By BIll Easum
At the very time when many voices are pronouncing the end of the institutional church and the rise of the emergent church, we’re witnessing the birth of three major reproductive movements – church planting, multi-site, and raising up leaders- all of which have the potential to turn around the decline of Christianity in the West and advance the Kingdom worldwide.
Reproductive Church Planting
The emphasis today among many of reproductive leaders isn’t on church planting. Rather their emphasis is on planting churches that plant churches.
The multi site segment of this movement has gone beyond the fad stage or the “we’re out of room” stage and is now a full blown method of spreading the Good News.
Reproductive Raising Up Leaders
Equipping and coaching ministries are the underbelly of first two reproductive movements. It is impossible to exponentially plant churches and grow multi sites without greatly expanding the number and depth of leadership.
What do These Three Movements Have In Common
Each of these movements harbors a DNA in which every leader understands their role is to release a reproductive gene into the environment in a mindset that crave multiplication rather than addition. This craving results in church plants that plant churches, single site churches that fractal into many sites, and every leader mentors a disciple. This DNA carries Jesus’ expectation “feed my sheep” to its ultimate conclusion- a shepherd feeds sheep so the sheep are strong enough to reproduce.
What are the Keys to these Movements
Apostolic Pastoral leadership. An apostolic Mindset is at the core of all three movements. These leaders aren’t content just pasturing a church. Too much is at stake to limit themselves to a ministry that geographic boundaries. Like the Apostle Paul, they see their ministry having an unlimited range of influence. Although these leaders do not outwardly speak of themselves as apostles the amount of influence given them by their disciples speaks louder than words.
One of the challenges of the coming decade is to acknowledge the need for and anoint the emerging apostolic leaders who will devote the time to overseeing the reproduction movement. The top four roles of this type of pastor are: creating, casting, and managing a vision for the city rather than the church. Raising up future leaders and coaching the paid staff. Ensuring the multiplication of Kingdom ministries by parenting new church plants and multi sites.
The end of democracy and consensus. Apostolic led churches are structured around the Spirit-led leadership of a man or woman who listens to God rather than following a board. The more democratic the church is, the less likely it is to grow much less become reproductive. The churches have small boards and very few committees, if any. If you dig under the covers of the large mega churches and the churches that are planting churches, you won’t find much structure and the sheep aren’t leading the shepherd.
Reproducing Church Planting Systems. It is not enough just to plant churches. Reproductive systems need to be established. This means denominations and churches must not focus most of their attention on revitalizing churches but focus on planting. And not just any planting. They need to plant in high density areas of the country where church plants grow the fastest.
The importance of church planting is seen in the following information. The International Pentecostal Holiness Church is the fastest growing group in the country. They plant a church each year for every 15 existing churches. Southern Baptists plant one for every 50 churches. UMC plant one for every 500 churches.[i] Every denomination that is planting less than 1% new churches annually is declining. A net gain of 3200+ churches annually is needed to keep up with population growth. The best way to revitalize an existing church is by planting a church.
Apostolic leadership from Denominational Officials. Denominational leaders accepting that the world has and is changing and acting accordingly.
Leaders must internalize the seriousness of the decline. There is still a large number of denominational leaders who try their best to ignore the issue in the name of remnant theology or social justice.
Denominational leaders need to repent and take on a totally new mindset. It’s not enough to attempt new forms of ministry merely to save the denomination. What is needed is changed leaders whose hearts yearn for the transformation of the world.
They must develop healthy established congregations. This does not mean propping up existing churches that insist on functioning like hospices, hospitals, and museums. Mainline leaders are so caught up in trying to save non-savable churches that too much of their energy is diverted from church planting. The number of churches being closed is not a factor in the health of a denomination. In fact just the opposite is true.
Church structures must become nimble and adaptable to the cultural changes. Instead of reacting to change leaders need to create the change. This means fast action and structures that follow the mission.
Denominational leaders must return to the complete message of Jesus. It’s time the debate between the social justice folks and evangelism folks came to an end.
Top three roles of this form of Judicatory is to: resource the congregation like mad because the judicatory isn’t the church; plant churches like mad; and don’t listen to whiners. Apostolic Judicatories focus on: Church Planting; Church Strengthening; and Leadership Development.
Essentials to Every Reproductive Movement
Recruiting the right pastor for the right place. The day is over when one size fits all. The role of the Judicatory must become that of a scout looking for raw talent and when finding it working to nurture that person and get the person into a place where they can spread their wings.
Accountability both of the pastor and the church by the judicatory for measureable growth. You get what you measure.
Absolutely no Triangulation. The only reason I could stay at my last church for 24 years and transform it from an almost dead church was because I had a District Superintendent over me who would never listen to the complainers who wanted to take back control of the church. Apostolic Judicatories understand Matthew 18.
Streamlining Denominational Bureaucracy. Those judicatories who are cutting back on overhead and investing most of income back into the churches before they are forced to by dwindling numbers are at the forefront of much of the transformation and reproduction uncovered in this study. One example is Central Baptist Association (Phoenix).
On-going, on-the-job training and coaching is found in every one of the growing judicatories in this study. The training, however, isn’t done by armchair theologians but by people who have actually grown churches. Most of the growing judicatories either have a person set aside for the oversight or they have contracted with an outside consultant to give oversight. Much of the training is in reading the signs of the times and making the appropriate adjustments or metamorphosis.
So what role are you going to play in what God seems to be doing at the moment?
[i] David Olson, The American Church In Crises, Zondervan, 2008