A. Let me contextualize my thoughts.
1. It is my contention that the world, and especially North America, is more like the first century than the 20th century. If that is true, our strategies must be different and the world is ripe for a major new movement that could reshape the world. The question is will it be Christianity or something else?
2. Let me identify nine cultural issues that shaped Christian mission in ancient times.
a. The dominance of the Roman Empire.
b. The role of urban centers overshadowing vast regions.
c. Increasingly rigid class boundaries linking wealth, status, and virtue as well as controlling the legal system.
d. The elevation of sports to replace traditional family and religious rituals.
e. The emergence of spiritually yearning, institutionally alienated public.
f. The exhaustion and disappearance of the middle class.
g. The emergence of a militaristic mentality unsupported by the masses.
h. The dominance of Polytheism and agnostic view toward Christianity.
i. The rise of the mean age of affluent people.
j. Mass migration exceeding the absorption power of the traditional Roman society.
k. A growing inability to control resurgence groups.
3. What do these cultural issues mean to the church planting movements today, especially in North America?
a. The spiritually hungry public is prepared to listen to credible mentors bringing welcome relief to people enslaved by capitalism and addiction. The church must deploy the Pauline tactics of lay empowerment and team deployment (forsaking clergy dependency and hierarchy).
b. The dominance of a few urban centers means that Christian missionaries do not need to reach everybody superficially, but only a few people profoundly. The church must impact the leaders of urban micro-cultures and communicate via highway and internet.
c. Lifestyle focus and awareness of holistic health has liberated culture from the dominance of old, modern scientism and rationalism. The church must concentrate on modeling a way of life, instead of inculcating ideological or dogmatic information.
d. The emergence of amateur sport has provided Christian missionaries with safe, unregulated opportunity to connect with any person of any class or station. As government agencies clamp down on other forms of mass mailing, door-to-door solicitation, and non-taxable organization, this remains the one venue that equalizes class-consciousness and opens communication with any demographic.
e. The same desire to escape reality that attracts intelligent pagans to new forms of Gnosticism, mystery religions, and cults is receptive to a more apocalyptic Christian message that can renew hope for the transformation of this world to the origins of Eden. The church must broaden its message to include the apocalyptic transformation of the environment.
f. Mass migration will transform North American culture from the smallest village to largest city within the decade. The church must leave behind the “sacred cows” of western European taste, sensibility, and control.
g. The sense of purposeless and futility that dominates contemporary culture is highly receptive to the ancient invitation to “know Christ, experience his sufferings, so that you can participate in the hope of his resurrection” (Phil. 3:10). This possibility of “internalizing” Christ as the foundation of real hope makes Christology the only subject worth discussing today. Who is Jesus … and why should he matter to my micro-culture?
h. Cross-tribal, church planting partnerships will spawn movements that replace present day denominational efforts and separate the church into two camps: those who are in residence at home like the church in Jerusalem or those who are in motion on the Way to mission with Jesus
B. Even though there are differences in the movements of the West and the rest of the world. When I note a cultural difference too large to overcome, I will put this in my notes.
II. Hallmarks of any effective movement:
A. Empowering Leadership: This may be an individual, a triad, or a team, but clearly credible leaders cast large motivating visions and equip others to find their own destinies within it. They never do ministries for people, but equip disciples to do mission on their own.
B. Boundary Thinking Management: Ministries are released within clearly defined and shared limitations of values, beliefs, vision, and mission … combined with broad policies for corporate behavior, and a handful of executive limitations on actions. Tasks are never, ever assigned. Accountability is a matter of reasonable trust more than supervision.
C. Bottom-up Mission: Missions are discerned only through the disciplined, partnered spiritual growth of the constituency, and never through the top-down strategic planning of management boards.
D. Purpose-driven Teams: Entrepreneurial partnerships are turned loose to innovate within the boundaries for any spiritually discerned mission. These are the “cells” which are the most visibly active force in the organization … but look closer and see that each cell is carefully designed to combine passion with leadership, constant learning, holistic personal growth, behavior modification, and peer evaluation.
E. Intentional Replication: While the unfolding mission is characterized by its unpredictability, the actual process to multiply teams or cells is absolutely predictable. Each cell “fractals” itself in regular patterns of embedded values, expectations for learning, protocols for safety, and cooperation in a larger Biblical vision. The driving force to “fractal” is provided, not by a board, but by the DNA.
III. The stages of a movement.
A. A vision is born in the heart or hearts of a passion, person or group.
B. A leader of leaders emerges as the one to lead the movement. The movement rapidly spreads. The rapid expansion of the movement innovation and passion relies primarily on the leader of the leader’s ability to communicate and inspire the innovation and passion.
C. In time the leader of the leaders is less available to the church planters due to the growing number of churches and the increasing demands of the organizational part of the movement. Now the organization tends to align the church plants with the DNA of the movement more than the passion of the leader of the movement.
D. So far, the relevance of the mission to the target micro-culture has relied on intense collaboration between the “Leader of Leaders” and a core group of church planters. Now rapid reproduction has made it impossible for the “modeling power” of the core group to be as effective. Predictable corporate behavior can no longer be assumed. The organic organization responds with a centralized board dedicated not to management, but to policy governance.
E. Next, the leader of leaders and board are drawn increasingly into the management of the movement. The “Leader of Leaders” is drawn increasingly into negotiation of partnerships with outside networks. What were once dynamic “targeted missions” are now solidifying into “management silos”.
F. As targeted missions morph into management silos, quality goes down. “Targeted missions” that live, thrive, die, and make room for new missions require constant innovation and mutual critique, but “management silos” which have no foreseeable end work best in sustained, predictable, above-average mediocrity. The “edge” of mission is blunted. The organic organization responds by shifting staff expectations from that of “player/coach” to “coach/general manager”. Systems are developed for quality control. Training is increased within targeted mission, and communication is increased between each division.
G. Cross-cultural realities shipwreck centralized executive management, because it inevitably lacks credibility and simply cannot maintain sensitivity to the rapidly emerging micro-cultures, migrations, and generations of the postmodern world. The organic organization responds by de-centralizing management, diffusing authority toward teams that are now shaped as much by cultural ethos as missional target. Program communication becomes automated, but prayer becomes personal, partnered, and very intentional. Affirmative action quotas are avoided, but leaders aggressively translate the organic DNA into cross-cultural experience.
H. Innovation that was the heart and soul of the church plant becomes subverted by the quest for quality which in fact encourages standardization. Staff behave more like industrialists than artists. It becomes more difficult to tolerate failure, accept mistakes, be politically incorrect, and take risks. The movement organization responds by redeploying offices into teams composed of former program and support staff, plus handpicked volunteers, that function more like self-contained “flying squads” than budget-dependent “task groups”. Financial incentives reward learning-from-failure more than strategic-success.
I. De-centralization downloads management to the staff-teams again, and draws the board back into the management fray trying to customize executive limitations. The Personnel Committee threatens to become the “Thought Police” because it has less to do with boundaries and ascertaining reasonable trust, and more to do with ideological or theological conformity. The movement responds by concentrating on their “Christ center” and letting go of theology and ideology, and focusing personnel oversight on coaching, spiritual life and mission skills rather than dogmatic assent.
J. The increasing autonomy and power of major nexus of mission leads staff to feel increasingly isolated and lonely … and vulnerable. Radically creative, “big picture” leaders begin to feel smothered, and are tempted to exit the organization, while traditionally trained, “corporate detail” leaders threaten to return the church to strategic incremental plans and line budgets. The movement responds by dismissing bureaucratically trained managers and actively seeking maverick, entrepreneurial church planters who are looking to unite vital spiritual life, constant innovation, and high ratios of invested energy to social change. And the circle is complete.
K. The question is: what are you doing to avoid moving from C to D?
IV. The problem with most movements is that when the founder dies, the movement begins to die. Couple this with church planting being one of the trends that come along every decade or so we have an explosive issue that requires raising some serious questions.
A. How do you know that you are the leader of a movement rather than a follower of a trend?
1. Why you are leading a church planting movement is crucial for God’s blessing.
a. To increase your groups size?
b. To get more money to feed the system?
c. The questions you must ask yourself are:
(i) Am I about planting churches or changing the world?
(ii) Am I content without much hierarchy of authority and bureaucratic decision-making?
(iii) Do I make every decision based on the movement or are some of my decisions made for other reasons?
(iv) Do I have a comprehensive strategy for birthing a movement or for planting churches? Every successful church planting movement stands or falls on the following strategy:
(c) Raising up future planters
(e) Multiple church Planting
(v) What plan do I have to insure that the church planting DNA is embedded deeply into every fabric of our organization so that it oozes out of every leader and church planting pastor?
2. If your pastors view church planting as a trend, over time, their part in the movement will plateau.
a. Because it is “The” trend and trends change.
b. The questions your planters must ask are:
(i) Is my goal to plant a church or participate in a movement much larger than my church?
(ii) Are our decisions “global” in nature or more local?
(iii) Are we praying about and planning for the birth of another church the day we plant?
(iv) Is our focus on church planting or on winning the lost?
3. There is only one reason to be part of a movement: an increasing passion ignited by the Holy Spirit to change the world.
a. This passion must come out of a heart for winning the lost, not some denominational effort.
b. Then you decide what ways would be the best to reach the lost. That’s where church planting comes in.
c. Church planting is never the goal of the movement. It is the tool to accomplishing the Great Commission.
B. What are you doing to insure that the movement will continue after you are gone?
1. Who among your church planting pastors is your successor? Do you have a farm system? Is this on your radar at the moment?
2. What system do you have in place to farm and harvest apostolic leaders from which your successor will emerge.
a. Are you looking for “demonstrated credentials” instead of academic credentials?
b. What measure do you use to discern this person or persons?
c. How much time do you spend praying about this?
3. What system do you have in place to determine the difference between apostolic and pastoral issues.
a. A catalytic person may be good at starting a new church and then not have the abilities to build it out. Paul’s gifts were different than Timothy’s.
(i) A mistake made in the U.S. is the attempt to turn a Paul (apostolic) into a pastor
(ii) Or to turn a pastor into an apostolic leader. The U.S. exported this idea for years to other countries.
4. What are you doing to develop team based ministries?
a. Paul always had a Barnabus.
b. Solo pastors seldom give momentum to a movement.
(i) Do all of your pastors have an apprentice planter under their wing?
(ii) How many of them would rather minister to someone rather than equip others to minister to one another.
c. Who is on your team as leaders of the movement?
5. In the U.S. especially, do you have a way to determine the difference between a founding pastor and a planting pastor. There aren’t nearly as many founders as planters. To be a founding pastor, one has to go through multiple growth levels. Most people can’t grow through multiple levels of growth.
V. The real change that has to happen in the U.S. is to understand the “Go” over the “Come.” The old wine skin was to attract people to – a “come unto us” approach. The new wine skin is “go to them.”
A. How immersed in the culture are you and your planters?
B. Are you an “inviting” church as well as a “welcoming” church. Inviting churches go out into the area developing relationships, helping others, sowing seeds. Inviting leaders also make sure the church environment is safe, loving, and inviting. The church becomes the incubator of conversion and faith.
C. What is your plan to turn church planters into missionaries?
1. We have to get past mere equipping and edifying.
2. We must have a fractal concept, small groups and cell groups that multiply.
3. Every major movement in Christian history has been spawned in “cells” rather than mass rallies.
VI. Other Key questions
A. What are you doing to increase the speed of reproduction and multiplication? Do not think that slower is better. Speed does not diminish quality. Shorten the time span from one plant to another as much as you can. In the U.S. longer periods of training are required. In other parts of the world training can be done in shorter bursts.
1. Do your planters begin preaching and teaching before they learn the language?
2. Do they streamline their bible studies and baptism procedures?
3. What can you do to shorten the reproduction cycle of your churches?
4. Do they expect new converts immediately to begin witnessing?
5. Do they begin discipleship even before conversion?
6. If you want a movement you must begin your work as a movement.
a. You must model movement from the beginning by including in the planters training, evangelism, discipleship, multiplication, within a cell-group setting.
b. Remember, your goal isn’t to plant churches. Your goal is follow the passion ignited by the Holy Spirit to change the world. Church planting is just the best way to do that.
B. What are your plans to address the mass migration in the U.S. (not from Europe) and to reach the various people groups?
1. This will require indigenous ministries, and will require modeling a way of life more than inculcating ideological or dogmatic information.
2. What are you doing to create “indigenous partnerships” with the various people groups in the areas you are targeting?
3. How far are you willing to go to support the apocalyptic and supernatural Christian message?
4. Are you able to embrace and incorporate all forms of music?
C. What are your plans to penetrate the large urban centers of the world with church planting? Profoundly embedding the gospel in such locations is a key to the future.
D. How are you addressing Accountability issues?
1. U.S. churches haven’t practiced accountability as much as they should.
Often, leaders are held accountable only for mission and only by some official church body, and even that level of accountability is weak especially if you’re a planting pastor since most of the people tend to just nod their ascent whenever you speak about mission, vision, values and how to carry that out.
2. Accountability for an apostolic leader can be a special problem that requires additional levels of accountability.
a. A Personal Coach. A coach holds you accountable for accomplishing what you set out to accomplish. They know you, know your abilities, and they bring the best out in you.
b. An Accountability Partner. An accountability partner meets with you each week and together you hold each other accountable for your behavior and your character.
c. Who is holding you accountable?
3. Do you embed mission, vision, and basic structure and hold planters accountable for effectiveness and success, but allow total freedom in strategies and tactics? If your focus is on reproduction, not planting, you are open to all kinds of reproductive endeavors, multiple worship services (reaching different generations or language groups in the same church), one church doing multiple campuses, etc
E. What kind of on-going coaching system do you have?
1. Is the planter coached until the church plants another church?
2. Or is the planter coached until beginning a church planting movement?
3. Do you differentiate between a Scout, a coach, and a mentor?
a. A Scout is always on the lookout for new church planters.
b. A Mentor is responsible for the long term spiritual formation of the planter. This person produces a bigger heart.
c. Coaching is about helping that person achieve what they want to do; when they leave, tactics and strategy. I call coaches “spiritual midwives.”
4. A mistake many groups make is to believe that if you’re planters are godly and practice the disciplines they will automatically be successful. Often coaches give so much time to spiritual formation that they don’t spend enough time stressing how and why to do the right thing at the right time
(a) They tie too much to character and not enough on competency.
(b) You need both.
(c) Planters need direction more than the spiritual formation.
5. Do you keep your personal biases out of your coaching?
a. Do you keep from putting your expectations on the one being coached?
b. Do you start where the planter is? What did God say to them? Do you encourage them to follow their heart?
F. Do you plant churches where you find leaders or are you still tied to geography?
G. Do you require that all of your church planters have proven themselves by previously growing something like a business, a church, a youth group? This is especially true in the U.S.
VII. Key issues in church planting movements.
A. Above all else, the leaders of the church planting movements exhibit a passion for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and participation in the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
B. The primary focus of these leaders is on adult transformation.
C. These movements expect each plant to plant other churches or to become a church planting center early in their development.
D. It is impossible to experience these leaders and congregations without experiencing the intensity of the selection, training, mentoring and coaching of the Church planters. All of the examples we’ve studied have similar aspects of training such as assessing, coaching, modeling, mentoring, and equipping.
E. Recruitment of entrepreneurial church planters are the key to church planting.
F. These movements set high standards and expectation of their planters and formed some form of partnership or covenant with them before assisting them with funds.
G. We were impressed with the high emphasis placed on cross-pollination between all of these groups.
H. Church planting movements have a clearly defined pathway for pastors to follow.
I. One of the primary benefits of multiple church plants is that the conversion rate is higher than in established or restart churches.
J. Flexibility and teachability are essential.
K. An interesting twist to the church planting movement is that the size of these churches didn’t seem to matter.
L. Each of the congregations we highlighted believe it is more biblical for the local church to plant churches than denominations.
M. A willingness to sacrifice is a big part of the church planting movement.
N. Most of the planting movements require their church planters to raise the majority of the funding for their plants.
O. Because of a profound understanding that Kingdom work is far too big for any one congregation or denomination, these movements form partnerships.
P. These planting movements rarely get involved in building issues.
Q. Denominations, wanting to effectively plant churches and cut down their high number of failures, would do well to link up with a church planting church in their denomination and put their funds into their efforts rather than trying to do it themselves. However, our fear is that most denominations will choose to dabble in adding church plants partly because they do not have enough Kingdom attitude to go outside their tribe, or they are afraid to put too much effort into starting new congregations because they’re not sure the congregations will remain loyal to them. In addition, most of the mainline denominations simply do not have enough entrepreneurial pastors to be part of a multiplication movement. The best they can hope for is to create enough new congregations to remain in existence. They are finding that even that is next to impossible.
VIII. Further Challenges Facing The Church Planting Movements
A. The most immediate challenge is the number of church planters these movements are able to recruit and develop.
B. Property and administrative overhead will tend to drag all movements to a standstill. Faith-based organic organizations emerged while the world was still largely hospitable to Christianity. When property costs soar, and governments start taxing churches, and litigation over environmental damage and invasion of privacy escalate, and salaries for full-time church personnel decrease (as they will in the emerging pagan world), will the movements stall?
C. The small church mentality of many church leaders make church planting an inconceivable choice.
D. If not careful, the passion to reproduce can cause pre-mature planting.
E. The sooner a church plants a new church the easier it is for the new church to become a planting center.
F. The attitude of many denominational judicatories is hindering the movement. Their attitude has two facets to it, one is negative and the other is suspicious. Some judicatories simply don’t think that it is the role of churches to plant churches. They feel planting should be left up to the denomination. And some others don’t even see the value in planting congregations due to a lack of belief in the literal fulfillment of the Great Commission. Some are against congregational or parachurch planting for fear of losing control of their constituency. We have interviewed hundreds of denominational officials, both evangelical and mainline, and the vast majority of these leaders appear to be so concerned about the survival of their group that they are oblivious to the absolute imperative to expand the Kingdom. As long as they are focused on survival of their group, their future is bleak. God simply does not honor that kind of an attitude.
G. The church planting movement will be faced with three other challenges, each of which could slow down the multiplication.
1. As the world continues to exponentially change, the quality and content of the training will have to continually change and improve. Cookie cutter training will result in many failed plants.
2. As the number of new church plants increases, it will become harder to find enough experienced and willing coaches to go around.
3. As the stability of Modernity continues to come unraveled and the pressures of postmodernity continue to mount, the need for emotional and spiritual support structures for church planters will increase. These issues must be addressed for the movement to continue.
IX. What you are about is the most crucial issue facing humanity at this juncture in history. You cannot fail! Too much depends on you. So,
What is your final measure of successes?