In this second post of this series, I am continuing to discuss why I believe that most church planting strategies to reach North America are inadequate for the great task of reaching the estimated 75% (U.S.) and 88% (Canada) of lostness today (As I have written before, I believe the actual percentages are higher. SEE HERE).
In this post, I begin my countdown of the three most significant shifts I believe are necessary for the Church to be poised for the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. So, here we go.
Shift #3: We Must Shift from a Philosophy of Addition to a Philosophy of Multiplication
Now, I know there has been a good deal of discussion regarding multiplication over the past few years. For this I am very thankful. We in North America are at least talking about it. A few years ago, only missiologists and a handful of church planters were discussing it–and fewer others were listening. Church multiplication has been gaining some popular attention.
Unless the philosophy out of which we develop missionary strategy is permeated with the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches, then our church planting strategies are unlikely to lead to such multiplication.
I am hearing (and reading about) some of the discussions. But I do not believe most of the strategic action steps being advocated will move us very close to multiplication.
I wonder if most of us even realize what we are asking for when we talk about multiplication, which is generally synonymous with movement.
In the early 20th century, Roland Allen referred to this matter as the “terror of the missionaries,” simply because the inevitable result of such a work of the Spirit would result in such multiplication that the missionaries of his day would not be able to control the outcome and growth.
The “terror” is still with us. It reveals its ungodly head in our church planting (multiplication?) strategies whenever we do not seek to reach, teach, and release people back into the fields. Remember, the same Apostle Paul who taught the whole council of God (Acts 20:27) was the same Apostle Paul who requested prayer that the gospel would spread rapidly and be honored (2 Thes 3:1). (Just an interesting side note–Act 20:27 was spoken to the Ephesian elders, men who were pastoring after having been saved for only three years; 2 Thes 3:1–was written to a church that Paul had planted in possibly as little as three weeks but definitely not more than three months. Please note: I am not advocating a time-line, just stating New Testament realities on which we should meditate.). I believe the Scriptures are very clear that we can have rapid multiplication and healthy disciples, churches, and pastors.
What is Your Philosophy?
Church planters must begin with strategies that embrace a philosophy of multiplication. Instead of focusing on planting a single congregation, teams should labor–sometimes simultaneously–to plant several churches. From the beginning, the work of the missionaries must be related to church multiplication through disciple-making and the corollary, pastoral multiplication. This means our strategies must focus on church planters modeling reproduction at all levels in the church planting process.
The greater the complexity of our strategies and methods, the less likely we will experience multiplication. Such involves an inverse relationship. As the diagram below portrays, everything we do is reproducible to some degree, but the question is “How reproducible is what we model before the people, reproducible by the people?”
Several years ago, Charles Brock, in his book The Principles and Practice of Indigenous Church Planting, wrote:
”A church’s view of reproduction will be learned early. Every action of the church planter becomes part of a lesson learned by the church, even during its birth. The planter’s relationship to the church can be likened to a parent-child relationship. The child is learning from every action of the parent even though the parent isn’t consciously teaching and the child isn’t consciously learning (Sometimes through his actions the parent teaches the child things he never intended to.) If the church planter is fully aware of the need for “thinking reproducible” in everything done, he will more likely plant a church capable of reproduction” (55).
Borrowing from Brock, church planters must “think” multiplication in three critical areas.
The Use of Material Things.
The material items that church planters use to plant churches communicate to the new churches “these are necessary for church planting.” Therefore, if such resources cannot come from the people AND be manipulated by the people, the likelihood they will be able to be involved in church multiplication is diminished. The more foreign the material requirements, the more difficult it will be for the people to be involved in multiplication. If they must depend on a church planter and a great deal of his material resources to come into existence, then they will likely remain in this paternalistic relationship for any future church planting activities.
The Use of Strategy
The church planting strategies must be contextualized to the people. The complexity of our strategy will affect the ability of the congregation to learn from and reproduce healthy strategy. Again, the more complex the strategy, the more difficult it will be to multiply by the people.
The Use of Leadership
If we model a form of leadership before the people that only the few can imitate, then the possibility of multiplication will be diminished. For example, say I am a high-caliber leader, a ten-talented guy, a one-in-a-million leader, and I do not model a form of leadership before my people that those called-out can imitate, then am I truly a good leader who is concerned with multiplication? Yes, there is a time and place to lead like a ten-talented leader. But, if my regular leadership style and ways of doing ministry are so lofty that they impress upon the people: ”You can never do ministry like this–the way ministry should be done. I’ll do everything for you. And only those of such a caliber as myself are the people to whom you should entrust with any significant ministry,” then I am not a leader with church multiplication in mind. If my leadership approach to church planting can only be imitated by the other high-caliber leaders, then how many people am I possibly excluding from being raised up as church planters? If I am a ten-talented leader and expecting all church planters to be ten-talented leaders, then I am excluding those who are nine-talented, eight-talented, seven-talented, etc.
Such is not the way to church multiplication.
If the church planter manifests a leadership style which can only be developed through years of education and ministerial experience, then few within the new church will desire or even be capable of being raised up as pastors or church planters.
The more technical our leadership model for church planting, the more difficult it will be for the people to multiply churches.
Next post: Shift #2: The Methodology Shift