Rapid church growth is happening around the world. The rapid multiplication of disciples and churches in one region of China in the mid-1990s reported an increase from three churches to over a hundred churches in three years. An article written by a missionary who was instrumental in the church planting project identified 23 Reasons for Growth.
As you read through these reasons for growth, consider what ramifications they present for your ministry in your context.
Reasons for Growth (Read the first 12 reasons in yesterday’s post.)
13. Quite often, the new churches wrote their own original hymnody, which expressed their personal faith and Christian experience. This music became a strong encouragement and influence toward solidarity and a rallying point in difficult circumstances.
14. In teaching and training, as well as in evangelistic methods, reproducibility was emphasized. The teaching was kept simple in both format and content. Application with accountability was a constant emphasis. This helped increase the likelihood of continuous reproduction.
15. Believers at every level were held responsible to apply or put into practice what they had learned. They were also expected to teach others who were newer in the faith what they had learned. This resulted in mature and stable believers even when they had not been in the faith for a long period of time.
16. Vision and responsibility for the completion of the Great Commission was taught at every level in the churches. It was also “caught” since every trainer and leader was consumed with that task and mentoring and on-the-job training are the heart of the training methodology. This vision ensured the common direction and purpose of every new congregation.
17. Accountability was practiced at every level. Even the “senior” leaders of each congregation were accountable to the leaders of other congregations. This created a sense of solidarity and camaraderie, which is essential in an environment that is hostile, and in which Christians are such a tiny minority.
18. There was a conscious awareness among church planters and trainers that their identity, methods, patterns, and attitudes would be emulated by the new believes and congregations. They were the models or patterns on which new work would be based. This resulted in great intentionality in these key areas.
19. When work had to be done in Mandarin, every possible effort as made to ensure that it would be passed on in XYZese a the first generation. They XYZese churches then imitated this pattern in planting cross-cultural congregations.
20. Ethnic Chinese people exclusively were used as trainers and church planters, helping to avoid impressions of Christianity as a Western religion. This resulted in churches which were very “at home” in the culture.
21. Low education levels were catered to in terms of indirect and informal teaching styles and forms. Scriptures, hymns, training materials, evangelistic materials, and Bible teaching were all distributed on cassette. Video materials were used where appropriate. Training was based on personal interaction (modeling, mentoring, and on-the-job training) rather than written materials.
22. There was a tremendous amount of specific prayer focused on the XYZese people and their evangelization. This was done by groups of people on several continents who were committed to pray regularly for the XYZese using specific and timely prayer requests provided by newsletters, phone, and email. God moved because His people asked.
23. It was God’s time for the XYZese. He had clearly been preparing them and preparing His people for the task. He was working for His glory in such a way that no one else could possibly take credit for it. It was clearly a sovereign work of grace.
In reflecting on these 23 Reasons for Rapid Church Growth, my OC colleague Bob Rasmussen makes the following observations:
The factors seem to fall into two general categories: those that we can affect and those we cannot. In the first category are things like every believer expected to share the gospel, early baptism, leadership from the beginning, etc. In the second category are factors which are beyond our ability to affect, but are left to God and society at large. In this category would be persecution, lack of wherewithal to have church buildings, etc.
It is interesting to me that the obstacles for replicating factors within our control are of our own making. Our traditions. This would suggest that in seeking rapid church multiplication, one key area leaders should re-examine are traditions which inhibit.
New wine demands new wineskins.
What insights does reading these 23 Reasons spark in you?
What traditions do you need to re-examine?
How can you remove inhibitors to rapid multiplication?