Neil Cole – The Absence of Movements in America

Neil Cole, author of Organic Church and founder of Church Multiplication Associates, shared his perspective with me yesterday on the absence of movements in America. He observes that the church often gets in the way. The problem stems from consumer Christians who are willing to sit and soak and let the pastor serve them, instead of getting involved themselves. He asserts, “People in the pews are irresponsible, and pastors let them stay that way.” Codependent pastors allow dysfunctional churches to exist. This prevents missional movements from ever starting.

Neil also recognizes that movements are more likely to happen overseas because of liminality. In many countries around the world there is a great struggle for Christians (including persecution) that purifies what it means to be a Christian. In the midst of that struggle, authentic followers of Jesus emerge that more naturally embody the mission and message of Jesus. They multiply disciples because that is the essence of following Jesus. The climate of prosperity in America and the lack of struggle or persecution has created an impure church where disciplemaking is often ignored or deferred to paid professionals.

Here’s the reality: Missional multiplication movements are not happening in North America. One of the biggest contributing factors is that too many Christians neglect the mission of Jesus and don’t really care that people around them are going to hell. Until Christians embody the mission and message of Jesus, there will not be any movements toward Christ in America.

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
9 replies
  1. JW
    JW says:

    This is a great encouragement or challenge (depends on your perspective) to the current climate of churches today. I work with and minister to a lot of young adults who are hungry to fulfill the mission of Jesus. Actually they are hungry to DO SOMETHING thru the church, but are sometimes hindered because of “normal” church business.

  2. DaveDV
    DaveDV says:

    Bob, I think you are right. As far as I can tell, the U.S. Church is dying and declining, infertile, dysfunctional, fragmented and fractured, marginalized and internally focused.

    Yet it is still the hope of the world! God the Father sent the Son. God the Father and the Son sent the Spirit. And God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are sending the church to reach the world and to extend the kingdom of God.

    The mission of the local church is not to build a great church for God! The mission is not to be the best church in town. It is not to get every Christian in the community to become a member of your local church. The mission of the local church is to do everything it can to help as many people as possible enter the kingdom of God!

    For the mission of the King,

  3. brad brisco
    brad brisco says:

    Dave, enjoy your blog and the post with Cole’s interview. I have hear Neil speak a couple of times and we had CMA come to KC to do a “Greenhouse” last year. It was very profitable and I hope that we will see a “movement” of sorts in our area. Although I agree comepletely with you (and Neil) about the lack of real movements in the West is real. My 2cents worth is that the lack of movements is partly because of the comsumerist mode of operation here in the west and the lack of understanding that the Kingdom really is at hand. As you mention we are a SENT people of God. Although I would rather say that we are sent to “enter into” the Kingdom and participate in what He is already doing rather than saying ath we are to “extend” the Kingdom. Keep up the good work!

  4. Bob Carder
    Bob Carder says:

    Brad, most if not 95% of the church would agree with your statement and would shakes their heads with affirmation.

    God is in the redemptive business and He reaches people as we live Jesus in the world so that the world can see Jesus in us, so that through us He can redeem them and add them to His kingdom. If we are to be participating with what God is doing then I want to know why 95% of the professing Christ followers remain seated in the pew.

    Any thoughts?

  5. Rick
    Rick says:

    Dave, I am wondering if you truly meant to say what you seem to be saying in your comments above: “…the U.S. church…is still the hope of the world….”


  6. DaveDV
    DaveDV says:

    Great question Rick. I think in the greatest sense – the Church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world! The Church exists for the sake of the world! The message and mission of the Church is the gospel of Jesus which is the only hope the world will ever know.

    The Church in the US (although dying and declining, etc.) still has this hope! God has not abandoned His Church! It is still through the Church that God displays His infinite wisdom. This was His eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10-12).

    The US Church empowered by the Spirit is to bear witness to God’s redemptive reign! When local churches in America embrace this missionary nature, that’s when lives and communities will be transformed. So, I do believe that Christ’s Church in the US and around the world is “still the hope of the world.”

    However, I wouldn’t say that the US Church is the world’s only hope. Jesus is the ONLY Hope! And it’s not the church in America that will save the world. It is Jesus that will save the world. His Church worldwide is the messenger of this hope.

    Does that make sense?

  7. Rick
    Rick says:

    Thanks for your response. I still feel that your last comment expresses a level of spiritual schizophrenia that WE ALL have. (For example, just a few minutes ago I told Debbie: “I’m going down to the church.” Not only is this absolutely incorrect in the theological sense, it is not even correct in any other sense since my office is located in a building named Open Gate which is simply for impact in our community. There are no corporate “services” held here.)

    In your most recent comment you also flip back and forth (inappropriately, i feel) when you say “The church is the hope…, the message of the church is the hope…, the gospel is the hope…, Jesus is the hope….) I am not seeking to be nitpicking. Rather, I think we need to say that only Jesus (and the message about Jesus) is the hope of the world. The church bears witness to this hope. If we have any niggling thoughts that tell us that the church is the hope, we lay the groundwork for an ecclesiological, rather than a Christological, message.

    I wonder if Israel’s problems had an element where they felt the nation was God’s answer rather than those entrusted with God’s answer.

    I feel we need to be very accurate if we are trying to change the worldview of Christ followers.

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