groups are using.
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The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 2

The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 2

By Steve Smith –

In part 1 we focused on the essential characteristic of “urgency.” We now turn our attention to…

GRIT

Grit: tenacious determination and staying power toward a mission, often in the face of insurmountable odds

Rooster Cogburn (epitomized by John Wayne in True Grit), guns ablazin’, conjures up images of someone staring down insurmountable odds to achieve a mission. But in the spiritual realm, tenacious grit has always characterized men and women God has called to launch movements.

Jesus’ one-term mission could not be stopped. His face was set like a flint toward the troubles that awaited him in Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51-53). Along the way, many declared their desire to follow Him. But one by one, He challenged their willingness to count the cost and their determination to stay the course (Lk. 9:57-62). Grit.

Grit characterized our Lord’s wrestling in the wilderness temptations and in Gethsemane’s final hour—the determined staying power to walk through insurmountable odds to reach the goal the Father had set.

Jesus implored His disciples to live with similar grit—an unwillingness to take “no” for an answer. Rather, like the widow beseeching the unrighteous judge, they “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk. 18:1-8).

Thus, the disciples throughout Acts continued their outward kingdom push in the face of amazing odds. When Stephen was stoned and fellow believers were dragged off to prison (Acts 8:3), what did they do? They preached the word as they were scattered! Paul, stoned in Lystra, got right back up to re-enter the city before moving on to the next destination. Paul and Silas, bound fast in a Philippian jail, sang praises to the Most High when circumstances were the most low. Spiritual grit kept them at the mission.

What circumstances can arise that would cause you to quit the mission of God? What is your grit level?

Secrets of grit can be found in Jesus’ determination to face the cross:

Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising [lit. counting it as nothing] the shame. (Heb. 12:2)

The joy of what was before Him—pleasing His Father, fulfilling His mission, providing redemption—led him to count the shame of the cross as nothing. The upside far outweighed the downside. 

Paul expressed similar sentiments.

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tm. 2:10)

The upside for Paul—that God’s chosen people in each place might find salvation—far outweighed the downside of enduring ridicule, beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks and stoning. Only a vision of the upside of the mission will steel us with the grit we need to endure the downside of difficulty to achieve it.

Our generation has within its means the ability to engage every remaining unreached people group and place with fruitful CPM approaches. We have within our ability the means to overcome every obstacle to fulfillment of the Great Commission and the Lord’s return. But such a generation will only rise up when it is resolved to finish the task with a renewed sense of urgency, steeled by grit to push through every obstacle.

Moses, the man of God, prayed in Psalm 90:12: 

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

 

What would happen if the global church recognized that time is limited? What if we set a date for completion of engaging every people group with an effective CPM strategy by a year such as 2025 or 2030? Perhaps we might live with wiser hearts filled with a sense of urgency, making whatever sacrifices are needed to fulfill the mission objective.

Let us live with a sense of urgency and endure with grit till the end is at hand.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, missionfrontiers.org, pages 40-43, and published on pages 239-247 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

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The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 1

The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 1

By Steve Smith –

Jack (pseudonym for a Southeast Asian disciple of Christ) grasped the bars of his cell door and peered down the hallway. His heart raced as sweat beaded down his forehead. Should he speak or not? As a former soldier, he recalled the cruel horrors inflicted in military prisons. Arrested for preaching the gospel, he was now on the wrong side of the bars. 

 

Should he speak? How could he not? His Lord had commanded him.

 

Gripping the bars more tightly, he spoke in a low voice to any guards stationed nearby. “If you don’t let me go, the blood of 50,000 people will be on your heads!” He darted back to the corner of the cell, awaiting a beating. But it never came.

 

I did it! I witnessed in the face of my captors.

 

The next day, grasping the bars, he spoke more loudly. “If you don’t let me go, the blood of 50,000 people will be on your heads!” But again no retribution came.

 

Each day he repeated this encounter with his captors, his voice growing louder with each declaration. The jailers admonished him to be quiet, but to no avail.

 

At the end of the week, Jack shouted so all could hear, “IF YOU DON’T LET ME GO, THE BLOOD OF 50,000 PEOPLE WILL BE ON YOUR HEADS!” For hours this went on until finally several soldiers grabbed Jack and loaded him on to a military truck. 

 

Jack looked around in apprehension expecting the end to come shortly. After a couple of hours, the truck rolled to a stop. The soldiers escorted him to the side of the road. “We can’t stand your constant shouting! You are at the border of the county. Leave here and never preach in this place again!”

 

As the trucked rambled back down the dusty road, Jack blinked in surprise. He had been faithful to the call to preach the good news in a county that had never heard of Jesus. The Lord had called him and the Lord had protected him. A few weeks later, filled with a sense of urgency and emboldened with spiritual grit, Jack and another brother slipped back into the county under cover of darkness to obey the great King’s command. Soon they led the first man to faith—a man through whom a church planting movement would be birthed.

 

The Intangible Elements of Fruitful CPM Catalysts

 

Two intangible characteristics rise to the top over and over again that seem to separate the most fruitful church planting movement (CPM) catalysts from many other laborers. Like Jack in that Asian prison, these elements are evident in the life of Christ and in the lives of the disciples in Acts. They are the accelerants that seem to spur on a spiritually-abiding servant of Christ to fruitfulness. Though it is hard to define them, I will refer to them as urgency and grit. For this purpose, I define urgency as purposefully living on mission with the awareness that time is limited. Grit is a tenacious determination and staying power toward that mission, often in the face of insurmountable odds.

 

These are not normally the first characteristics we look for in church planters and missionaries, usually because of negative connotations… 

 

  • Urgency: “He is too driven!”
  • Grit: “She is too stubborn!”

 

It is becoming less common to find laborers in the kingdom (at least in the Western world) who face their mission with gritted teeth and a sense of urgency that often keeps them awake at night. We much prefer people who have “margin.” Yet Jesus and Paul would probably not fit our definitions of people with appropriate margin. Today we might counsel them to “slow down,” spend more time on non-work interests and adjust their work-life balance.

 

Yet the men and women through whom God is birthing kingdom movements seem remarkably blind to the idea of margin as we define it. Rather, the mission of God consumes their lives, as it did with Jesus.

 

His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

 

Zeal was a defining characteristic that the disciples recalled about Jesus. Did John Wesley, writing sermons on horseback as he traveled from meeting to meeting, have such margin? Would a movement have emerged if he had? As William Carey chafed in England to be set loose to fulfill the Great Commission, would we characterize his life as a margin-filled life? Would Hudson Taylor, Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. fit such definitions?

 

Jim Elliot, the martyr said, 

 

He makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst though bear this my soul—in me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me thy fuel, Flame of God. God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee.  Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine.  I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.’

 

An encounter with CPM catalysts today evokes similar descriptions: passion, tenacity, determination, restlessness, driven-ness, zeal, faith, unwillingness to quit or take “no” for an answer. It is time to re-elevate the intangible elements of urgency and grit to the level we see them in the New Testament. 

 

Can they become out of balance? Undoubtedly. But the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.

 

URGENCY

 

Urgency: purposefully living on mission with the awareness that time is limited

 

Jesus lived with a sense of urgency, knowing his time of ministry (three years) was short. From the beginning to the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus frequently references his “hour” of departure from the world (e.g. Jn. 2:4, 8:20, 12:27, 13:1). Jesus knew in His spirit that the days were short and He must redeem each one for the mission on which His Father had sent Him.

 

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. (Jn. 9:4)

 

For example, while the disciples were ready to camp out in Capernaum after the prior day’s amazing success, Jesus decided exactly the opposite. Knowing His mission was to get through all of Israel before His departure, He left to begin the next stage of the journey.

 

And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mk. 1:38-39; see also Lk. 4:43-44)

 

A colleague describes this mentality as “one-term urgency” referring to the common length of a missionary term of service (3-4 years). 

 

Today’s experts might warn Jesus about “burnout.” But Jesus’ desire was not to burn out but to “flame out” or “burn up” at exactly the time the Father chose for him. Flaming out describes living with the urgency and intensity of the Father’s pace (His voice) toward the Father’s mission (His goal) for the Father’s pleasure (joy derived from knowing we are pleasing Him and doing His will—Jn. 4:34, 5:30). 

 

Burnout has little to do with margin or lack of margin, but rather with lack of fulfillment of a life well spent. Everyone today is busy; not everyone is purposeful. A busy existence lived aimlessly totters toward burnout.  But one rooted in the Father’s presence and for His purposes is life-giving. We end each day receiving God’s commendation: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Flaming out is letting our lives be completely used up by God at His pace and in response to His promptings, and letting Him end our lives in His good timing.

 

Jesus implores His disciples to live in a similar way. Urgency marked a common theme of the parables Jesus taught them. In the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 24:1-14) the servants are to compel people to come to the feast before it is too late. There is no time to lose. In the parable of ready servants, the servants are to stay “dressed for action” to keep alert for the Master’s return (Lk. 12:35-48). Urgency means that we don’t know how much time we have, so our lives are to be lived on purpose, redeeming the days.

 

The disciples carried this sense urgency with them in the mission efforts of Acts. Paul’s three journeys of thousands of miles (at the pace of foot traffic) and dozens of places squeezed into the span of 10-12 years has a dizzying effect. Paul had a mission (preaching to all of the Gentiles) and not much time to fulfill it. It is why he hoped not to linger in Rome but to be propelled by them toward Spain so that there would be no place left to lay a foundation for the gospel (Rom. 15:22-24).

 

Urgency to fulfill the stewardship given them by God has always driven the most fruitful servants of God:

 

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Co. 4:1-2)

 

In part 2 we will focus on the essential characteristic of “grit.”

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, missionfrontiers.org, pp. 40-43.

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About Movements

Learning Fruitful Practices through Experimentation

Learning Fruitful Practices through Experimentation

By Trevor Larsen –

One important way we have learned our ministry principles is through field experimentation, observing what God is doing through our interventions, while reflecting on Scripture. When we found a little bit of fruit (individuals who came to Christ, groups of believers, or other indicators of spiritual growth), we tried to examine: Why was that? What helped us progress? How can we increase those practices that were more fruitful? How can we decrease those practices that were not proving fruitful?

The earliest churches learned what God wanted them to do, by observing what he was doing, reflecting on how he had used humans to bear fruit, then reflecting on Scripture to obtain insight on God’s intent. We can see in Acts two examples of first observing what God was doing through people, then reflecting on Scripture to confirm new insight. Peter was surprised but compelled to follow, when God used supernatural means to lead him to the home of Cornelius a centurion of the Italian cohort. He was surprised because this advance of the gospel among Gentiles did not fit with Jewish traditions. “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me” (Acts 10:28-29). Clearly sensing God’s leading, both through God’s direct intervention and through the response of unbelievers to God, Peter shared the gospel. Acts records the Jews’ amazement that God was working among. While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-45)

They became convinced of God’s unexpected leading, by observing what God was doing. What they saw God doing in unbelievers, helped them understand what they should do: preach the gospel to Gentiles, baptize them, and accept them into their community of believers. When called by the leaders in Jerusalem to give account for this surprising development, Peter added that what he observed gave him new insight on John the Baptist’s words about Jesus’ baptism: “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life(Acts 11:15-18). For Peter, and for the Jerusalem leaders, the combination of observing God’s work in unbelievers plus reflecting on Scripture to gain new insight, convinced them of what they should do. 

Acts 15 reflects this same pattern of first observing (or hearing what had been observed by others) what God was doing among believers, followed by reflection on Scripture confirming God’s direction. This convinced all the early church leaders who had gathered, of what they should do. 

In short, we create experimental conditions, and do quarterly assessment, to rigorously promote fruitful practices and extinguish practices that were not fruitful. Of course, we don’t extinguish biblical practices, whether or not they contribute directly to fruitfulness, like helping the poor. We do that too, even though that may or may not create more believer groups, because of God’s commands to help the poor. That’s a different discussion; I’m just talking about those practices that we can modify without violating or ignoring biblical principles. 

Our DNA of experimentation has been fascinating to people who want to learn from us. When they come, they can hardly believe it, because local movement catalysts are telling us, each quarter: a) new experiments they are doing, b) how far they progressed in the three months they were doing an experiment, and c) what they will modify as they go forward in the next three months of the experiment. Our innovation goes forward in small increments each quarter. You can imagine the creative people we’ve attracted, and how their creativity has developed. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed: innovating and finding innovative local workers. 

It’s not that all the fruitful people I oversee are innovative. But I especially work with the 40% to 50% of them who are innovative, because they’re the ones discovering new pathways. The nature of UPG ministry is that there have been no gains for decades. If we keep doing the things other Christians were doing, we can be pretty sure we will still get no gains in the next decades. That’s why innovation is important in reaching UPGs, in areas where there have been no significant fruit gains in the past.

Here’s one example of experimental learning through a comparative case study. I would recruit good local evangelists, then watch them work and compare their stories. Comparing different practices of different people and comparing their fruit, is part of my learning and theirs. 

Our first team leader started three groups. He seemed to provide the model for the rest of the evangelists to follow. But he never got past three groups. Meanwhile the other guys were like a turtle in a race against a rabbit. They were far behind but kept working and eventually started one group. The leader already had three groups, then those who had started more slowly developed two groups each, then three groups each. Suddenly the planters who had started more slowly reported four and five groups, because some of their groups had started others. But the leader was still leading three groups personally, then it reduced to two groups. What was happening?

This comparison of different planters’ fruit created a question. “They’re all graduates of the same Bible College and had the same coaching, and all were working in the same area where 99.6% of the people are from the majority religion. What is happening differently?” Those who were getting to more groups were not forthcoming to share things in meetings for fear of embarrassing the leader who was getting more frustrated. They were not voicing a straightforward analysis. When I investigated it further, I found out that the leader was afraid that if he talked to groups rather than individuals, he would increase the risk for himself and his family. So he was only talking to individuals. That approach was getting a certain measure of fruitfulness, but it was not being reproduced by local people. Meanwhile the other planters who had started more slowly, were all talking with natural groupings of people and seldom with individuals. 

In our country, you almost never find someone alone. It’s so crowded, everybody’s always together. Even if you go to the store, or you go running, no matter where you go, you see people in groupings. They’re with their brother and their uncle and their friend: maybe four or five or six people. I don’t mean formal groups, but groupings. So those evangelists who started more slowly began to talk to groupings of local people. They adjusted their dialog style to fit into groupings. Initially, the sharing of the gospel in groupings came along more slowly than sharing with individuals. But when the people in the groups began to talk about the gospel with each other, and began to come to faith while supporting one another, those first local groupings of believers were not sterile. They reproduced by imitating the pattern. Individuals who were won to the Lord alone were sterile. They couldn’t have babies; they couldn’t copy the same process, because in our country, no one talks to an individual alone. If someone did talk to another person one on one, it seemed to signal that something was illegitimate about the topic being discussed. If something had to be hidden, it was probably shameful. “Why do you need to talk to an individual alone?” You’ve got to hide something. But when you talk in groupings of people who already know each other, it’s a signal that this is something that’s good to talk about with others. 

The people who came to the Lord in natural groupings, have an experience like the people in an Alcoholics Anonymous group: they give and receive support while they share what they are learning. These are people in Unreached People Groups who are doing something different than all the other people. They need each other for support to seek the Lord together through the Bible. They legitimize each other: “It’s okay to open the Bible and discuss it.” They provide protection for each other from being attacked by neighbors and friends. They can come to the Lord together and this is something they can replicate, because the social organization and dynamic supports ongoing interaction. It’s like a ping-pong game enjoyed by a group of friends: the ball is being hit back and forth while they laugh with each other. They dialogue back and forth about the Scripture and how to apply it, and the interaction is part of the fun. They’re fun-loving people; they like to do it together. So now they’re harnessing the social dynamics already present in the culture, and the groups start to multiply.

I shared the previous story as an example of how we learned one of our main principles. We have 15 or 20 fruitful practices. The fruitful practice we learned from this case was “Groups, not Individuals.” They made slogans out of each of the fruitful practices, and this is one of them: “Groups, not Individuals.” This fruitful practice is one of our guiding principles. We discovered it through experimentation, by comparing what was working to what was not working as well. 

When we had been going for 10 years and had 110 groups, I participated in a conference where I was asked to share our case study. I was on the plane thinking “They’re not going to believe it when I tell them there are 110 groups of people from the majority religion, who have come to Christ and are discussing the Bible and applying it. They’re going to think I’m lying!” But all the other case studies presented were from Africa and India, and they all had far more fruit than that!

It was such a good jolt for me, to realize that what had been developing in our country was only a little drop in the bucket, compared to what others had. It was a great encouragement to my faith to reflect: “There aren’t limits on an expandable system. This can keep going.” And during that conference, I received CPM training for the first time, done by David Watson: the DMM model.

Many conference participants didn’t like the CPM training because it jolted the way they’d been doing things in many years of ministry. They raised objections that didn’t need to be raised. I kept thinking: “I should stand up and tell them: ‘Why don’t you leave the room and let me to listen to this speaker?’ This is what we’ve been learning in our country. These principles are the same things God has been teaching us. How did he figure this out, in a different country?” That was my experience in that conference. What we had learned through experimentation in the field for many years, others had also discovered, in other contexts among other kinds of unreached peoples. But most of us don’t want to stop doing what we have been doing and try a new model.

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About Movements

A Church Planting Movement is a Leadership Movement – Part 2

A Church Planting Movement is a Leadership Movement – Part 2

By Stan Parks –

In part 1 of this post, we looked at four ministry patterns that set the stage for ongoing leadership development in movements. This post presents seven additional patterns.

 

Obedience: Obedience-based, not Knowledge-based (John 14:15)

 

The biblical training in CPMs is powerful because it does not just focus on knowledge. Each person is expected to obey what he or she learns. Too many churches mainly focus on knowledge—leaders are those who have the most knowledge (i.e. education). Success is gathering more members and teaching them more information. In CPMs, the focus is not on how much you know, but on how much you obey. As groups study the Bible, they ask “How will I/we obey this?” The next time they meet, they answer “How did I/we obey?” Everyone is expected to obey, and leaders are identified as those who help others obey. Obeying God’s commands in the Bible is the fastest path for disciples and leaders to become mature.

 

Strategy: the Gospels and Acts Provide the Main Strategy and Models 

 

Not only does the Bible contain commands, it also contains patterns and models. In the 1990’s, God led various people working among the unreached to focus on Luke 10 as a pattern for mission into new areas. Every CPM we know of uses a variation of this pattern of laborers going out two by two. They go seeking the person of peace who opens their home and oikos (family or group). They stay with this family as they share in truth and power, and they seek to bring the whole oikos to commitment to Jesus. Since this is a natural group (not a group of strangers gathered together), leadership is already present and just needs shaping instead of a wholesale transplant. 

 

Empowerment: People Become Leaders by Leading

 

This sounds obvious but is often overlooked. One example of this occurs in the Discovery model of CPMs, where the interested oikos begins to study the Bible. A key series of questions is used to “make disciples” of those studying the story of God from Creation to Christ. In some of these CPMs, the outsider will never ask the questions. Instead he or she will meet separately to coach an insider(s) to ask the questions. The answers come from the Bible, but the question-asker(s) learns to facilitate the process of learning and obeying. We see an example of this in Training for Trainers (T4T). Each new disciple learns to share what they learn – by training others and thereby growing in ability to lead. The same principle applies in continuing to develop leaders: believers have an opportunity to practice and train far more quickly than in most traditional church settings. 

 

Biblical Leadership: Standards from Scripture

 

As leaders emerge and are appointed, biblical standards are used, such as the requirements for new church leaders in Titus 1:5-9 and for established church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. The believers discover and apply roles and responsibilities from a thorough study of leadership passages. As they do this, they find various character elements and skills needed at each stage of the maturing church. They also avoid foreign extra-biblical standards or requirements for church leaders. 

 

Unbiased: Focus on the Fruitful (Matthew 13:1-18)

 

Leaders are chosen, not based on their potential, personality, or style, but rather on their fruitfulness. When anyone asks CPM trainers how we know who will be fruitful when we first train people, we often laugh. We have no idea who will be fruitful. We train everybody and the “least likely” often become the most fruitful while the “most likely” often don’t do anything. Leaders become leaders by reaching people who become their followers. As these leaders emerge, more time is given to those who are more fruitful so they can produce more fruit. Special training weekends/weeks, annual training conferences, intensive training programs (often mobile) are some of the tools used to keep developing and equipping fruitful leaders. Then they in turn equip others.

 

Shared: Multiple Leaders (Acts 13:1)

 

In most CPMs, churches have multiple leaders to ensure more stability and to develop more leaders. This has the key advantage of allowing leaders to keep their existing jobs. This enables the movement to spread through ordinary believers, and avoid crippling dependence on outside funds to pay leaders. Multiple leaders can better manage leadership tasks. They also have greater wisdom together and mutual support. Peer learning and support between multiple churches also play important roles in helping individual leaders and churches thrive. 

 

Churches: Focus on New Churches

 

Appointing and developing leaders enables the planting of new churches on a regular basis. And this happens naturally. As a new church starts and is full of passion for their new Lord, they are asked to repeat the pattern that led to their salvation. So they begin to look for lost persons in their networks and repeat the same process of evangelism and discipleship that they just experienced and were trained to reproduce. In this process they often realize that some leaders are gifted to focus inside the church (pastors, teachers, etc.) and some are gifted to focus outside (evangelists, prophets, apostles, etc.). The inside leaders learn to lead the church – to be and do all that a church should be (Acts 2:37-47) both inside and out. The outside leaders model and equip the whole church to reach new people. 

 

Conclusion

 

What can we learn from God in these new movements he has birthed? Are we willing to let go of cherished cultural and denominational biases and use the Bible as our primary manual for birthing and developing leaders? If we follow biblical commands and patterns and avoid extra-biblical requirements for leaders we will see many more leaders emerge. We will see many, many more lost people reached. Are we willing to make this sacrifice for the sake of the lost and the glory of our Lord?

This post is taken from pages 100-104 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from  24:14 or from Amazon.  It is a revision by the author of an article originally published in the July-August 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org.

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About Movements

A Church Planting Movement is a Leadership Movement – Part 1

A Church Planting Movement is a Leadership Movement – Part 1

By Stan Parks –

As we look around the world today, most dynamic Church Planting Movements (CPMs) begin in areas with poverty, crises, turmoil, persecution and few Christians. In contrast, in areas with peace, wealth, protection and many Christians, churches are often weak and in decline. 

Why? 

Crisis forces us to look to God. A lack of resources usually forces us to rely on God’s power rather than our programs. The presence of only a few Christians means that church tradition is not as powerful. This makes it more likely that the Bible will become the main source of our strategy and principles. 

What can existing churches learn from these new movements of God? We can (and should) learn many lessons; some of the most important of them relate to leadership. In barren areas, we have to look for laborers in the harvest, as new believers rise up to lead the way in reaching their own unreached people groups. 

In many ways, a CPM is actually a movement of multiplying and developing church leaders. What makes the difference between merely planting churches and seeing sustained movements of churches? Usually leadership development. No matter how many churches are planted, unless the cultural insiders become leaders, the churches will remain foreign. They will either reproduce slowly or stop growing when the initial leader(s) reach their limit. 

Victor John is a leader of a massive CPM among the 100 million+ Bhojpuri speakers of North India, formerly known as the “graveyard of modern missions.” John points out that although the church has existed in India for almost 2000 years, dating to the Apostle Thomas, 91% of Indians still do not have access to the gospel! He believes this is mainly due to a lack of developing leaders. 

John states that beginning in the 4th century, the early Eastern Church imported leaders from the East and used the Syriac language in worship which limited those who could lead to only Syriac speakers. The Catholics in the 16th century used the local language but would never have thought of having local leaders. Beginning in the 18th century, Protestants appointed local leaders but the training methods remained Western, and local leaders could not reproduce them. “The replacement of indigenous leaders was done with a major conflict of interest. No natives, nationals, or local-workers could ever be called leaders—this title was reserved for the whites only. These mission organizations focused on the replacement of existing leadership and not on movement or growth.”

All too often in churches today—whether on the mission field or at home—we focus on replacing existing leadership to keep the institution going, rather than focusing on midwifing God’s birth of new disciples and churches. Despite overwhelming evidence that new churches are far more effective in reaching lost people, many churches simply seek to grow larger instead of also starting new churches. Seminaries continue this pattern by reinforcing a mindset of managing existing churches instead of putting equal or greater emphasis on training students to start new churches. We choose to invest the vast majority of our time and resources in our own comfort, to the neglect of those headed for an eternity in hell. (Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income and spend 98% of it on themselves.)

As we look at modern CPMs, we can discern some clear principles for multiplying and developing leaders. Developing leaders starts at the beginning of ministry. The patterns used in evangelism, discipleship, and forming churches are developing leaders. These patterns set the stage for ongoing leadership development. 

Vision: God-Sized

CPM catalysts start with believing that an entire unreached people group (UPG), city, region, and nation can and will be reached. Instead of asking: “What can I do?” they ask: “What must be done to see a movement started?” This keeps their focus and the focus of the new believers squarely on God. It forces them to rely on God to see the impossible happen. These initial outsiders play a crucial role in casting vision to possible partners who will join in the harvest work. Any foreign outsider must find a cultural near neighbor or inside believers who will rise up and lead the initial efforts to reach the group. As inside leaders emerge and multiply, they “catch” the same God-sized vision.  

Prayer: Foundation for Fruit (John 14:13-14) 

One survey of effective church planters in a large CPM found them to be a very diverse group. But they had one main thing in common: they all spent at least two hours a day in prayer and had special weekly and monthly times of prayer and fasting with their teams. These were not paid ministers. They each had “normal” jobs but they knew that their fruit was tied to their prayer lives. This commitment to prayer by the planters gets passed on to the new believers. 

Training: Everyone is Trained

One woman at an Indian CPM leaders’ training said, “I don’t know why they asked me to speak about church planting. I can’t read and I can’t write. All I can do is heal the sick and raise the dead and teach the Bible. I’ve only been able to plant about 100 churches.” Don’t we wish we were as “lowly” as she is? 

In CPMs, everyone expects to be trained and to train others as soon as possible. In one country, when asked to train leaders, security concerns only allowed us to meet with 30 leaders. But each week this group trained another 150 people using the same biblical training materials. 

Teaching: Training Manual is the Bible 

One of the best ways to avoid unneeded burdens is to use the Bible as the training manual. CPM leaders develop other leaders by helping them depend on the Bible and the Holy Spirit, rather than on themselves. When new believers ask questions, the church planter usually answers, “What does the Bible say?” They then guide them to look at various Scriptures and not just their favorite proof-text. A foundational truth comes from John 6:45 (NIV): “’They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” The church planter may occasionally exhort or give information, but his or her most common approach is to help new believers find the answers themselves. Making disciples, forming churches and developing leaders are all Bible-centered. This enables effective reproduction of disciples, churches, and leaders. 

In part 2 of this post, we will look at additional ministry patterns that set the stage for ongoing leadership development in movements. 

This post is taken from pages 96-100 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from  24:14 or from Amazon.  It is a revision by the author of an article originally published in the July-August 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org.

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About Movements

Key Prayer Points for Movements

Key Prayer Points for Movements

By Shodankeh Johnson –

A Church Planting Movement cannot happen without a prayer movement first. God’s people need to spend time in prayer and fasting. We should teach and coach our disciples to pray earnestly. If we hope for any success among the unreached, we need a praying ministry and praying disciples. Prayer is the engine of a movement, and effectiveness in prayer often depends on knowing what to ask. 

Here are the top twelve prayer points we use in our movement in West Africa. 

Pray: 

  1. For God to send laborers into the harvest field. For an increase in disciple-makers and intercessors.

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2 NIV) 

  1. That God touches people’s hearts and draws them to Himself.

Saul also went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched. (1 Samuel 10:26 NIV) 

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” (John 6:43-45 NIV) 

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. (Acts 16:13-14) 

  1. For open doors for the gospel. 

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:3-4 NIV) 

  1. To find persons of peace. 

When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. (Luke 10:5-7 NIV) 

  1. That every stronghold and lie of the enemy be broken. 

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV) 

  1. That God would grant boldness in sharing the gospel. 

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word…” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29,31 NLT) 

  1. For fresh anointing and the power of the Holy Spirit on the disciple-makers. 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:18 NIV) 

“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NIV) 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV) 

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:52 NIV) 

  1. For an increase in signs, wonders, and miracles. 

Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:30 NIV) 

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. (Acts 2:22 NIV) 

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 NIV) 

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV) 

  1. For protection for workers in the field. 

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16 NIV) 

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (Luke 10:18-19 NIV) 

  1. For resources for the work to be done. 

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 NIV) 

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV) 

  1. For multiplication leading to movements to burn in people’s hearts.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) 

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7 NKJV) 

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NIV) 

  1. For other movements and disciple-makers all around the world. 

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 NIV)

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About Movements

Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 2

Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 2

By Steve Smith and Stan Parks –

In Part 1 we addressed the dynamics and challenges of the first two stages of generational church multiplication. Part 2 continues discussing these dynamics in subsequent stages.

Stage 3: An Expanding Network – Initial 3rd Generation Churches

  • Gen 1 & 2 churches are solidly established and growing.
  • Multiple Gen 3 groups are starting, with some Gen 3 groups becoming churches.
  • Key leaders are actively identified and being mentored and discipled.
  • Strong focus on ensuring multi-generational group health and leadership development.
  • Most movements are using generational trees (showing children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren churches).
  • Desire for “grandchildren” churches (Gen 3) is a strong emphasis.
  • Clear vision and reproducible group processes are used across the expanding network.
  • Inside leaders at all levels are sharing testimonies of breakthroughs.
  • Inside leader(s) with big vision has emerged and is the key catalyst(s).

Challenges

  • Leaders still go to outsiders or Gen 0 Christians for answers rather than discovery from Scripture.
  • Excitement over 1st and 2nd Generation can blind leaders to working toward 3rd Gen and beyond. 
  • Some key parts of church meetings are missing. (Vision casting, accountability, and training others make the difference between just talking about the Bible in the group versus really growing in discipleship and reproducing disciples.)
  • Weak vision. Vision doesn’t pass down generationally. (Early generations have greater vision than later generations.)
  • Vision is not caught and owned by all or most disciples in the movement. 
  • Fear has set in; trying to avoid persecution.
  • Poor leadership development; need to develop Timothies. 
  • Insufficient movement DNA in leaders/groups can stall growth. For example, groups not reproducing or local leaders not growing in their call and oversight of other generations and leaders.
  • The alongsider(s) departs prematurely.

Stage 4: An Emerging CPM – Initial 4th Generation Churches

  • Stable Gen 3 churches, with some Gen 4 (or even Gen 5, Gen 6) groups and churches.
  • A growing group of indigenous leaders overseeing the movement. 
  • Local and alongside leaders intentionally seek to replicate movement DNA in all generations.
  • Alongsider(s) still play key roles in mentoring key leaders.
  • Intentional development of leadership networks (leaders meeting with other leaders for mutual support and learning)
  • Perhaps beginning to spark work in new areas
  • Internal or external challenges have helped bring maturity, perseverance, faith and growth to the leadership and churches.
  • If movements get to Gen 3 churches they usually get to Gen 4 churches.
  • Overcoming challenge of sharing leadership – truly raising up other leaders

Challenges

  • Lack of vision for reaching beyond their natural sphere (outside their own language/people group)
  • Too much reliance on one key movement leader
  • Inconsistent or wrongly-focused mid-level training
  • Not shifting the priority from outsiders to inside leaders and reaching new population segments
  • Change of key leadership
  • Saturation of natural sphere (oikos) and not yet going cross-cultural or cross-regional
  • Relying on foreign funding 
  • Outsiders not connected to the movement offering salaries to inside leaders 
  • Lack of preparation through biblical learning to resist influence of outside Christian leaders who want to “correct” their theology/ecclesiology

Stage 5: A Church Planting Movement 

  • Multiple streams of consistently reproducing 4th+ Generation churches (the accepted definition of a CPM)
  • This stage is usually reached 3-5 years after the first churches are started.
  • Usually 100+ churches
  • Most growth is still to come, but the core elements or processes for that sustained growth have been established or started.
  • Ideally four or more separate streams
  • Ideally a solid leadership team of local believers leading the movement, with the alongsider(s) mostly just working with the leadership team
  • While stages 1-4 can be vulnerable to collapse, collapses rarely happen at stage 5 (and beyond).
  • Since the greatest growth of movements occurs in stages 6 and 7, it is important to continue training leaders and passing on vision and movement DNA to all levels.

Challenges

  • A CPM may plateau at this stage if leadership development is weak.
  • Not having a clear process to track and ensure health in all generation of groups. 
  • The greater the quantitative and qualitative growth, the more likely outside traditional Christian groups will be motivated to offer funds in exchange for control.
  • Not continuing to start new streams
  • Alongsider being too involved in decision processes

Stage 6: A Sustained and Expanding CPM

  • Visionary, indigenous leadership network leading the movement with little or no need for outsiders, and multiplying leadership at all levels
  • Spiritually mature inside leaders
  • The movement grows both numerically and spiritually
  • Significant penetration and expansion throughout the people group 
  • Enough streams, leaders, and churches to be able to find and refine best practices to help with the continued growth of the movement
  • Stable Gen 5, Gen 6, and Gen 7+ churches in multiple streams actively multiply groups and churches, with movement DNA being replicated in all generations.
  • The movement has weathered strong internal and/or external challenges.

Challenges

  • Up to stage 5, movements may still be “off the radar,” but at stage 6, they become more well-known and navigating this can present challenges.
  • This visibility can lead to opposition from traditional churches/denominations.
  • This visibility can also lead to increased persecution and sometimes targeting of key leaders
  • Leadership networks need to continue expanding to keep up with the expanding ministry.
  • Need to continue wise use of internal and external funding.
  • Stage 6 growth can be significant, but is usually limited to one people group or people cluster. To get to stage 7 often requires special vision and training to get a movement to jump to new people groups and regions.

Stage 7: A Multiplying CPM

  • The CPM is usually both organically and intentionally catalyzing CPMs in other people groups and/or regions. 
  • The CPM has become a movement that multiplies new movements. This should be the end vision for all alongsiders when they start their work at stage 1.
  • Movement leaders adopt a bigger vision to complete the Great Commission in their entire region or religious group.
  • Movement leaders develop training and equipping resources to help start other movements.
  • Typically, 5,000+ churches

Challenges

  • Stage 7 leaders need to learn how to equip and send others to effectively cross cultures.
  • It is important to learn how to develop movement leaders who are not dependent on the original CPM leaders.
  • Leading a network of multiplying movements is a very rare role. It requires relationship and mutual learning with other Stage 7 leaders from the outside. 
  • Stage 7 leaders have a lot to offer to the global church, but there must be intentional effort to give them a voice and for the global church to listen to and learn from them.

Key Principles (Some of the most important principles, as agreed upon by a group of 38 CPM catalysts and leaders)

  • Importance of “letting go”: not all groups, disciples, leaders, will reproduce; so let some go. 
  • Invest deeply in those we work with – relationship with God, family, workers, character issues. Be transparent as pilgrims together.
  • The mentor not only “gives” but also receives info and is vulnerable to those he/she mentors.
  • Multiplying “nurture.” Avoid slowing down reproduction. Mentor new mentors to equip next generations. (Matt 10:8 – a real disciple freely receives and freely gives.)
  • Create a counter-traditional Christian culture without bashing the traditional church.
  • Tracking progress is important – evaluating and diagnosing for growth.
  • We all start out ministries with high levels of intentionality, but we don’t always adjust as it works out into the future. We must keep that level of intentionality and reliance on God. We should not “coast” on a system already established.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Stan Parks Ph.D. serves the 24:14 Coalition (Facilitation Team), Beyond (VP Global Strategies), and Ethne (Leadership Team).  He is a trainer and coach for a variety of CPMs globally and has lived and served among the unreached since 1994.

This material was originally published as Appendix D (pages 333-345) in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon

Categories
About Movements

Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 1

Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 1

By Steve Smith and Stan Parks –

Movements are messy, and might not always develop as neatly and sequentially as presented here. However, as we study hundreds of movements around the world, we see that movements typically grow through seven distinct stages. Each stage represents a new breakthrough, but also brings new challenges. A brief overview of these stages and challenges follows. Since Church Planting Movements (CPMs) so often work counter to our traditions, it is difficult to stay on track. CPM efforts need great intentionally at each stage.

First, two clarifications: when we speak of generations (Generation 1, Generation 2, Generation 3…) within a movement, we mean new groups/churches of NEW believers. We do not count the original believers, team, or churches who initially worked to start new groups. We consider the believers/churches initiating the work Generation 0, indicating that they are the baseline generation.

Also, our working definition of a church comes from Acts 2:37-47. A church is born when a number of people in a group commit to Jesus as Lord and are baptized. They then begin to live out together their love for and obedience to Jesus. Many of these churches use Acts 2 as a pattern of the main elements of their life together. These include repentance, baptism, the Holy Spirit, God’s word, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, signs and wonders, giving, meeting together, giving thanks, and praise.

Stage 1: Key Dynamics For Starting a CPM Effort

  • A CPM team is present, ideally working together with others.
  • Initial CPM efforts are often started by outside disciples – sometimes called “alongsiders.” These disciples from outside the culture work alongside cultural insiders or near-cultural neighbors.
  • Movements require a shared God-sized vision, so alongsiders focus on hearing God’s vision for this group.
  • Movements require effective processes, so alongsiders focus on laying a foundation for these. 
  • Initial catalysts focus on extraordinary prayer and fasting – personally and with co-laborers.
  • It is also important to mobilize extraordinary prayer and fasting (continues at all stages).
  • One high value activity is casting vision and searching for local or near-culture partners with whom to work together.
  • Developing/testing access strategies is necessary to gain opportunities to engage with lost people.
  • This access must lead to searching, sowing widely and filtering for Households (or networks) of Peace (via People of Peace).
  • At this stage the first Households of Peace are encountered.

Challenges for Initial CPM Efforts

  • Trying to turn friendly people into Persons of Peace. (A real PoP is hungry.)
  • Mistaking an interested individual for a Person of Peace. (A real PoP can open up their family and/or network of friends.) 
  • Rather than training as many believers as possible to join the search, the outsider works alone to find the Persons of Peace/4th Soil people.
  • Not a broad and bold enough outreach
  • Not relying fully on God; relying too much on “the methods” of a certain CP model
  • Not working hard enough (Fully supported people should be working at this full time; people with other jobs must give significant time to prayer and outreach as well.) 
  • Spending time on good (or even mediocre) activities rather than on the most fruitful activities
  • Focusing on “what I can do” versus “what needs to be done”
  • Lack of faith (“This area is too hard.”)
  • Alongsiders not being doers, but rather just “trainers” who do not model what they train

—————The hardest hurdle is from 0 to 1st Generation churches—————

Key Dynamics for 1st Gen Churches 

  • The new church must base their understanding and practice of being disciples and being the church on Scripture – not on the opinions and/or traditions of the outsider.
  • They must be dependent on Scripture and the Holy Spirit, not the outsider.
  • There must be a clear CPM path. Though there are many variations, CPMs have clear paths for all involved. The key elements are: 1) training believers, 2) engaging the lost, 3) discipling, 4) commitment, 5) church formation, 6) leadership formation) 7) starting in new communities.
  • There must be a strong and clear call to commitment.
  • There must be a clear understanding of some crucial truths: Jesus as Lord, repentance and renunciation, baptism, overcoming persecution, etc. 
  • The outsider must not be the leader(s) of the church; they must empower and coach insiders to lead the new church.

Challenges for 1st Gen Churches

  • One common failure is not finding key local co-laborers with vision (not “hired workers” doing ministry mainly for funding).
  • Outsiders can sabotage growth by not having a high tolerance for error. They must avoid the temptation to become the expert. Obedience-based discipleship corrects errors and keeps the Holy Spirit and Bible as the leaders.
  • Leaders must gently move on when unproductive people don’t produce.
  • One mistake is mentoring people who do not mentor others.
  • A related mistake is mentoring just the ministry aspect and not the whole person (personal relationship with God, family, work, etc.). 
  • Inexperienced alongsiders can slow or thwart growth by not knowing how to empower and release insiders to facilitate or even initiate new groups. 
  • Alongsiders sometimes do not realize or are not committed to the intensive coaching needed for new leaders.
  • One oversight is an emphasis only on “profession of faith” and not also on renouncing allegiances that separate new believers from God.

Stage 2: Focused Growth – Initial 2nd Generation Churches

  • Generation 1 (Gen 1) churches are actively growing.
  • Alongsiders intentionally focus on developing Gen 1 leaders.
  • Gen 1 churches are starting Gen 2 groups/churches.
  • Gen 1 disciples have come to faith with movement DNA so it is more natural for them to reproduce the key dynamics and processes than it was for Gen 0 disciples.
  • As the numbers of disciples and churches grow, opposition and persecution may sometimes grow in response.
  • Gen 0 leaders need to prioritize helping Gen 1 leaders and churches reproduce rather than prioritizing starting new groups.

Challenges

  • The CPM path has been made too complicated; it can only be done by mature Christians, not new disciples. 
  • Different CPM path pieces are missing; it’s easy for believers to miss key elements (of the six items above). 
  • Group process is weak (looking back, looking up, looking forward); accountability is weak.
  • Not finding Persons of Peace/4th soil people at Gen 1
  • Not setting the “follow Jesus and fish for people” DNA (Mark 1:17) within hours/days
  • Not coaching the “Model-Assist-Watch-Leave” process at every stage
  • Not harvesting oikos (family and friends network) at Gen 1

—————The second hardest hurdle is from 2nd to 3rd Generation churches—————

In Part 2 we will address this challenge, along with the dynamics and challenges of stages 3-7.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Stan Parks Ph.D. serves the 24:14 Coalition (Facilitation Team), Beyond (VP Global Strategies), and Ethne (Leadership Team).  He is a trainer and coach for a variety of CPMs globally and has lived and served among the unreached since 1994.

This material was originally published as Appendix D (pages 333-338) in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon

Categories
About Movements

A Mission Agency Discovers the Fruitful Practices of Movements – Part 2

A Mission Agency Discovers the Fruitful Practices of Movements – Part 2

By Doug Lucas –

In part 1 we shared how the Lord led our agency to transition into applying the core fruitful practices of disciple-making movements. Here is how God has led us through the transition and into much greater fruitfulness.

The Fruit

Exactly how does this DMM process unfold and what do we ask our team members to do daily? We teaching them how to move into a new area, learn the language and culture, pray a lot, and live in a “conspicuously spiritual” way, while meeting felt needs in the community.  Our workers seek to become disciples worth multiplying, anticipating that someone (seekers) will notice. We introduce these “open people” to stories about Jesus and His life. We might mention a passage in which Jesus teaches about honesty and explain that, for this reason, we’re returning a small amount of money that many would consider petty. Then we ask if the individual likes that idea. If the individual responds positively, we ask if the person would like to hear more teachings of Jesus. 

The people who say “yes” to these kinds of questions are of the utmost importance to us. They are what some trainers call “persons of peace,” harking back to Jesus’ words in Luke 10, when sending out the 72 disciples. Our workers start three-thirds groups with these interested parties. In those studies, our workers simply introduce a new story from Scripture, then ask questions such as, “What did you like about this passage? What seemed difficult? What does this passage teach us about God? What does this passage teach us about people? If we believe this passage is from God, how should we obey? Who are you going to share this passage with before we meet again? With whom will you tell God’s story or your own testimony?”

Those who are seeking will want to meet again. Those are the people in whom we want/need to invest our time. We repeat these processes until our new “people of peace” become believers, then disciples, then group leaders on their own. Using this simple approach, our workers expect to start groups which multiply. It works in the developing world, and it also is working in the USA.

In one field, our team worked for about 15 years to establish the first beachhead church. Then by introducing DMM principles, they multiplied into seven groups within the next 12 months. In another field (a Muslim land), the group struggled for 10 years with almost no fruit. Upon beginning to apply DMM principles, they had five new groups launched (and multiple baptisms) within the first year. In yet another field, our workers weren’t even sure how to begin for the first five years. Upon implementing simple DMM practices, in the next 17 months, they saw 112 groups begin with more than 750 individuals attending weekly. During those 17 months, 481 of those new followers were baptized, and many of those are already discipling others. 

Now, some years later, that field has seen groups multiply over 16 generations (the original group has had great-, great-, great-, great- [to the 16th generation] spiritual grandchildren). This movement has grown to the point that as of the end of 2017, 3,434 people meet in these groups. During May 2018, 316 people gave their lives to Christ and were baptized, bringing the total added in early 2018 to 1,254. Also during May 2018, 84 new groups sprang to life, making a total of 293 groups so far during 2018.

As a whole, our workers worldwide have seen a major increase in fruit since transitioning to DMM practices. (See accompanying graphs.) During 2018, God raised up 1,549 new simple churches, with 5,546 baptisms, and a combined attendance (as of the end of 2018) of 41,191 souls. God is at work through the 278 Team Expansion missionaries in some 40 countries.

The Transition

In years past, we’ve heard some horror stories about transitioning to DMM models from the traditional, “proclamational” (or attractional) approach. Some agencies like ours have reported that when they changed to DMM approaches, they lost 30 or 40% of their personnel. Apparently, some people don’t like to change. Thanks only to God above, we haven’t yet seen that kind of disenfranchisement. Here are some factors that might be helping us — but keep in mind [disclaimer], these are only guesses, and problems could arise at any time.

  • From our early roots, our organization has always treasured innovation. One of our seven Great Passions is, “Creative, strategic perseverance until the results are achieved.”
  • We had pushed “extraordinary prayer” from the outset as well. Our first publication was a prayer calendar for our first field. Garrison’s writing just sealed the deal even further. So when DMM practices came along, they seemed culturally appropriate because they were already part of our DNA.
  • It was hard to deny the fruit. First, we observed it in the case studies we saw and in the stories told by trainers. But then, a couple of our early-adopting teams experienced similar harvests. How could we argue with God’s blessing on their ministry?
  • Several of our senior leaders quickly embraced DMM practices. I, however, wasn’t among them. I wasn’t opposed. But I initially had trouble grasping it. The training seemed too “fuzzy.” It wasn’t until I broke it down into practical, bite-sized steps that I could see it as doable. (See the outcome at www.MoreDisciples.com)
  • We purposely decided not to rush people into this transition. We allowed them time – in fact, years. Once they saw fruit among their peers, it became easier for them to transition. 
  • Stories helped ease the jump. We changed names of people and places — but told plenty of illustrations to convey the reality. Some stories were good news, while others were sobering.
  • Senior leaders gently and humbly modeled the behavior for me (their president). But for complete alignment, I had to become personally involved. I couldn’t just teach it. I had to do it.

If your organization or church is considering transitioning to DMM principles, try one or more of these options:

  • Listen to the podcasts and read the blog entries at www.MoreDisciples.com
  • Take a “trial” group through the Zume training material at www.ZumeProject.com. (Both Zume and MoreDisciples are free of charge.) 
  • Read Stubborn Perseverance by James Nyman and Robby Butler.
  • Read T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, by Steve Smith and Ying Kai.
  • Read Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus by Jerry Trousdale. 
  • Read The Kingdom Unleashed: How Ordinary People Launch Disciple-Making Movements Around the World by Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine.

Don’t hesitate to contact Team Expansion for more updates on our journey — www.teamexpansion.org.

In 1978, God called Doug Lucas, a student in Bible college, to bring together a prayer meeting in a dorm room — and that prayer meeting became the genesis of Team Expansion. Since that time, Doug has served as both missionary (in Uruguay and later in the USSR/Ukraine) and Founder/President of this global organization (learn more at www.TeamExpansion.org). Based in Louisville, KY, Doug has a BA in Bible, an MA in Missions, an MBA, and a doctoral degree in Business Administration. In 1995, he created a weekly email/web newsletter www.Brigada.org  to provide resources, motivation, and trends in global missions. He’s passionate about multiplying disciples. Toward that end, he and a colleague have launched training websites at www.MoreDisciples.com and www.MissionsU.com.

Edited from the article “Discovering the Fruitful Practices of Movements,” originally published in the November-December 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 6-11, and published on pages 287-295 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

Categories
About Movements

A Mission Agency Discovers the Fruitful Practices of Movements – Part 1

A Mission Agency Discovers the Fruitful Practices of Movements – Part 1

By Doug Lucas –

Introduction

Our mission organization launched in 1978 with a noble goal: Send lots of missionaries to work among the unreached. In the 1990’s, thanks to careful thinkers like Dr. Ralph Winter, we sharpened our focus toward unreached people groups. Our goals no longer counted workers alone, but in addition, the number of unreached people groups engaged. We carefully trained all our workers in language learning and identification with local people. We emphasized church planting. We hoped and prayed that, once each team of workers was engaged with the people, those workers would only need a year or so to plant each new congregation. We fully expected that it would take longer, of course, to train up a nucleus of new leaders.

Sometime after the year 2000, thanks to researchers like Dr. David Garrison, we began setting goals for church-planting movements (CPMs). In this “third version” of our organization, we noticed that our “beachhead churches” sometimes stayed beachheads. By contrast, in the book of Acts, the disciples did more than establish a single new church in each region or country. God “added to their numbers.” Accordingly, we began urging our workers to plant churches that would plant churches. Our goal-setting process began measuring not only churches planted, but also churches planting new churches.

By 2010, we were engaged in a bit of a revolution. I’m not even sure what to call it but, for lack of a better term, we’ll call it disciple-making movement (DMM) thinking. The difference might seem subtle at first. In fact, it was very fuzzy to me at first as well. But once understood, the outcome was quite profound.

 

The Fruitful Practices

Regardless of your opinion of DMM practices, the electricity and sheer energy generated by DMM thinking is hard to miss. While earlier trainings focused on tactics and strategy, DMM was, at first, too simple for my mind to grasp. One of the central tenets, as articulated by DMM trainer Curtis Sergeant, is simply to “be a disciple worth multiplying” (BADWM). (Isn’t it just like Jesus to bless a system of practices that focuses on changing from the inside out?) David Garrison had identified extraordinary prayer as being the first of several critical factors in launching church-planting movements. But for some reason, it took us a decade or more to understand that this extraordinary prayer had to begin inside of us as workers rather than in some infrastructure or campaign. In other words, to change the world, we had to change ourselves.

Our early efforts at launching movements had been heavily influenced by American business practices such as strategic planning. Now, it almost seemed too simple to tell a new worker that he or she needs to acquire a “passion for telling God’s story.” I guess we all want our jobs to be tactical and strategic. Maybe somehow we must think it makes us look more intelligent. Training workers to do prayer walking and facilitate “three-thirds groups” seemed too… easy. (The group’s time together consists of three simple elements: 1. Look back – to evaluate and celebrate obedience to God, and recalling the vision. 2. Look up – to see what God has for them in that week’s discovery Bible study. 3. Look ahead – to determine how to obey God and pass on what they have learned through practicing it and setting goals in prayer.)

Another practice first described by Garrison in his landmark book, Church Planting Movements, was even harder to grasp. Our temptation when new believers begin encountering persecution was to remove them from the context. Some have referred to this practice as extraction. No matter what it’s called, it’s the first response of the human heart. The trouble is — once we remove a practicing believer from his or her context, the momentum stops. Not only can this new believer no longer reach his or her household (oikos), but in addition, the fire and energy are gone. Somehow, in ways we don’t understand, God seems to bless those who are persecuted. And the outcome is amazing.

It seems odd to highlight obedience and accountability as core practices of launching movements. Haven’t we believed in obedience all along? Yes, but somehow we had begun to equate obedience with (mostly) learning about Jesus… instead of focusing on doing what he told us to do. It’s good to measure church attendance. But it’s even better to figure out how to measure whether or not those attenders actually do anything about their faith. Again, pointing back to a core teaching of Curtis Sergeant, “It is a blessing to follow Jesus. It is a great blessing to bring others into a relationship with Jesus. It is a greater blessing to start a new spiritual community. But the greatest blessing is to equip others to start new spiritual communities.” For a couple of decades, our organization focused on bringing others into a relationship with Jesus, then we focused on teaching them the concepts of the Bible, almost equating spirituality with knowing concepts. But Jesus didn’t want people who merely knew things. He told them that if they loved him, they would do His commands. 

One of the toughest practices to grasp is discovery-based learning. Perhaps it’s so difficult because it’s so easy. Critics are quick to accuse DMM practitioners of dumbing down the gospel. After all, shouldn’t new believers receive in-depth training before we entrust them with the job of telling the Jesus story? But the truth has been staring us right in the face for centuries. How long had Jesus known the man possessed by an impure spirit (Mark 5:1-20) before he sent him back to his household (oikos) to tell them how much the Lord had done for him? Maybe a half-day at the most. Whoa. We’ve been seriously overthinking this. And this man in Mark 5 was about to change history for his home region of Decapolis.

Those are essentially the core elements. BADWM, passion for telling God’s story, praying for those in persecution (but not extracting them), obedience, and discovery-based learning. The truth is it now can take as little as 20 hours or so to train a disciple to start multiplying. 20 hours.

In part 2 we will share our transition process and the fruit God brought through it.

In 1978, God called Doug Lucas, a student in Bible college, to bring together a prayer meeting in a dorm room — and that prayer meeting became the genesis of Team Expansion. Since that time, Doug has served as both missionary (in Uruguay and later in the USSR/Ukraine) and Founder/President of this global organization (learn more at www.TeamExpansion.org). Based in Louisville, KY, Doug has a BA in Bible, an MA in Missions, an MBA, and a doctoral degree in Business Administration. In 1995, he created a weekly email/web newsletter www.Brigada.org  to provide resources, motivation, and trends in global missions. He’s passionate about multiplying disciples. Toward that end, he and a colleague have launched training websites at www.MoreDisciples.com and www.MissionsU.com.

Edited from the article “Discovering the Fruitful Practices of Movements,” originally published in the November-December 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 6-11, and published on pages 287-291 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

Categories
About Movements

The Role of Existing Churches in an African Movement

The Role of Existing Churches in an African Movement

By Shalom –

Existing local churches play a vital role in this disciple-making movement. From the beginning of our ministry, we underlined this principle: whatever ministry we do, we make sure the church will be actively involved in kingdom ministry. Sometimes people think, “If a church isn’t traditional it won’t be accepted by existing churches.” But I believe the vital key is relationship. We approach church leaders at whatever level they are and share the bigger vision: the Great Commission. That’s more than the local church, more than their neighborhood, more than their immediate context. If we share with love, relationship, and sincere motive of kingdom expression, we have found that churches will listen. 

In one area, we currently have formal partnerships with 108 totally indigenous groups. Some are local churches and some are indigenous ministries. From the beginning, we approach them through informal conversation. We talk about the task God has given in the Great Commission, and that takes us toward formal discussion with whoever is responsible in the church. If they are open, we set up a training for initial exposure. That may be two to five days. We strongly encourage them to make sure the right people are invited. We want to have about 20 percent of attendees be people in leadership and about 80 percent be practitioners. That proportion is very important. If we only train leaders, they are so busy that even though they have a good heart, they usually don’t have time to really implement what they’re learning. If we only train field leaders or church planters, it will be very difficult to implement because the church leaders will not understand what needs to happen. So we make sure we have the decision makers and the implementers being trained together. 

We focus first on heart issues. We talk about the Great Commission, the unfinished task, and the challenge. Then we talk about opportunities and how we can fulfill the Great Commission. That’s where the disciple-making movement strategy comes in. The final question is: “What are we going to do about this together?” 

Whenever we do a training, we commit to follow it up and really involve the decision makers in the development. One training event with a church is not the end. We want to walk with them on a journey. Our motto is: “Ignite, accelerate, and sustain disciple-making movements.” We don’t stop at just igniting. We work for accelerating and sustaining.

We have a strategic coordinator and grassroots coordinators doing follow-up after trainings. At the end of each training, an action plan is laid out. A copy is given to each person who received the training and a copy to the church, as well as a copy for our ministry. The plan includes the name and phone number of the church’s contact person. Our leaders then follow up by phone – both individually with those who have taken the training and with the church’s contact person. After three months, we make a formal call to follow up and learn what’s happening, relative to the plan they made. 

We then continue communication with those going forward in doing the ministry. We make sure to cultivate those relationships and provide the needed training, mentoring, and coaching. We link them with other field workers in that area so they have a network to encourage them. Then we watch for workers who show significant potential to become a strategic coordinator for their area. 

As people begin to implement, their reports from the field must pass through their church. The church has to stand with it and verify what’s happening. We don’t want to go around the local church. We want the church involved with the ministry. That gives the church a sense of ownership and helps the relationships to grow stronger.

We always make sure to update church leaders on what progress is being made. Some unreached groups being reached are quite sensitive. In those cases, the church may not need or want to be directly involved in progress with that movement. But the church will be aware of and praying for the ministry and helping in appropriate ways. They also allow the new churches being planted to worship in a ways that fit the new believers’ cultural context and feel appropriate to the new believers. 

In this process, we don’t try to change the ministry patterns of the existing churches, which would just make them feel threatened. The existing church can go on as it is. Our mission priority is to reach the unreached. The paradigm shift we aim for relates to the unreached. So we challenge, train, and equip the church to reach the unreached. We communicate clearly that the church’s normal patterns will not effectively engage unreached people groups. We want them to have a movement mentality and attitude towards the unreached people groups. 

Sometimes that new mentality ends up coming back and transforming the whole church. Some of the church leaders also become practitioners and become movement leaders. So the paradigm sometimes impacts the local churches directly. But that’s a by-product; not our goal. 

Partnering with existing churches is a critical element that has helped us accelerate the disciple-making movement. We all came from those churches and our goal is to impact other churches and start new churches. So we praise God he is present and working – in and through existing churches – to bring movements of brand new churches planting churches among the unreached.

Shalom (pseudonym) is a movement leader in Africa, involved in cross-cultural ministry for the past 24 years. His passion is to see Disciple Making Movements ignited, accelerated and sustained among unreached groups in Africa and beyond.

This was originally published in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon, pages 263-266.

Categories
About Movements

Small Groups That Have the DNA of a Disciple-Making Movement – Part 2

Small Groups That Have the DNA of a Disciple-Making Movement – Part 2

– By Paul Watson –

In part 1 we described four elements of the DNA needed for groups that multiply and become reproducing churches. Here are the remaining essential elements. 

 

Obedience

As I said before, obedience is a critical element of Disciple-Making Movements. Obedience has to be present even at the small group level, even with groups of lost people. To clarify, we don’t look at groups of lost people, shake our finger, and say, “You must obey this passage.” Instead, we ask, “If you believed this passage is from God, what would you have to change in your life?” Remember, they don’t believe in God yet, so “if” is totally acceptable.

When they choose to follow Christ, you adjust the question, very slightly, “Since you believe this is from God, what are you going to change in your life?” Because they’ve asked this question all along, new believers don’t struggle with the idea that they need to obey God’s Word; that God’s Word requires something of them; that God’s Word requires them to change.

Accountability

Building accountability into the group DNA starts in the second meeting. Look at the group and ask, “You guys said that you were going to help (fill in the blank) this week. How did it go?” Also ask, “Several of you identified things that needed to change in your life. Did you make those changes? How did it go?” If they didn’t do anything, encourage them to give it a try this time and be ready to share what happened the next time you get together. Emphasize that it is important for the group to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.

Initially, this will surprise everyone. They won’t expect it. The second meeting, however, several will be ready. After the third meeting, everyone will know what is coming and will be prepared. Obviously, this practice continues after everyone is baptized.

Worship

You can’t ask lost people to worship a God they don’t believe in. You shouldn’t force them to lie by singing songs they don’t believe. But, that being said, planting the seeds of worship into the group DNA is possible.

When they talk about things they are thankful for, it will become worship. When they talk about the changes they made in their lives as they respond to Scripture, it will become worship. When they celebrate the difference they made in their community, it will become worship.

Worship songs are not the heart of worship any more than a flower is the same as its seed. Worship is the product of a relationship with God. Singing praise songs is one expression of the joy our relationship with God brings. Yes, eventually they will sing praises. The DNA for worship, however, is embedded long before they start to sing.

Scripture

Scripture is central to the meeting. The group reads Scripture, discusses Scripture, practices recalling Scripture with each other, and is encouraged to obey Scripture. Scripture does not take second chair to any teacher. Scripture is the teacher. We’ll discuss this more in the next Group DNA element.

Discovery

When working with lost people, we have to avoid falling into the role of explaining Scripture. If we do, we become the authority rather than allowing Scripture to be the authority. If we are the authority, replication is limited by our leadership capacity and the time we have to teach every group. Consequently, shifting from Scripture being the authority to the teacher being the authority, will keep groups from replicating like they should.

This is a hard shift to make. We love teaching. It makes us feel good. We know the answers and want to share that knowledge with others. But if we want to disciple people who look to Scripture and the Holy Spirit for answers to their questions, we can’t be the answer-person. We have to help them discover what God says to them in His Word.

To reinforce this idea, we call the outsiders who start groups “facilitators.” They facilitate discovery rather than teach. Their job is to ask questions that get lost people to examine Scripture. After they read a passage, they ask, “What does this passage say about God?” and, “What does this passage tell us about humanity (or mankind)?” and, “If you believed this was from God, what would you have to change about the way you live?”

The discovery process is essential to replication. If groups do not learn to go to Scripture and rely on the Holy Spirit to answer their questions, they will not grow like they should and they will not replicate much, if at all.

Group-Correction

A vast majority of our group leaders and church leaders have no institutional biblical training. When people hear this, they ask, “What about heresy? How do you keep your groups from going crazy?” This is a great question. As leaders, we should ask this question.

First of all, all groups have the tendency to be heretical in the beginning. They don’t know everything about God’s Word. They are in a process of discovering God which moves them from disobedience to obedience, but it is impossible for them to know everything from the beginning. As the group reads more together, as they discover more about how God wants them to relate to them, they become less heretical. That is part of discipleship.

If we see them going too far away from Scripture, we’ll immediately introduce a new passage and lead them through a Discovery Bible Study on that passage. (Notice that I didn’t say “teach” or “correct.” The Holy Spirit will use Scripture to correct their behavior. They just need to be directed to the right passage.) After they go through the additional study, they recognize what they need to do. More importantly, they actually do it.

Secondly, we need to realize that heresy usually begins with a highly charismatic (I’m referring to charisma, not the denomination!) leader, with some education, who teaches the group what the Bible says and what they must do to obey it. In this case, groups accept what the leader says and never examine it in the context of Scripture.

We teach groups to read the passage and examine how each group member responds to the passage. Groups are taught to ask a simple question, “Where do you see that in this passage?” When someone makes a weird obedience statement, the group asks this question. When someone adds in a detail when they retell the passage, the group asks this question. This question forces all group members to focus on the passage at hand and explain their insights and obedience.

The facilitator models group-correction. They also model focusing on the passage at hand.

Priesthood of the Believer 

New Believers and Not-Yet Believers need to realize there are no intermediaries standing between them and Christ. We have to embed DNA that removes the barriers and perceived intermediaries. That is why Scripture must be central. That is why outsiders facilitate rather than teach. That is why the group is taught to self-correct based on what Scripture says.

Yes, leaders will emerge. They have to emerge. It is natural. But leadership is identified by functions that define a role. Leaders are not a different class of spiritual or a special status. If anything, leaders are held to a higher level of accountability, but their accountability doesn’t give them special status.

If the DNA for the Priesthood of Believers is not present, you will never have a church. The discipleship process must establish this DNA.

By using these essential practices in group meetings we have seen non-believers become obedient disciples of Jesus that go on to make more disciples and start new groups that become churches.

Paul founded Contagious Disciple Making (www.contagiousdisciplemaking.com) to build a community for Disciple-Makers and coach them as they apply Disciple Making Movement principles in the USA and Canada. He is a regular instructor for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement and co-authored Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Spiritual Journey of Discovery with his father, David Watson.

Adapted from an article in the November-December 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 24-25, and published on pages 65-73 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

Categories
About Movements

Small Groups That Have the DNA of a Disciple-Making Movement – Part 1

Small Groups That Have the DNA of a Disciple-Making Movement – Part 1

– By Paul Watson –

Groups, and the group process, are a strategic element of our strategy to plant the gospel all over the world. Underestimating the power of groups, and the importance of group process, is one of the biggest mistakes a gospel planter can make. 

 

Discipling Groups

Use existing groupings. There are many benefits to engaging existing groupings rather than starting groups that are a composite of people from different groups. One is that when you engage existing groups, you reduce many cultural barriers that slow down (or stop) the group process. Families have existing authority structures. Well-established affinity groups already have leaders and followers. That being said, groups still need to be discipled. In other words, they need to be taught how to study the Bible together, how to discover what God says through His Word, how to change their lives to obey God’s Word, and how to share Bible passages with friends and family. Here’s how to establish healthy group DNA.

Establish DNA early. Groups establish the habits and DNA for meetings very quickly—by the third or fourth meeting. Groups are very resistant to change once they’ve established their pattern for meeting. Consequently, group DNA must be established during your first meeting with the group.

Establish DNA though action. You cannot tell people what DNA they need to have. You have to get them to do things, or think about things in a way, that leads them to build habits. These habits become DNA. If you establish DNA well—through action, not instruction—then groups will replicate that DNA naturally within their silos and in overlapping silos. We will talk about this more in the Group Process section.

Establish DNA through repetition. Group DNA is the product of what you do, and do often. You cannot do something once or twice and expect it to become DNA. 

Establish the right DNA. There is a minimum DNA required for groups to replicate past the first generation. Let’s take a look at each element.

 

What DNA do you need for groups that multiply and become reproducing churches?

Prayer

Just as prayer is an essential element of movements, prayer is also a critical element of groups. From the first meeting, we embed prayer in the group process. Remember, we never ask lost people to bow their heads and pray. We don’t explain what prayer is. We don’t have a lecture about this being an important part of group DNA. Instead, we introduce a simple question, “What are you thankful for today?” Each person in the group shares. Later, after they choose to follow Christ, we say, “You remember how we open each meeting with the question, “What are you thankful for?” Now, as followers of Christ, we talk with God the same way. Let’s tell Him what we are thankful for?”

Intercession

All intercession is prayer, but not all prayer is intercession. That is why we separated intercession and prayer as parts of the DNA of groups that replicate. Intercession involves sharing personal concerns and stresses as well as the concerns and stresses of others. A simple question, “What things have stressed you out this week?” introduces this DNA element to groups of lost people. Again, each person shares. After the group becomes a baptized group of believers we say, “In the same way that you shared things that stressed you out with each other, now you can share those same things with God. Let’s do that now.”

Ministry

David Watson defines ministry as, “God using His people to answer the prayers of the lost and of the saved.” As any group—lost or saved—shares needs, there is going to be a group desire to make a difference. All the group needs is a little nudge. Ask the question, “As we shared things that stressed us out, is there any way we could help each other during the coming week?” Follow it up with, “Do you know anyone in your community that needs our help?” Embed this DNA from the beginning and you won’t have to worry about motivating the group to transform their community when they become Christian.

Evangelism/Replication

Did you know that lost people can do evangelism? Well, they can if you keep it simple enough. Evangelism, at its core, is sharing the gospel with someone else. When working with lost people, they don’t know the whole gospel. That is totally ok. We just want them to share the story they just heard with someone who wasn’t in the group. We get them to think this way with a simple question, “Who do you know that needs to hear this story this week?”

If that person is interested, rather than bringing them into the existing group, we have the first lost person start a group with them, their friends, and their family. So the first lost person experiences the study in their original group and then replicates the same study in the group they started with their friend.

We have had groups that started four other groups before the first group ever became a group of baptized believers. Within a few weeks after the first group was baptized, the other groups came to a place where they chose to follow Christ and were baptized as well.

In part 2 we will describe additional elements of the DNA needed for groups that multiply and become reproducing churches.

Paul founded Contagious Disciple Making (www.contagiousdisciplemaking.com) to build a community for Disciple-Makers and coach them as they apply Disciple Making Movement principles in the USA and Canada. He is a regular instructor for Perspectives on the World Christian Movement and co-authored Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Spiritual Journey of Discovery with his father, David Watson.

Adapted from an article in the November-December 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pp. 22-24.

Categories
About Movements

Security in Intercession for the Unreached: Secret or Wise?

Security in Intercession for the Unreached: Secret or Wise?

By Chuck Baker –

The worldwide Body of Christ wants to know how God’s kingdom is advancing among the nations. Gospel workers in the field want other believers to be well-informed –for effectual prayer, for encouragement, and for finding partners. Sometimes these good goals can only be partially met, due to the very real risks of damaging ministries or bringing harm to local believers by sharing too many details. Information we share must be thoughtfully limited on a need to know basis, not to hoard secrets but to serve others wisely. Countless ministries among the unreached have been damaged by published accounts trumpeting great numbers of conversions in a less-reached area or people group. Others have been harmed by sharing specific names and details with a trusted partner, who then shared it with someone else, who then shared it in a forum accessed by enemies of the gospel. So we need to be wise as serpents in considering what information to share with whom. 

At the same time, we don’t want our limits on information sharing to block cooperation and partnership. Field ministries would do well to establish trusted channels of communication – both technically (such as secure email or messaging) but more importantly with trusted people who know how to appropriately share information. Intercessors can stick close to the biblical patterns of prayer (as found, for example, in the Psalms, Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12). These express timeless prayer material not dependent on specific details of various situations. 

Effective intercession doesn’t require knowing everything possible about ministries and situations. A good question for us all to consider would be: “How much do I really need to know or to share, in order to obey Christ and serve His disciples living in danger?” Our goal in guarding information is not perfect security but reducing unnecessary risks. We want to leave room for the very necessary risks willingly taken to bring a witness in dangerous areas not yet reached with the Good News of Christ. 

We see value in circulating people groups’ information such as is readily available on Joshua project and other public sources. Including some basic information about movements and how to pray for movements is also very helpful. At the same time, we recommend thinking ahead five or ten years, to a time when movements actually happen in a specific region and we start to wonder if we had previously said too much about specific places or called attention to a specific method of outreach. We recommend that some of God’s children become more careful in the details we mention in prayer guides and to those on our mailing lists.

Here are some thoughts to help frame material we share for mobilizing prayer.

  1. It may not hurt to mention the numbers of believers but in some cases it can ignite problems. If opponents of the gospel know the numbers of believers in a certain people and/or place, could it lead to specific action against those believers? This is especially true if a large number inspires an effort to find and stamp out this “dangerous” new group. How essential is it for the intended audience? And what is our motive for mentioning numbers? Is it to make a particular organization look good? Raise funds? We should ask ourselves, “Does this publication bring attention to God’s work or my organization?” And then be willing to keep the focus on God’s glory among the nations.
  2. Consider how the material would look if read by someone in authority among the focus group. If this were read by a policeman in the area, what would he think of it? As much as possible, we want to convey a winsome perspective: not opposing people of the majority religion, but phrasing things as seeking the blessings and guidance of God for people we care about. Knowing that our material might eventually be read by such people, we want to come across as seeking their highest good: personal health and wholeness, joyful families, living at peace with people even from other religions. 
  3. We want all believers everywhere to have those sorts of winsome conversations with and around unreached friends. Consider writing as if you were going to share your message with unreached friends. Convey that we long for a real change and breakthrough, that we want all of God’s great promises in Christ to be theirs!
  4. Assume that any written material could be read by people strongly opposed to any spread of the gospel among unreached peoples. Ask yourself: “Would someone using Google and this prayer information be able to more easily find the workers and new believers in these places?” Have you mentioned specific ports, mountains, mosques, holy sites, etc., in an “unnamed” people group, which could easily be located on Google maps as within a certain district? Could an inquiry to that district tip off local people looking to discover “newcomers” or “strangers” or “foreigners” living in the area? We recommend written materials drop all references to numbers of believers and baptisms among groups smaller than 100,000 in population. We can instead say something like, “There are very few known believers, but we are asking God to multiply them and their witness.”
  5. You might be sharing information only with a group of people you trust, but you never know when some of them will share things they learn with less secure people or in non-secure ways. For high-security areas, it is better for most of us to not know the details of what is happening and where. Better to not even say: “Something is happening [in a specific location]”; rather, “As far as we know, that is an especially needy area/people group.”
  6. A simple rule is: if you share specific details, avoid sharing the people group or place or any identifying specifics. If you share about the people group or place, communicate only readily available information. One way to share specifics is to use code names for peoples, places, and other details. You can also describe the efforts in a coded way such as using business language instead of evangelism and church planting language (a new client group was started in XYZ people) but even here you should probably use code names. Crucially, the code names must never be associated with the real names even in what is thought of as a secure data location (which all too often is not secure forever). 
  7. When you can, include actual Scripture texts for people to pray over. Choose texts that express dimensions of God’s heart for these peoples in ways that would be attractive to someone from that people group who read them. In this way, you help intercessors listen more closely to God, and help local people to know the blessings of God which we are seeking for them. 
  8. Describe people’s felt needs, as though you were trying to find a way to meet them. Empathize with local pain, as you prepare material for intercessors, apostolic agents, and supportive alongsiders who call on God to bring real movements! 
  9. As movements grow, persecution and backlash against contextual ministry in general, and movements in particular, tends to rise. We can say something like, “Pray for the few believers among these peoples who meet in simple discipleship groups to share a relevant witness, display the love and power of God, and multiply new simple groups among their friends. Some disciples have paid a very high price for their obedience, and some have even been martyred. Pray for the martyrs’ families, and pray for their persecutors to be saved.” 
  10. Because God is releasing church planting movements in many peoples and places, our role in mobilizing the whole church to disciple all UPGs is also changing. The many thousands of new believers in these movements are also the Lord’s church. And they are the portion of the church actually winning thousands of new believers from the UPGs. So we must ask ourselves: “What is our best contribution? To try to send more Christian-background workers from distant cultures? To help teams in the field as they begin to see movements – to enable them to stay the course and help movements develop? Or to put more effort into praying for, supporting and not killing the movements that are already happening?” While the global Church still needs to do the first two, especially in areas with no movements, we need to put far more priority on the third approach, which may well be the most fruitful one in a growing number of areas. 
  11. How to help and not harm movements and movement leaders needs to be a new priority area of learning for us. Much direct and indirect opposition to movements comes not from governments or other religions, but from existing denominations and church leaders. We need to help churches understand how to help movements grow and stay healthy, and how not to harm them. This will take some new levels of cultural sensitivity, spiritual discernment, and concerted prayer.
  12. We recommend some changes to prayer and mobilization publications associated with various UPGs. We especially want to exercise wisdom in mobilizing prayer for the many thousands of new believers in low-profile house church movements. We believe the time has passed for publishing specifics about UPGs, especially those under 100,000 in population. Whereas 20 years ago, mobilizing anyone to do anything for UPGs was the priority, the highest priorities today are: a) for the new believers in movements to reach more of their friends and neighbors through prayer and love, and b) for those movements to catalyze new movements in near-neighbor unreached groups.
  13. In light of these things, we are rewriting some prayer guides, giving more emphasis to how to pray and what Scriptures to pray, and less specific information on peoples and numbers of believers. This quieter mode of involvement is unpopular with some, but we need to prioritize the salvation of real people, discipling them into maturity, with prayerful advance of God’s kingdom. This higher goal means adjusting some mobilization efforts to put less spotlight on sensitive locations and groups. In some cases it might mean less funding or shifting funding to more strategic and less flashy projects and ministries. We follow in the spirit of John the Baptist: “He must increase: I must decrease.” Our goal is not to feel good about ourselves and our activities, but to do whatever will really tend toward major advance of God’s kingdom.

Teaching people how to pray, and especially key Scriptures to pray over the lost and over the witnesses among them is so valuable! Our not knowing specific details does not hinder God from hearing and working through our prayers. Surely non-detailed prayers like those of the psalmist and Paul can accomplish great things before the throne of grace. We need to grow in maturity to not let a shortage of information sap our enthusiasm and dedication to prayer for the unreached. Let’s keep up and even accelerate the good work of praying to the Lord of the Harvest… but share specific information very selectively.

Chuck Baker has trained church planters and missionary candidates for over 35 years in Asia and California. He has edited prayer guides and led many concerts of prayer for Unreached People Groups. This article developed out of recent correspondence with a team who has adopted an Unreached People Group in a sensitive region where new believers have been martyred. 

This is from an article that appeared in the January-February 2021 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 33-36.

Categories
About Movements

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER

THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER

Excerpted with permission from the highly recommended book

The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church by Jerry Trousdale & Glenn Sunshine. 

(Kindle Locations 761-838, from Chapter 3 “Praying Small Prayers to an Almighty God”)

Prayer was … central to Jesus’ life and the lives of believers in the early church. In monasteries, life was structured around regular times of prayer. Monasticism has a generally negative reputation among evangelicals, but it is worth noting that every major reform in the church, up to and including the Reformation, started in monasteries. 

We can also say unequivocally that every major revival and every movement of the Spirit was preceded by long, intense prayer. The question, then, is why do Christians in the Global North spend so little time and attention on prayer? The answer is found in a significant shift in culture that took place between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

 

From Deism to Materialism

As early as the seventeenth century, thinkers in Europe were becoming increasingly rationalistic. Some began moving toward deism, the idea that God created the universe and then stepped back and let it run on its own without ever intervening in it. This was done in a misguided notion of protecting the glory of God; if God did intervene in the world, they reasoned, it would suggest that He did not make it right in the first place. Deists thus had no place for revelation, for miracles, for the Incarnation— or for prayer. 

Deism is a fundamentally unstable worldview. It suggests that God acts only as the Creator of the universe, not as its Sustainer. Therefore, it becomes very easy to drop God out of the system altogether if you can find another explanation for the universe that does not require a Creator. By the early nineteenth century, the scientific establishment began to argue that the universe was eternal, and therefore God was unnecessary. They thus became materialists; that is, they argued that the only things that exist are matter and energy. Given these assumptions, a materialist must conclude that all physical events have purely physical causes, and empirical observation and science are the only things that qualify as true knowledge. 

Christians have never adopted a materialistic viewpoint, for obvious reasons, yet elements of materialism have so shaped the cultural mindset in the Global North that they have also shaped the de facto worldview of the church. When combined with the fact/ value distinction, which we discussed in the last chapter, materialism has had a devastating effect on prayer and on reliance on the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. We acknowledge (at least in theory) that God can act in the physical world— but we tend not to expect Him to. When praying for the sick, for instance, we tend to assume that God will work through the mind and skill of the physician or through medicines or through the normal healing processes of the body, or even by miracles, and so we pray that way. We tend not to pray specific prayers asking for divine intervention in the physical world. Why? Because we have erred in our thinking, unconsciously believing that physical events have only physical causes; and because we have erred in our practice, relegating God primarily to the realm of values— intangible things— rather than giving Him Lordship over the world of facts that can be measured and studied by science. 

 

The Problem of Affluence

The affluence of the Global North has also had a negative impact on prayer because we unconsciously believe that we do not need to rely on prayer for most things in our daily lives. The Global North is so wealthy that most of us do not have to worry about having our basic needs met. The things that we think we need are better described as things that we want, and our problems are mostly “first world problems,” and our “prayers” are more like selfish wishes. Scripture often warns us of the dangers of affluence, including presuming on the future (Luke 12: 16– 21) and forgetting the Lord (Deut. 8: 17– 18) because we assume that we got where we are by our own power or abilities. Jesus’ instructions to pray for our daily bread seem irrelevant when we have a refrigerator full of food. 

This abundance of resources also seduces the church away from relying on prayer. Consider how decisions are typically made in churches: there is a short prayer followed by a long discussion about the issues; a proposal is made and voted on; and a short prayer is said asking God to bless the decision that was made. We would be far better off spending more, if not most, of our time seeking God’s wisdom through prayer rather than relying on our own ideas. Yet we are so used to making our own decisions and relying on our own resources that it seems natural to do that in the church, as well. We pay marketing, media, and management consultants to tell us how to grow the church, how to run stewardship campaigns, how to raise money for a building fund— all examples of relying on our own resources rather than on prayer and the Holy Spirit. 

The simple truth is this: secular methods will never produce spiritual results. There are no consultants in the places where the church is growing the quickest. Those brothers and sisters have to depend on prayer and on obeying the instructions given in Scripture for spreading the Gospel. 

 

Lifestyle and Mindset Issues

Another barrier to prayer is lifestyle: we are simply too busy. Churches are built around programs that keep us doing things, and individually we have so much going on that we do not have time to pray. Or so we think. Martin Luther reportedly said that he was so busy that he could not possibly get everything done without taking at least two hours a day to pray. He knew something that we have forgotten. 

Our busyness is connected to a cultural bias toward acting to make things happen. Our culture loves slogans and aphorisms such as “God helps those who help themselves” or “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” We know in our minds that these notions are not scriptural, yet too often our actions don’t line up with that thinking. Our cultural ideal is to be strong, independent, and self-reliant. Yet the Bible tells us that we are strong when we are weak, that we are dependent on God and on one another, that we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Churches hold classes and seminars on personal evangelism, they encourage people to invite their friends to church, but they rarely hold prayer meetings focused on disciple-making and growth of the Kingdom. Yet Jesus tells the disciples not to try to spread the Gospel without waiting first for the Holy Spirit, and every major endeavor in the Gospels and Acts is preceded by deep and intense prayer. In other words, if we want to move the church forward, the critical action that we must take is prayer. 

Yet another barrier is a lack of mental discipline. Our fast-paced culture and the constant availability of the internet, often in our pockets, have so affected our minds that our attention span has shrunken from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015— and the average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds! We can, of course, focus longer on things that truly captivate our attention, but unfortunately, it seems prayer is not one of them. It is thus difficult for us to manage anything beyond short prayers— unlike our brothers and sisters in the Global South who often spend all night in prayer. 

Another area where we lack discipline is in the practice of fasting. Fasting is closely associated with prayer, biblically, historically, and currently in the Global South, yet it is rare to find Christians in the Global North who fast. The fact/ value distinction discussed in chapter two is again at work here; we do not understand what fasting is supposed to accomplish since we do not see a close connection between body and spirit. And in a consumerist culture like ours, self-denial seems strange, alarming, and unhealthy. all. If we did believe in prayer, we would do it more. 

Part of the reason for this is, once again, the fact/ value distinction, along with the materialistic mindset. The physical world of fact is separate and distinct from the world of the spirit according to this false worldview, and consequently, it is hard for us to see how praying can produce change in the physical realm. We know intellectually that God can make things happen in the physical world, but we do not expect Him to. 

Psychologically, we also have to deal with the problem of unanswered prayer (or, more precisely, prayer that God answers with a “no” or a “wait”). People fear to pray specific prayers because too often God has not granted us what we asked for. We provide ourselves with cover in these situations by making sure that we pray “if it be Your will,” but we do not believe or trust that God will give us what we ask. Our prayers seem ineffective, which reinforces the fact/ value distinction in our minds and makes us less inclined to pray, preferring instead to act.

The effect of all this is that, even in our discipleship programs, we tend to discount prayer. We offer regular classes on the Bible and train people to lead small group Bible studies, yet most churches have little if any teaching on how to pray. When we do pray, our prayers tend to be so vague that we cannot really say with certainty whether God actually answered them, or whether things would have worked out the same way even without prayer or divine intervention. Often this vagueness is put in spiritual language— bless so-and-so— without any concrete idea of what blessing would look like. 

Prayer is the lifeblood of movements. The church in the Global North does not rely on prayer, and if behavior is any indication, it does not believe in it, either. If we are going to see movements in the Global North [or anywhere else], we will need to see a new, ongoing commitment to serious, intense, persistent prayer for God to open heaven, to raise up disciple makers and church planters, to guide us to His people of peace, and to empower our work.

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About Movements

PRAYER LESSONS TO LEARN

PRAYER LESSONS TO LEARN

Excerpted with permission from the highly recommended book

The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church by Jerry Trousdale & Glenn Sunshine. 

(Kindle Locations 2470-2498, from Chapter 9 “Abundant Prayer”)

Serious dedication to prayer and fasting is central to Disciple Making Movements. Nothing happens without prayer. Yet churches in the Global North are weak when it comes to prayer. What lessons can we learn from the experiences related here from the Global South? 

  • The best way to learn prayer is by praying with people who know how to pray. Classes and training can help, as can mentoring and modeling, but with prayer, experience is truly the best teacher. 
  • Use the Psalms and scriptural prayers to guide your prayer. 
  • The Lord’s Prayer is particularly important for this. Listen for the voice of the Spirit
  • nudging you to pray for specific things in specific ways. 
  • Start small. Do not attempt all night prayer, forty days of fasting, or anything else that is not sustainable, and check with your doctor before engaging in fasting. Start with a simple dawn to dusk fast once a week. As you grow accustomed to that, increase the rigor, either by expanding the time or the frequency of the fasts. Review the prayer schedule from Africa in chapter three to get ideas on how to do this. Be sure as you fast to devote extra time to prayer. You can develop a similar approach to learning to pray more. 
  • As an individual, you can (and should) invite others in your church or fellowship to join you in your fasting and prayer. 
  • Get new followers to pray. 
  • Along with private prayer and corporate prayer in both small groups and the congregation, take prayer walks, inviting God to bring His Kingdom reign into a community and to show you where and how to begin. Some people on prayer walks begin to prophetically rename the streets of an area to themes God puts in their hearts, like Redemption Place or Deliverance Way. 
  • Experiment with highly participatory prayer formats. 

For example, years ago some Korean churches began to make corporate prayer a huge priority to the extent that many Christians would spend vacations in prayer. Prayer meetings became participatory, and these kinds of prayer meetings spread rapidly in the Global South. Leaders in prayer meetings would name a specific area for prayer, and everyone would then begin praying verbally about that topic. After a few moments another theme would be announced and the group would transition their prayers to that issue. 

For some Americans accustomed to prayer meetings being quiet, led by one person at a time praying, this might at first seem chaotic. However, in much of the Global South this is a common and powerful way of keeping everyone actively engaged in the process of praying, while leaders are constantly guiding and shaping the prayer meetings with intercession themes, and then perhaps moving to praying Scriptures that transition prayers to worship, thanksgiving, repentance, times of singing, or even silence. This approach is also used in half-night and all night prayer meetings. 

Spiritual warfare is real. Prayer and fasting are major weapons in that warfare. Learn to use them.

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About Movements

The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

By Steve Addison –

Luke begins the book of Acts by telling us that what Jesus began to do and teach, he now continues to do through his disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Luke’s story of the early church is the story of the dynamic Word of the gospel which grows, spreads, and multiplies, resulting in new disciples and new churches. We get to the end of Acts and yet the story doesn’t end. Paul is under house arrest awaiting trial; meanwhile the unstoppable Word continues to spread throughout the world. Luke’s meaning is clear: the story continues through his readers who have the Word, the Spirit and the mandate to make disciples and plant churches.

Throughout church history we see this pattern continue: the Word going out through ordinary people, disciples and churches multiplying. While the Roman Empire was collapsing, God was calling a young man named Patrick. He lived in Roman Britain but was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders. Alone and desperate, he cried out to God who rescued him. He went on to form the Celtic missionary movement that was responsible for evangelizing and planting roughly 700 churches: throughout Ireland first and then much of Europe over the next several centuries.

Two hundred years after the Reformation, Protestants still had no plan or strategy to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That was until God used a young Austrian nobleman to transform a bickering band of religious refugees. In 1722 Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf opened his estate to persecuted religious dissenters. Through his Christlike leadership and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were transformed into the first Protestant missionary movement, known as the Moravians.

Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann were the first missionaries sent out by the Moravians. They became the founders of the Christian movement among the slaves of the West Indies. For the next fifty years the Moravians worked alone, before any other Christian missionary arrived. By then the Moravians had baptized 13,000 converts and planted churches on the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts.

Within twenty years Moravian missionaries were in the Arctic among the Inuit, in southern Africa, among the Native Americans of North America, and in Suriname, Ceylon, China, India, and Persia. In the next 150 years, over 2,000 Moravians volunteered to serve overseas. They went to the most remote, challenging, and neglected areas. This was something new in the expansion of Christianity: an entire Christian community—families as well as singles—devoted to world missions.

When the American War of Independence broke out in 1776, most English Methodist ministers returned home. They left behind six hundred members and a young English missionary named Francis Asbury who was a disciple of John Wesley. 

Asbury had left school before he turned twelve to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. His grasp of Wesley’s example, methods and teaching enabled him to adapt them to a new mission field while remaining true to the principles.

Methodism not only survived the Revolutionary War, it swept the land. Methodism under Asbury outstripped the strongest and most established denominations. In 1775 Methodists were only 2.5% of total church membership in America. By 1850 their share had risen to 34%. This was at a time when Methodist requirements for membership were far stricter than the other denominations. 

Methodism was a movement. They believed the gospel was a dynamic force out in the world bringing salvation. They believed that God was powerfully and personally present in the life of every disciple, including African Americans and women, not just the clergy. They also believed it was their duty and priority to reach lost people and to plant churches across the nation.

American Methodism benefited greatly from the pioneering work of John Wesley and the English Methodists. Freed from the constraints of traditional English society, Asbury discovered that the Methodist movement was even more at home in a world of opportunity and freedom. 

As the movement spread through the labors of young traveling preachers, Methodism stayed cohesive through a well-defined system of community. Methodists remained connected with each other through a rhythm of class meetings, love feasts, quarterly meetings and camp meetings. By 1811 there were 400-500 camp meetings held each year, with a total attendance of over one million.

When Asbury died in 1816 there were 200,000 Methodists. By 1850 there were one million Methodists led by 4,000 traveling preachers and 8,000 local preachers. The only organization more extensive was the U.S. government.

Eventually Methodism lost its passion and settled down to enjoy its achievements. In the process it gave birth to the Holiness movement. William Seymour was a holiness preacher with a desperate desire to know the power of God. He was the son of former slaves, a janitor and blind in one eye. God chose this unlikely man to spark a movement that began in 1906 in a disused Methodist building on Azusa Street.

The emotionally charged meetings ran all day and into the night. The meetings had no central coordination, and Seymour rarely preached. He taught the people to cry out to God for sanctification, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing.

Immediately, missionaries fanned out from Azusa Street to the world. Within two years they had brought Pentecostalism to parts of Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. They were poor, untrained, and unprepared. Many died on the field. Their sacrifices were rewarded; the Pentecostal/charismatic and related movements became the fastest growing and most globally diverse expression of worldwide Christianity.

At the current rate of growth, there will be one billion Pentecostals by 2025, most of them in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pentecostalism is the fastest expanding movement—religious, cultural, or political—ever. 

Jesus founded a missionary movement with a mandate to take the gospel and multiply disciples and churches everywhere. History is replete with examples of movements just like in the book of Acts; I have named only a few. Three essential elements are necessary for Jesus movements: his dynamic Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and disciples who obey what Jesus has commanded.

Steve Addison is the author of Pioneering Movements: Leadership That Multiplies Disciples and Churches www.movements.net.

Adapted from an article originally published in the Jan-Feb 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 29-31, and published on pages 169-173 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.