Survival is one thing, but reaching a city is quite another. When it comes to missional effectiveness, our model is just too expensive. The math is there for any who would have the courage to push the buttons on the calculator.
I repeat often: We must lower the bar of how we do church and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple if we want to reach this world with the good news. We need to be about the reproduction of healthy disciples, leaders, churches and movements––in that order. I am not suggesting we shut down churches or sell off all our property. I am suggesting we invest more energy and attention to simpler and more profound opportunities all around us. We cannot focus on complex and expensive systems and try and reproduce them if we do not first reproduce the simple and more basic entities first. If reproducing disciples is too much to ask, then certainly reproducing churches full of them is impossible, right? Don’t start churches to make disciples. Make disciples…and churches will start far more easily. It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple; it only costs your life.
I was infected with this idea 6 or 7 years ago when I first read Neil Cole’s book, Organic Church. I’ve done the math as he suggests and it is shocking. It is also hard to square it with the New Testament. Let’s do the hard thing and wrestle with this reality. It’s too important to let it slip by and just keep working on reinforcing the familiar.
A Church Planting Movement (CPM), according to David Garrison is:
a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.
From: Garrison, Church Planting Movements, 21
The more time we spend out in the harvest, the more important it is that we work hard to track the hard work we’ve done. We never want to let any of the fruit the Lord provides slip through the cracks, so we need a system.
This is a simple tool for tracking weekly harvest engagement that I got from Josh Reed (NPL RDU). It’s the size of a business card.
The blanks refer to the following:
- Homes/people engaged
- Received prayer
- Gospel shares
- Red lights
- Yellow lights
- Green lights
- Discovery Bible Studies
The back is for recording follow ups and location information.
I love how simple this is.
GIFTS & BOXES
I used to think I was a teacher.
As I wrestled with a calling to ministry, I naturally looked for positions where I could Teach and Pastor. Over the years I’ve taken lots of spiritual gifts inventories (and here and here and more info here). My “number one” gift was always Teacher followed by Pastor. I loved the energy and possibility of planted churches and thought maybe I should Pastor a church or plant one.
The existing tradition of established churches sometimes felt like a box to me. Questions nagged at me, “Why are we in this box? Why can’t we break out of this box? Why does no one else see that we are in a box?” I would fluctuate between frustration and pride – frustration that we were content to be held down – prideful that I saw things more clearly than everyone else.
Both of these attitudes were coming from something much deeper that I hadn’t yet been able to identify. Years passed by and I still didn’t know why I felt the way I did. Over the last year or two I discovered a passage of scripture that I knew about, but had never really understood.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is a the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)
Since Teacher and Pastor always showed up on my spiritual gifts inventories, I had no reason to entertain anything else. The neurosurgeon keeps focus on the brain while the cardiothoracic surgeon keeps focus on the heart. There may be some benefit in cross-pollinating, but if I need a surgeon, I would rather that they each keep their noses down focused on their specialty. That’s how I thought about my gifting. Why give attention to gifting that I didn’t have? They are important to the Body, but not to me.
What I couldn’t see was that I was a part of a system that leans heavily toward Shepherds and Teachers. Our churches, church planting networks, missions agencies, and seminaries are training people to lead in and from the legacy church setting. Even the most front-line engagement work being done in legacy church settings didn’t speak my language. It turns out, I’m not a Teacher or Pastor. I’m actually an APE.
WOLVES, DOGS, AND APES
A baby wolf is basically a puppy. For a while, you could even keep a wolf cub in your home like a pet. Sooner or later, this scene will turn from kid’s movie to horror movie and the only one not at fault is the wolf. It is in its nature to do what it does. When it is small, it could be confused for a dog, possibly. But as it grows, the similarities will shrink and its true identity will become more apparent.
In every church there are likely some people who might be categorized as a different species. In fact, we might call them APEs. They see the world and the church a little differently than others. For many pastors and church leaders, these APEs may be frustrated and frustrating. They can often be identified by their discontent about the right things.
There are plenty of people in the church who are discontented troublemakers, but what I’m talking about is frustration that we are not reaching more people, that we are not getting outside of the walls of our churches, that we have lost the missionary heart of our faith. These people often long for something bigger. In the worst-case scenario, these people are treated like nails that have worked themselves out of place on a staircase. Standing out is harmful and they need to be pounded back into place.
APEs are simply one segment of gifts God has given to the church. They are Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists. We can cage them or we can release them.
In the church at large, we haven’t always done a great job recognizing important differences in the giftings of our people.
When people are misunderstood, they are also usually mistreated. This situation is good soil for dissension and division to emerge. But as we remember the passage above, all five gifts are just that – gifts from God to his Church. Their purpose is equipping the church for the work of ministry, building the Body, attaining unity, and maturing and growing up into Christ. The intended result is hefty and we ought to see in that the importance of understanding and making room for these gifts in the church.
The cornerstone of the church is Jesus Christ. The foundation of the church are the Apostles and Prophets. The Evangelists are the hinge between the Apostles/Prophets and the Shepherd/Teachers. The Shepherd/Teachers are what we know best – and we all know about Evangelists and feel guilty that we aren’t all Evangelists or better Evangelists than we already are. If that rings true for you at all, then you, like me, have lived with an incomplete and unhealthy view of the gifts God has given to his church.
What could happen if we committed to broadening our view of God’s gifts to the church, looking for those gifts, and then doing everything we could to empower them? This is the difference between caging APEs who are already in our churches and releasing them for the good of the church and the expansion of the kingdom.
I’ve only recently discovered that I’m more of a “Church Planting Movements” guy than I am a strictly “Collegiate” guy. When I look at a college student, I don’t see their year in school, their major, or their age. I see a potential church planter and movement catalyst.
Today was a special day that reminded me of something important. In the center of the picture above is one of our guys who is graduating in just a few short weeks. He has spent this last school year with us, leaning in from the very beginning. Every time we would go out into the harvest, Jordan was with us. He’s quiet, huble, and committed. Over the course of this year, he has been faithfully (and quietly) reproducing our training and practices in his home church in Ronda, NC (pop. 417). Today, he had arranged for a small group of us to come down the mountain to model Entry Strategy for them.
A wide-angle of this picture would reveal that in this group are his pastor, his parents, one of his Timothys (a disciple he is intentionally mentoring), and his Timothy’s grandfather, among others. As a young man not even out of college yet, Jordan is helping to lead his legacy church into the harvest to make disciples.
If we raise the bar and set higher expectations for our students, they will turn the world upside down. We will still coach him and connect with him from a distance, but he is a great example of one way God can use college students post-college to spark movement beyond their campus for the gospel and the kingdom of God.
Note the differences in the verbs:
- Fund vs. Train
- Require vs. Multiply
- Provide vs. Equip
- Depend vs. Graduate
Addition is good but multiplication is better. It won’t happen by accident.
You can find my simple table in a Google Doc here.
From way up here you can see University Highlands across the highway, Caldwell Community college across the town, and Grandfather Mountain across the county. Some students refer to this community as Sin Hill.
“Nothing good happens up there,” they say.
“You’re in the wrong place for this.”
“Good luck up here.”
There’s nowhere else I would rather be.
Every week I’ve been spending time in this neighborhood going door to door offering to care for people by praying for needs they have and offering to share the gospel in a simple picture. It is good for me to have a consistent time to be out in the harvest engaging people and sharing the gospel, but it is an excellent time to train trainers while doing it.
This team came out with me tonight. The two guys are alums from the last 5 years of our ministry. The gal lives in the neighborhood – we found her a month and a half ago. She was new in her faith but ready to be trained and join us in Jesus’ adventure! All 3 of these people are really new to this whole process and strategy, but they are getting after it with me. I’ve taken each of them with me individually to model this for them and have them help me. When they are confident and competent, I can release them to take others with them.
God is breaking up hard ground as we continue to share the gospel with broken people and he is raising up laborers as we identify and train them along the way. It is an amazing thing to be a part of.
In a recent post I shared about importance of training trainers. When we train people, we are transmitting skills. That’s the first priority. We are also training trainers. Because I had my team training with me, I was reproducing myself. They are both new to this process of training, but as they trained with me, they nailed it. We practiced together before we trained together. Had I been sick, or for some other reason unable to attend the training, they could have facilitated it without me.
Training trainers isn’t just about building a bigger training team. It is about multiplying myself and my impact. I spent an extra couple of hours with my team preparing for this training, but after we finished the training, they were even more capable of facilitating trainings and leading training teams than they were before.
It has been a paradigm shift to start thinking about what a Church Planting Movement is and how to spark movement in my context. I’ve been learning that multiplying movements require multiplying leaders at every level. That’s one of the key roles I need to fulfill. As I’ve been trying to shift from being a leader to leading leaders, one of my friends in ministry, Robby Christmas, developed this excellent and simple tool to keep up our progress in developing leaders.
MAWL, as the image shows, stands for Model, Assist, Watch, Launch. This particular version is filled in with the tools we use locally. You could replace them if they don’t fit in your ministry process. On the left, you can fill in the Planter’s name and you’ll check off the boxes as you go through the process of “MAWLing” them on each of the tools listed. By the time you have checked each box, you have a leader who is ready to be launched to restart the process themselves. Robby has included a basic outline for a 90min weekly MAWL meeting. The link above the image includes both pages.
Whether you use this particular tool or not, I would encourage you to think about your process for identifying, developing, releasing, and leading leaders. It is easy to overlook, but so critical.
The two highest value activities when working towards a Church Planting Movement are sharing the gospel and training disciple makers. Last night we trained a new partnering church to share the gospel. Trainers solidify their skills in the process of training others. It also finds the faithful people – those who take the training and put it to use.
Right after we finished training at this church, I found out that one of our students was leading the same training at his home church 20 minutes away. He has helped us train before, and he has the skills to train on his own or with his own team. This was a clear reminder of the multiplicative potential of training. We train, but the big win is training trainers.