By Peter Meier | May 1, 2017
In my part of the country, it’s dandelion season. While these first flowers of spring are welcome to some, I don’t want to see them in my lawn! However, they are a great illustration of multiplication and movement. From one flower, hundreds of seeds spread with the potential for exponential multiplication.
That’s what I pray to see in the North American church.
This past weekend, I had a small presentation as part of the Minnesota South District’s Large Church Conference. The major presentation was by Pastor, Church Planter and Network Leader, Pete Mueller of Austin, Texas. Pete is the pastor of ACTS Church Lakeway in Austin, and the leader of the ACTS Church Network. He told the story of how the ACTS Network is focused on planting 25 new churches by 2025. What makes this an exciting vision is that each new church planted is expected to plant new churches which plant new churches. The mission of the ACTS Church Network is to help churches launch new churches in the Austin area. This is multiplication thinking, not merely addition or replication thinking.
I was impressed because ACTS Church Lakeway is not a mega church with thousands of members. They have fewer than 200 in worship, but have regularly planted churches and assisted other churches to multiply.
This is more evidence that churches don’t have to be big to plant. In fact, a recent study of church planting in America by Ed Stetzer and LifeWay Ministries revealed that churches of 200 or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of 1000 or more, and churches 200-500 are twice as likely to daughter a church than churches of 1000 or more. The research seems to indicate that smaller churches are actually more fertile when it comes to church multiplication.
There’s no need to think of smaller churches as less successful, or less able to multiply. What is key among these multiplying smaller churches is that they are focused on the mission of God and obedient to His call to make disciples. These disciples make more disciples who make still more disciples, who then gather in groups of disciples (churches). These churches are focused on being “sending churches” rather than “accumulating churches.” They focus on “sending capacity” rather than “seating capacity.”
This is one of the essential attitudes needed for a church planting movement. Ed Stetzer’s new book, “1,000 Churches: How Past Movements Did It – And How Your Church Can, Too,” discusses the topic of movements in a way that can be understood simply. He notes the following ten universal elements found in every church planting movement, identified by David Garrison:
- Extraordinary Prayer
- Abundant Evangelism
- Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches
- The Authority of God’s Word
- Local Leadership
- Lay Leadership
- House Churches
- Churches Planting Churches
- Rapid Reproduction
- Healthy Churches
Which of these elements can you see in your church? How can these be facilitated and encouraged among us?
Ed also notes the following 26 “Movement Killers,” identified by Sam Metcalf. Read through the list slowly. Pray about these, especially the ones you notice at work in your contexts.
- Requiring formal education for the leadership
- Demanding conformity to methodology
- Refusing to provide the necessary administrative and logistical support, without which a movement will suffocate under its own weight
- Downplaying the validity of supernatural phenomena outside our paradigm
- Not allowing room for younger, less experienced leadership
- Being obsessed with theological purity
- Valuing the safety of the people involved more highly than the mission itself
- Centralizing the funding
- Punishing out-of-the-box thinking
- Managing instead of leading
- Rewarding faithfulness more than entrepreneurial ability
- Being tied to property and buildings
- Being defined by critics
- Being threatened by giftedness that’s unlike our own
- Creating an endowment so there is no need to raise money
- Treating creativity as heresy
- Refusing to exercise discipline when it is needed
- Relying on existing institutions for credibility
- Promoting people on the basis of seniority and longevity
- Insisting that decisions be based on policy instead of values
- Focusing on nurture and the conservation of gains
- Not giving proper attention to the selection of leaders
- Being risk-averse under the guise of stewardship
- Justifying a reluctance to raise money
- Recruiting people who have a big need for approval and affirmation
- Trying to control the movement of the Spirit when He actually shows up
That’s a long list of “movement killers.” Do you recognize any within your own ministry or mission work? Within your movement? Do these suggest areas for confession, prayer, and discussion?
Each of us may not be in a position to start a movement, but could each of us begin to pray and work with others to beg God for His vision of multiplication and movement? Can we begin to think and plan and act intentionally to seek the Kingdom of God while not promoting our own personal kingdom?
Can you identify examples of multiplying churches and networks in your area? How can your church get involved for the sake of those not yet connected to Jesus and His church?
Questions for Discussion
Re-read the article with a friend and discuss the questions contained throughout. What troubles you the most? What might God be indicating? What’s your intentional, missional response?
Resources You Can Use
1,000 Churches, Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im. Download this free new e-book to dig deeper into the history and characteristics of church planting movements. Together with Stetzer & Im’s previous e-book, Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow, you will have fruitful reading for prayer, discussion and action.
Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers, Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird, This hands-on resource outlines the best practices in church multiplication movements and reveals common threads among them.
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