"Church planting in the way of the apostles ... that's what Peyton is trying to recover. A good contribution in a critical time."
—Alan Hirsch, author of The Permanent Revolution
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A radical call to reform, Church Zero is a punk-rock approach to the pressing issue of gaining ground as rapidly as the early church. With a fresh perspective forged in the dirty trenches of international post-Christian societies, Peyton Jones pulls no punches as he brings this message to the American Church: We have lost our way.
The church is losing ground fast: losing the generation under age 30 and drawing few nonbelievers toward Christ. Christ gave us a leadership model for commando outreach, and the church has ignored it for too long. Will we continue down the path of self-preservation, defending our stalled church structures? Or will we follow the blueprint Jesus lays out? Church Zero challenges readers to once again become a radical, dangerous people who cannot be ignored. It’s time to break out!
THIS IS GONNA HURT
Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Paul, Galatians 3:3
Christianity has achieved apparent success by ignoring the precepts of its Founder. H. Richard Neibuhr
How long? Not long. 'Cause what you reap is what you sow. Rage Against the Machine, Wake Up
Size matters not. Master Yoda
There I was, sitting in a room in Wales, the most unchurched part of the United Kingdom, gearing up to hear the pastoral wisdom of Francis Chan. I don't know how they got him to come to this place, of all the crummy gin joints in the world, but there he was, kicking down his radical manifesto to a crew of pastors who were very clearly not getting what he was driving at. Francis was speaking about his unconventional move to leave his thriving California megachurch, travel to the developing world, and visit the underground Chinese church in hopes of radically rethinking what church was meant to be. Free-falling into the hands of God, he was on a mission of discovery to scrape together some paradigm of ministry that he could believe in: something that nurtured discipleship, was less self-serving to the pastor, and had more practical impact.
And that's when it happened.
He said he had begun to wonder if there was something missing in our current setup. Then he dropped the A-word (and it ain't what you're thinking).
It's the new A-bomb in church circles.
It's a word that's used in nearly every book in the New Testament, and yet twenty-first-century Christians dodge it like Superman recoiling from kryptonite. As it echoed in the vacuum of stunned silence, the hackles rose on the nape of my neck. I thought, Holy New Testament vocabulary, Batman! This guy is going to blow the doors off the church if he keeps dropping the biblical A-bomb!
The word apostle had become like the ark of the covenant to me, and lately I was feeling the contrast between the pastoral Dr. Jones's mundane routine of charming the ladies with stuffy indoor academic-type pulpit lectures and the alter-ego adventurer Indy inside me, desperately trying to break out. When reading the book of Acts, I'd often ask myself, "Why does what we do in ministry today look so different from the way Paul did it?" I'd been rediscovering the biblical role of the apostle for the last few years, and I realized that Francis had been brought to my doorstep so that he could be used to deliver a divine kick up my backside by being so bold as to use that word. The end result was me chaining myself to my desk and writing about what I'd begun to witness in Europe.
For over a decade I'd been involved in various forms of church planting in Wales as an overseas tent-making missionary pastor. The oldest Celtic-speaking nation and once known as "the land of revivals," Wales has become the forgotten part of the UK. Hugging the western rim of northwestern Europe alongside Ireland, Wales also represents the cutting edge of postmodernism. When I first set foot on Welsh terra firma twelve years ago, I could see that it wasn't going to be easy. Almost immediately I slammed into two important facts: first, the secular ethos and post-Christian mind-set were swallowing churches alive in the UK like the mighty Sarlacc pit's digestive juices slowly eroding Boba Fett's Mandalorian body armor. Second, I was going to have to completely relearn ministry from the foundations up if I was going to get anywhere in this God-forsaken mission field.
Those two realizations made me desperate. In the natural world, desperation creates a fight-or-flight reflex. In the spiritual realm, it's not too different. The second you realize that it's either sink or swim, the adrenaline starts to juice you up, and you get radical. Fighting isn't usually my first instinct; flighting is. Nonetheless, I've always been the kind of guy who was willing to do anything, no matter how crazy it sounded, or how scared I was, as long as I knew God was in it.
I can relate to Gideon. I understand all of his hesitation and boldness in alternating steps. That's usually the cadence of my footsteps as well. Although I may not like it at the time, most often I'll eventually drag myself to the electric chair, reluctantly strapping in with Thomas's helpless but sarcastic words ringing in my head: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16).
I had been called by God to make an impact in a culture that saw less than 1.6 percent of the population attending church—and I had to change. The way I did ministry had to change. So I started reading the Bible a bit more....
Oh yeah, and I started paying more attention to the book of Acts.
THE NEW TESTAMENT WORD FOR MISSIONARY
Let me ask you: doesn't it seem weird that our missionary manifesto, the New Testament, lacks the word missionary in the English translations? Think about that.
Can that be right?
On the contrary, my dear Watson, the word you've been looking for has been under your nose all along. It is there. You just haven't recognized it because of how it has been translated. It's the word apostle. Apostolos in the Greek means "sent one" and can be translated as "missionary."
Now what did the New Testament missionaries do? They planted churches.
What if all the buzz about church planting and missional church wasn't something new that plaid-clad, horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing hipsters had invented, but rather something that was inherent in the word apostolos?
Before the A-bomb sends you running for cover, screaming what a freak I am, let me assure you that I mean apostle with a little a. I don't mean a guy with superpowers or somebody who still writes Scripture in his spare time. Nor am I a member of the Apostolic denomination.
Bear with me.
Most people out there believe the term apostle belongs exclusively to the Twelve. True, the Twelve were "sent ones," but the New Testament term apostle is not exclusively used for the Twelve. Once Paul used apostle to describe his role, there were thirteen, but did you know that the Greek word apostolos is used for nine other individuals in the New Testament as well? Oh yeah, it is, but the English translators rendered it as messenger or representative because it didn't gel with their theology to translate it literally from apostolos to apostle.
What if the church had a theological blind spot that was obstructing a biblical theology of church planting?
What the translators fail to understand is that the New Testament knows two different types of apostles. The first group was known as "the Twelve." They were capital-A Apostles and missionaries to the twelve tribes of Israel, and they were never to be replicated or replaced. They were handpicked by Jesus for a specific time in history. The second category—little-a apostles—was a lesser group of church planters who served under Paul. He gave them the title of apostolos. The word apostolos is definitely used for the Twelve, as in Matthew 10:2, but not for them alone. The word is also used for Paul, and he wasn't one of the Twelve. Here are nine other people called apostles (apostolos, plural: apostoloi) in the New Testament, none of whom were part of the Twelve:
Titus (2 Cor. 8:23)
James, the Lord's brother, not John's brother from Club 12 (Gal. 1:18–19)
Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
Apollos (1 Cor. 4:6–9)
Andronicus (Rom. 16:7)
Junias (Rom. 16:7)
Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25)
Timothy (1 Thess. 1:1–2:6)
Silas/Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1–2:6)
Those are just the ones Paul mentioned. Paul worked with a network of missionaries who were also sent out by Jesus on a frontline, life-or-death church-planting commando recon mission. In fact, Paul used the title of apostle for what he did in church planting: "for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles" (Gal. 2:8). He said to the Corinthians, "Are you not my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" (1 Cor. 9:1–2). A paraphrase of that could be, "If to others I am not a 'sent-out one,' at least I am to you, for you are a proof or validation of my 'sent-out-ness' in the Lord." His apostleship was proved by the fact that the Corinthian church existed. Why? Because apostle = church planter.
The lesser apostles didn't meet the same criteria as the Twelve, nor were they leaders over the whole church. Instead, these lesser apostles operated as church-planting missionaries. There may be a parallel between the lesser apostles and the seventy-two disciples that Jesus sent out. Although these disciples didn't have special status or authority, their role was nonetheless to spread the word to villages and towns that needed to hear. Paul was not one of the Twelve, but he was a kind of link between the twelve apostles who were there from the beginning and those who would take his place: Timothy, Titus, and the others.
This makes sense of why, in Ephesians 4, Paul said apostles (and prophets and evangelists) are necessary for building up the church alongside pastors and teachers. Paul spoke of them as if they were commonplace.
True, there are those who say, as I once believed, that the roles of apostle and prophet faded into oblivion upon the completion of Scripture. In the modern church, however, we've managed to exterminate teacher and evangelist as well so that we're left with the pastor-only model. What if, as a result of amputating these roles, the church were a dismembered quadriplegic? Would that explain why it isn't moving? Would it shed light on why the church inchworms pathetically on its mission like a fat little grub?
If we ignore the biblical roles Christ gave us to accomplish the mission, then our structure will be wrong. If the structure is wrong, then the functionality will be limited. If the functionality is limited, then our mission will be compromised. If our mission is compromised, we won't be as effective as Jesus intended.
We have been ignoring these important roles to our peril. The Western church is beginning to wake up to the reality that with all the sound and fury of our success, we've lost something. This has happened throughout history. Did you know that it's possible for a society to go backward in its understanding? An entire civilization can devolve technologically and lose vital stratagems for engineering because they've forgotten certain methods.
For example, the Romans knew how to make fifty-foot-high hydraulic cement aqueducts that spanned valleys. If you go to modern Britain, you will still see their ruins towering against the backdrop of impossible landscapes. Centuries later, however, the engineers of the Dark Ages couldn't replicate these feats because they'd lost the Roman technology to make structural cement. What if the church has lost vital biblical technology essential to advancing the kingdom of Christ? Like medieval Europe, we'd be scratching our scalps, wondering how they did it in the past, yet we'd be hindered from making real progress ourselves.
The church planting network that I run may be called New Breed, but you're probably beginning to piece together that we're really kicking it old school. Like, two-thousand-years-old school. If the church recovers the apostolic-style ministry that made the first century tick, then it will jump-start the church back to the threatening force that it was two thousand years ago. Like Indiana Jones uncovering the ark of the covenant in the Well of Souls, we need to unearth the divine technology that has lain hidden in the depths of God's Word all along.
Before we do, let's look at the current weakened structure of Western evangelicalism.
FORMULAS FOR DISASTER
Francis Chan's dissatisfaction with the current model of evangelical hierarchy is only the beginning of the shakedown that is happening in Western Christianity. It points to cracks in our foundation.
The emergent movement began with disenchantment with the evangelical megachurch movement in America, where many of them ran like big-business enterprises. Here are the nuts and bolts of the machine broken down from the instruction manual:
How to Build a Megachurch in Five Easy Dance Steps
1. Get more people
2. More people = more money
3. More money = more toys
4. More toys = more ways to get more people
5. Get more people (rinse and repeat)
This is the model that has been used for decades in America, but to what aim? Many young men in leadership during the 1990s stood at the top of the megachurch pyramid, rolled their idle crowns on their index fingers, and muttered, "Now what?"
After the emergent movement dissed the megachurch movement, dissidents of evangelicalism flocked to these churches that put the "hip" in discipleship. When the emergent churches became "successful" in numbers, they simply reproduced what they had come from—except that now people did finger painting to punk music onstage. As history repeated itself, the emergent leaders sat on thrones built out of solid cool, forlorn with chin in palm, asking the familiar question, "Now what?" Thus history repeateth.
Why did the early church that had seen so many conversions and changed the first-century landscape not face this same problem?
Well, it almost did.
Picture yourself in Jerusalem at the dawn of the apostolic age, circa Acts 3. You had given up everything once you discovered God's sacrificial lamb. Now you sat at the feet of eleven guys who were ordinary just like you, yet extraordinary. Ordinary fishermen and tradesmen, they were transformed, like you, by an encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. Their ministry was so powerful that you never wanted to leave their teaching or the warm fellowship of the community, or the fear and awe-tinged miracles that buzzed the atmosphere with supernatural power.
It had all the makings of a megachurch experience: thousands of people, money to do anything they wanted, and ministry coming out of their ears. There was only one problem. The kingdom couldn't advance in a holy huddle. God had to give them a spiritual kick up the backside.
Enter Saul of Tarsus. Persecution smacked down on the church like Gallagher's twenty-five-pound sledgehammer on a watermelon, splattering the seeds of the church to the far reaches of Asia Minor. If the church wouldn't go out willingly, they'd be scattered unwillingly. That is God's time-tested method of getting His people to heed the Great Commission. In Europe today, postmodernism has been forcing churches to venture outside to reach the unreached. There is desperation in leaders who have realized that it's either sink or swim.
Pioneer third-world missionary C. T. Studd once said:
Some want to live within the sound
Of Church or Chapel bell
I want to run a Rescue Shop
within a yard of hell.
The churches that won't heed Jesus's call to get out there will die—and in fact are already dying from within. This isn't just happening in Great Britain. The dry rot in America has already set. We're just repeating Britain's pattern fifty years later. In the 1950s in Britain, the churches were full, packed with families. Preaching legend Peter Jeffery recalls how on the streets of Britain in the fifties, an open-air preacher would draw folks out of their front doors, toting folding chairs so they could listen. In the sixties, however, the sexual revolution put the church to bed, and the youth slowly trickled out of the church scene. Nobody panicked. Do you know why? The churches were still relatively full. One decade, two decades later, and the silver heads woke up to the widening maw of an irreversible generation gap as they literally died off one by one. As the numbers in the church graveyard increased, the numbers in the pews decreased. When they woke up to the shrinking church—evidenced by the empty pews—the panic finally broke out. But by then it was too late.
When I returned to the United States after being abroad for twelve years, the first thing I noticed was that we'd lost the youth on a Sunday.
Nobody is worried; the numbers are still big.
Wait ten years.
Churches that depend on their size tend to rest on their laurels. That's what happened in the early church. When the book of Acts closes, the Holy Spirit leaves us with an important message. Megachurch Jerusalem had faded to the narrative background and ceased to be an influential presence in the world. Instead, the focus of Acts is on the smaller, nondescript churches that were springing up in the most remote parts of the map. The kingdom was clawing its way outward, fighting for every inch of pagan ground taken.
Excerpted from CHURCH ZERO by PEYTON JONES. Copyright © 2013 Peyton Jones. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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Peyton Jones is founding coach of New Breed Church Planting UK/USA. A serial church planter, Jones is currently planting his second stateside church in urban Long Beach, California. He planted his at age 24 and has worked as a tentmaker, a firefighter, factory worker, and psychiatric nurse, bringing all these experiences to the table in ministry. Jones received his MA Theology: Pastoral Studies from Wales Evangelical School of Theology and served as the evangelist for Lloyd-Jones’s legendary Sandfields church, Aberavon.
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I have recently read numerous books on ministry and church planting for post-modern times, but I repeatedly passed up this book without even reading the reviews simply because the cover looked so weird and “What is Church Zero anyway?” I only decided to read Church Zero after attending a class taught by Peyton Jones at a church planter boot camp. He had a lot to say that I needed to hear. Church Zero is a worthy read. A must read if you are not satisfied with the current effectiveness of the church in reaching the lost. I am not aware of any other books covering the same material. I will not attempt to cover the many details of Church Zero as others have provided adequate synopsis of the book. Rather I will share the points that have most influenced me. The church in America has sped down the freeway just doing what she does. Her eyes glazed over with highway hypnoses as postmodernism crept into American culture. Now only a good jolt of a massive chug hole could shake her out of it. That is exactly what Peyton got when he returned to America after twelve years abroad. He looked around and said, “Where are the youth? They are not in church anymore!” Yet the church continues without concern just as it had in Europe. Without youth or new converts, the remaining church ages and passes away. Not only does Jones see the problem he also knows the solution because of his experience as a missionary to Wales. He has faced the barren results of ministry in the post-modern, post-Christian European culture, which now infects America as well. Today Americas’ own back yard is the third largest mission field in the world. The American churches remain largely clueless as to how to reach this magnitude of lost souls. We would do well to learn from the experiences of those who has have dealt with the same mind set in Europe. This is where Church Zero comes in. Stumped when the usual ministry outreach methods did not work, Jones turned to scripture to investigate church methods. Peyton studied the book of Acts until he realized the church had left the original pattern Christ intended His church to follow. In Church Zero, Peyton Jones points out these changes and explains from church history why they occurred and their lasting effect on the church. It is illuminating to say the least. He illustrates the need to return to the original model of Kingdom work as an effectual model for the American church today. Todays’ church ignores the gifts Christ gave to her. I understand Eph. 4:11-13 to speak of people Christ gives to the church as parts of the Christian body to provide leadership. I have noticed many churches today are “pastored” by teachers that continuously move through one bible book after another without any prophetic element of “preaching” the message of God for that congregation at that particular moment in time to accomplish God’s purpose for them. This grows an anemic church. Still I had stopped short of seeing the real problem. We need a variety of leaders; a team like Christ gave the church to lead the congregation to accomplish all that God desires and has in store for His church. I had missed the importance of the leadership team even though scripture spells it out. That one point affects how we do church at so many levels as well as the outcomes of our work. I am thankful to have read Church Zero.
Peyton Jones in his new book, “Church Zero” published by David C. Cook shows us Raising 1st Century Churches out of the Ashes of the 21st Century Church. From the Back Cover: It’s Time to start over from zero. What happened to the Western Church? When did we stop being radical, dangerous, and impossible to ignore? Why are we losing the generation under 30 and reaching so few nonbelievers? In Church Zero, Peyton Jones says one of our big problems is this: we squeeze our leaders into a mold that cuts their hair and drains away their commando strength. Scripture lays out a leadership model that worked explosively in the first century—but frankly, we’re scared of it. We don’t have to be. When properly understood, Christ’s model can help your church live the way the body was meant to live, truly making a difference in your community. Church Zero gives the blueprints for how the Western Church might start rebuilding from the ground up if a pipe bomb were placed underneath all of our church structures overnight. What would tomorrow look like if we had to restart from a biblical ground zero? Church Zero will help us once again become a radical, dangerous people who cannot be ignored. It’s time to break out of the matrix. I do not have a problem with what we now call mega-churches. I guess sometimes it is easier to go and fit in with a large crowd. However we need the smaller churches to meet the needs of the individuals and we need the Pastors to shepherd them. However there are not enough churches! When I was growing up there was practically a church every few blocks. Now you need to travel to find a church. To get churches planted we need planters or what Paul called apostles. In eleven chapters Mr. Jones goes into the problem and the solution on how we should get the new church planted. He addresses the need and provides solutions. I believe this book is for everybody whether or not you will be a church planter. You see once the new church is planted someone has to bring the unchurched to church and if you understand what is going on in your new home you will be more equipped to help out. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from David C. Cook for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I just finished reading Church Zero and tears welled up in my eyes. The first thing that came to mind was similar to what the profit Isaiah said, God forgive me for I am a man of unclean lips and hart. The book is so moving almost prophetic, meaning it proclaims God truth for the believers to get out of the pews and become active participants in expanding Gods kingdom rather than some christian leaders that prefer building an empire. I was moved to get involved and seek God to do whatever he asks of me. I want to attend jump school and to use my gifts as God has given me to further the work which God has prepared in advance for me to do. Thanks. John Apodaca