The rapid multiplication of disciples and churches is God’s work in this world! Yet this is not seen in North America in the same way that it is evidenced in other regions of the world. There are many things that American Christians can learn from examining both the reasons for rapid growth in China, as well as considering principles derived from these multiplication movements.
Principles to Derive
1. Aim at comprehensive access to the gospel or you probably will not achieve it.
2. Plan for comprehensive access to the gospel through reverse problem solving. This means you must be prepared to follow up on the results you hope for and be prepared to mobilize the resources necessary to achieve those results.
3. Expose your target to the models you want them to emulate.
4. It is not only what is done that is important, but also who does it and how they do it. All these factors have implications for reproduction. For instances, teaching needs to occur, but it needs to be done by someone who is seen as easily replaceable and in such a way that it can be easily emulated.
5. Your expectations of new converts will usually be met. Expect and model courage in the face of persecution, relationship patterns, personal witness, vision for reaching the unreached, reproduction, etc. Put them in leadership positions from the start. Model a view of the gospel, which recognizes that inherent in the message is a responsibility to share it with those who are perishing. If this is imprinted in the spiritual DNA of new converts then growth is inevitable.
6. House churches, the use of unpaid leadership, and the use of multiple leadership forms can all bypass some reproduction bottlenecks.
7. Baptisms shortly after conversion helps cement decisions and preserves zeal.
8. Having separate services for evangelism (seekers) and worship and training (believers) enables both types of services to be done well.
9. On-the-job training such as internships is an effective method for leadership preparation.
10. Church planters and trainers tend to be more effective and work more quickly the closer they are culturally to the target group.
11. Networks or associations of churches provide much needed accountability, support, and encouragement for isolated churches.
12. Local hymns are an effective way to teach theology. They can go a long way toward establishing churches that spread easily within a culture.
13. Coordinating pre-evangelistic, evangelistic, church planting and training efforts in terms of both time and geography conserves the fruit at each stage. Seize every opportunity for forming groups of seekers and then make an opportunity to challenge the group for a conversion decision after they understand the basics of what such a decision means.
14. Teach for application rather than for knowledge. Also, require learners to teach other what they have learned. These practices result in solid and productive believers and churches.
Wow! There are a lot of implications for church planters in the United States!
I’d like to emphasize three principles for your consideration:
#4 – Pay attention to what is done, who does it, and how they do it. When we planted a LHCC, all of our initial small group leaders were seminary students or seminary graduates. Unknowingly, we sent a message that to lead a small group you had to have some level of seminary training. This became a bottleneck for reproducing leaders and groups. Consider how to involved every believer in the mission of Jesus – distributing leadership and supporting through on-the-job training.
#5 – Your expectations will usually be met – so raise the bar on what you expect. If you expect new Christians to become consumers – they will. However, if you expect them to be baptized, to communicate the gospel to their friends, and to become disciplemakers – they will. What do you expect of new believers? (Don’t tolerate disobedience to the Great Commission.)
#14 – Jesus told his disciples to be “teaching them to obey.” I’ve heard it said many times – “Too many Christians are educated beyond their level of obedience.” Make it your goal that believers obey the truth by following up on whether or not they applied/obeyed what they are learning each week. Also encourage them to pass on what they are learning!
What will you do to train and develop obedient disciplemakers?
How will you apply these principles in your ministry context?