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The Multiplying Church The New Math for Starting New Churches
By Bob Roberts Jr. Zondervan Copyright © 2008 Bob Roberts Jr.
All right reserved.
Chapter One MADE IN ASIA-JESUS MOVEMENTS
CPM-CP + J = JM
Autumn in Hanoi, Vietnam BEING MISSIONAL Blog posted by Bob Roberts Jr.
I just returned from Vietnam where the church is exploding. What I have seen on this trip and in the past is a church growing not because of Western involvement (or any other that I could detect), but from unique stories of how individuals came to faith in Christ through unexpected ways and then wound up leading friends to faith in Christ. That led to them starting groups to pray and worship and reach out. I've yet to meet someone who deliberately set out to start a church. It just happened because they were leading their friends to faith in Christ-just like what happened in Acts 11. Church wasn't something they intentionally started to reach all these lost seekers. It was a community that developed and emerged from following Christ together. Often at church planter gatherings I'll hear people say they wanted to start a church because they wanted to reach seekers-that's good. I'll hear them say they wanted to be a part of something fresh and new and more culturally relevant-that's good, too. Those that are theologically adept (like me!) will say they want to start churches to glorify God. The big thing now is to "start something missional"-obviously to me that's very good. But I've NEVER heard that in Vietnam or other countries where the Gospel is exploding sometimes under difficult situations. It's the rage right now in the West though. We have built a whole religious industry around being missional, primarily for young pastors. But all of us feel the tug. Recently my speaking schedule began to get too full and cramp my schedule for how I'm actually on the ground at my home base and around the world working. In other words, I had to choose to "speak" missional or "do" missional! At best, in the West we've tried to implement a few things or activities that we hope are "missional." Yet those who are experiencing it don't realize it; they can't explain it-but they are it! Neither could they give a lecture on it. You can't find talks, lectures, research, explanations, or steps on what is "missional" or how to be more "missional" coming from the emerging church in the East. It's just what and who they are. If you called them missional, they wouldn't know what you're talking about. It's fascinating - we're dissecting the word, developing concepts, forming lectures and teachings on what it is, mapping out plans on how to be "missional," and yet most of us have never even experienced it. This humbles me tremendously as a westerner. This may be the biggest difference between how we intentionally start churches in the West and how they unintentionally start movements in the East that explode like wildfire. Even so, many are talking about starting movements here in the West. We fund, plan and strategize our focus on starting something that grows into a movement from a single church. And often we get the growing church-yet not the movement. On the other hand, the believers in the two-thirds world get the movement even though they were not expecting it! The differences in the philosophy, focus, the expected results, and the motive are all reversed! Their philosophy is based more on discipleship where people know who Christ is and follow it together, never expecting big results. People who are focusing on church planting are talking movement language because we've seen it "over there" and want it "here." What would it look like for us here in the United States to learn from the church in Vietnam, China, or even Tehran? I wonder.
How Can that Be?
I have a vision and a dream Let's start a thousand churches over the next ten years, each one running a minimum of two thousand members, and in just ten years we will turn America upside down with the gospel! That would work, right? Wrong-that scenario just happened over the past ten years, and there are fewer people in church today than ever before How can that be? How could we have spent billions to start two thousand megachurches and yet have fewer people in church and a society that largely feels the church is antagonistic?
The answer is, in part, that it's not enough just to start churches for the sake of evangelism that will end when "conversion" takes place Books on starting churches generally operate on the premise that we need to start churches because it is the best evangelistic method that exists That is a true statement-but an insufficient reason for starting churches Any research regarding the state of church growth and Christianity in America says it is in decline Thom Rainer, author and columnist, wrote:
I am by nature an optimist I have seen the hand of God too often in my life to live in a state of despair and defeatism However, the state of evangelism in the American Church is such that I do have my moments when I wonder if the Church is headed down the path of many European congregations: decline and death The facts of a 2004 research project I led are sobering.
Regardless of the religious right and despite the emergence of megachurches, postmodern churches, and house churches, nothing has stemmed the tide of Christianity's slow decline in the West We continue to decline while the church is simultaneously exploding in the East as the world has never known.
Everyone is working on it, however We are designing systems and templates to see a movement happen in the West Great systems are emerging We feel successful if a denomination, network, or group of churches plants a few hundred churches-as if we may be on the brink of something We get excited if a few hundred people or a few thousand gather to discuss church planting at conferences-and we should However, our standards for impact are incredibly low compared to how churches are multiplying around the world Upon examination, the movements that are exploding often have poor systems, little control, and massive fruit They defy both logic and explanation It's almost as if the paradoxical principle is that great resources and systems produce little, while few (if any) resources and systems produce masses Could there be a correlation?
Not long ago, I sat across the table from an extremely wealthy and successful man who was looking to invest his millions Church planting was high on his list-he has funded different forms of it for years However, his question to me was, "Is church planting really working?" My answer was succinct "Not if we keep planting the same kinds of churches" Our tendency has been to look at the form and model-be it seeker, postmodern, house church, whatever Rarely have we looked at the core, the essence of what a church really is The result is that we build buildings or gather people, but to what end? We cannot look at converts alone-we have to ask, "Are the churches we are a part of seeing transformation?"
I was at a meeting with Eric Swanson alongside several Christian world leaders at the Global Learning Community gathering One man named Layo began to speak and his words blew me away and affected Eric as well.
WHY LAYO IS NOT CELEBRATING FORTY YEARS OF MINISTRY Blog posted by Eric Swanson Layo Lieva will not be celebrating 40 years of his ministry's presence in El Salvador. But why? Layo has been in ministry for over 30 years, so he has the long view of ministry in one country. He told us about how, when he was a student, he and his friends would dream of what their country would be like if a third of the people in El Salvador knew Christ. "What if ...? grew legs as they began strategizing on reaching their country. Now, 30 years later, 32% of El Salvadorenos are believers, the country has statistically been evangelized at least three-times over and there is one church for every 700 El Salvadorenos. (The Saturation Church Planting folks suggest that one church for every thousand people is saturation.) Christian TV and radio stations abound, missionaries flow freely into the country and visiting Christian dignitaries often visit the country's president to pray with him and have their photo taken. There are Jesus marches replete with banners and bands. Layo notes that there is "a festival of Christian work." By many accounts there is much cause for rejoicing. So why is Layo so discontent? Why is he unwilling to have a celebration of his ministry's 40th anniversary in this country?
Excerpted from The Multiplying Church by Bob Roberts Jr. Copyright © 2008 by Bob Roberts Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
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