J. D.'s Blog
It is often good for leaders to refrain from sharing everything. Some things need to remain untold. However, when the omission relates to the magnificent, tongues must be loosened and lips unbridled. This is the tale that is critical to reality, and deserves dissemination to a wide audience.
When leaders fail to tell such a tale, eventually people will rightly ask:
Was he hiding something?
Was she ignorant to the fact?
Why are we just finding out this truth?
What else does he not know–or not sharing?
What has been her agenda?
Here is one of the untold stories of my generation:India 82,950 China, PRC 20,000 Nigeria 6,644 Philippines 4,500 Indonesia 3,000 Ghana 2,000 Mexico 794 Bangladesh 500
Select Countries and Number of Missionaries They are Sending
We went for 200 years and few of us were told about the use of our means for the conversion of the peoples (neither were we encouraged to make an inquiry to our leaders).
People went and the peoples are now sending! A magnificent tale!
Leaders, don’t keep the magnificent tales to yourselves. Make sure the right untold stories are being told. If not, people will rightly question your story.
(Table source: Strangers Next Door, page 154, adapted from Operation World, 7th edition data and correspondence with editor)
It is not hard to do, if you can think back to the late 80s and early 90s. Twitter was non-existent, and email was scarce.
Oh sure, the accountants of the world were used to that symbol. It had much value to them: “at the rate of” $10.00 for….
To the rest of the world? Just a funny looking lowercase “a”. No significance. No name. No credibility. Wasted space on the keyboard since the late nineteenth century.
But now… the @ haunts our lives everyday. Even beyond email and Twitter, the @ has become accepted shorthand (e.g., Meet me @ the coffee shop.) Let’s try a day without the “shift + 2″ keys when using our computers. The world will come to a halt.
As we labor to raise up leaders, I can’t help but wonder if we often treat some people like they are the pre-1990s @, not realizing their future Kingdom potential.
That guy will never be able to lead others well.
There is no way she has what it takes.
What a waste of my time with this person.
I have had the great honor of training many church leaders over the years. I must confess at times I have looked at some people and thought, “No way,” only later to see them prove to be very effective on the mission field or in established churches. Forgive me, Lord.
Yes, we must use much wisdom, discernment, responsibility, community, and the testing of others as leaders. The Scriptures are clear that we should not be hasty when it comes to putting certain leaders in place. But, we cannot determine leaders by looking on the outward manifestations. When we are quick to judge by the externals, we fail to be guided by the Spirit of Christ. Aren’t you glad Samuel killed his flesh in this area and was led by the Spirit to find the leader from whom the Messiah would come (1 Sam 16:7)? Let’s trust our Father in the process of leadership development and follow His Spirit. He will make matters clear regarding the roles of such saints in His Kingdom.
If we are quick to see odd and insignificant keys, then we will miss wonderful opportunities to equip and send a multitude of @.
(image source: Microsoft)
And if that is the case, then why do we keep sending babysitters to them when our churches gather?
Those who teach children are some of the most important leaders in our churches. Unfortunately, we often relegate such laborers to a place of secondary significance. They get the Thanksgiving leftovers. We give them a chair at the back of the room (at the kids’ table, of course).
Ask a room full of adult Kingdom citizens (from the United States) how many came to faith in Jesus before 16 years of age and you will discover that the overwhelming majority of them will raise their hands. That is significant. Such should tell us something about the importance of equipping parents and other leaders in the area of making disciples of children.
Of course, my statements are nothing new. We’ve heard these for many years, and from different voices. Times remain the same. Yet, we founder along. For:
“Kids ministry is not cool.”
“We may manipulate kids into making false decisions; let’s not try too much.”
“Kids are not significant leaders, a later investment is better.”
“We just need them to be occupied while we do the more important stuff.”
Our children are asking the Philippian Jailer question.
Our children manifest the faith of children.
Our children are likely to live a lifetime of service making disciples and multiplying churches across the world as they obtain marketable skills, degrees, and places in the global marketplace.
Pastors, equip your leaders to serve well. Don’t ask for chaperones; expect world-impacting disciple makers to serve your students. Invest in training your parents and other leaders to minister accordingly. It is of much present and eternal significance.
If the Kingdom of God belongs to children (Mark 10:13-16), then maybe our labors should reflect such theology.
You are not sending babysitters across the world to make disciples; so, don’t send them down the hall to the student wing.
(image source: Microsoft)
And I had my answer in seconds.
Now back in my college days when email was avant-garde and I avoided computers like the plague, such instant gratification was not possible.
However, it is a new day. As long as we are wired, we get what we want in the now.
While living in the instant can be helpful at times, it can also be problematic for leaders. Instant can temper us to push against the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)–especially in matters such as patience and self-control. While we could think of numerous practical examples of this, one place where the conflict is found is in the realm of strategic planning. Conflict here is not good for leaders–or the people we lead.
John Mark Terry and I have written a book titled Developing Missionary Strategy that is scheduled to be released next year in Baker’s Encountering Mission series. We define strategic planning as:
“a prayerfully discerned, Spirit-guided process, of preparation, development, implementation, and evaluation of the necessary steps involved for missionary endeavors”
Nothing quick involved. Such is the way of all strategy. Nothing immediate. Strategic planning wars against the instant and our desire to live in the now. You can’t Google your strategy.
Every good leader is a strategist. Every good leader bears the fruit of the Spirit. . . and that includes patience and self-control.
Do you need to grow as a leader by stepping away from your search engine for a while?
(image source: iStockPhoto Microsoft)
Today’s edition of USA Today contains a story on the new count of international students studying in the United States. You may find the story HERE and the original source of the findings HERE. Last year, I wrote about the record number of students studying in this country. We now have a new record.
Consider the following:
- There has been a 6% increase among international students in the 2011-12 academic year.
- The number of international students has now reached 764,495.
- Much of this growth comes from increases in the number of Chinese students studying at the undergraduate level.
- The total enrollment of Chinese students increased by 23%, with those at the undergraduate level by 31%.
- A 50% increase occurred in the number of students from Saudi Arabia.
- California hosted more than 100,000 international students for the first time this year.
- Pennsylvania, Florida, and Indiana had the largest percent increases in such students.
- The following are the schools with the greatest number of international students: University of Southern California (largest number), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, New York University, Purdue University, and Columbia University.
- New York continues to be the top metro area for students.
Check out the leading places of origin of international students studying in the United States: HERE.
Once again, we are reminded that the peoples of the world are on the move.
They are the students in our communities.
To most of us. . . they remain the strangers next door.
Here are some of my previous posts on college students:
(image source: iStockphoto, Microsoft)
What do we do when we don’t know what to do?
This is a question we ask often.
“I am fasting, praying, reading the Word, seeking wisdom in a multitude of counselors, but I am still not certain what to do.”
Great! Keep up such practices! Such are wonderful disciplines of disciples!
“Yes, but how should I act in my situation? What should I do?”
Do something…something different.
While there are times the Lord wants us to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit arrives, there are numerous situations that require action. Such is a matter of being a good steward. Leaders must be movers.
To bury your talent is to remain frozen–to invest it is movement. It is faithful-doing.
No, we do not continue to repeat the past that is not working, hoping that one day it will work. We learn from our past and then do a variation on it. We commit our ways to the Lord and then take a step of faith as we walk filled with the Spirit.
Remember the legend of Edison–10,000 tries before the light bulb worked to his satisfaction. How many tries do you think it took before they were able to develop these new energy saving “green” bulbs?
Remember Paul? His church planting team tried to enter two different areas to preach the gospel, but was interrupted by God (see Acts 16). The result? The Philippian Church was planted and we now have the book of Philippians. It was in the act of faithful-doing that the Lord led the team according to His will.
Analyze for a season, but don’t let it paralyze you. If you are looking for the perfect solution, the perfect route, stop looking. You will never find it. As long as we sinful beings are involved, it will never be perfect.
Die to self each day. Walk with God. And when you don’t know what to do…faithfully-do something for His glory. Act. Move. He is able to get you to Philippi!
November is recognized by the United States government as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. Earlier this week, the latest numbers were released on the 566 tribes in this country. For the past three years, I have written about Native Americans (First Nations if in Canada) here at the blog. According to one estimate, the Native America population is about 8% evangelical.
HERE is a link to the latest numbers on the 5 million Native Americans in the United States.
HERE is last year’s post related to this topic (You will also find several other links there related to Native Americans.).
What are your thoughts that after centuries of labors among these peoples, 92% are without Christ?
How does the history of the United States’ treatment of Native Americans affect disciple-making labors today?
What can we learn from the history of missionary labors to the Native Americans that would affect missional practice today?
What are the unique strengths that our Native American brothers and sisters bring to the global disciple-making mandate?
I am excited and thankful to share that Strangers Next Door: Immigration, Migration, and Mission is now available!
We live in the age of migration. 214 million people are presently living outside of their countries of birth. That is 3% of the world’s population. If this number represented a single country, then it would be the fifth largest nation in the world.
The Western world remains a popular destination for these men, women, and children. They arrive in search of a better life. They come for education. They flee persecution. They come for employment. They run from famine, war, and fear. They seek security and peace. They depart the familiar.
They arrive with a multitude of cultural expressions. They arrive with many needs. They arrive with much education. They arrive with little education.
They arrive with Jesus. They arrive without Jesus. And especially in light of this latter matter, how should the Church respond?
Strangers Next Door was written to raise awareness of what is happening in the West when it comes to the migration of the world’s unreached people groups, and to offer a biblical response.
I do hope you will get a copy of this work and lead your church in this wonderful opportunity we have to advance the gospel among the nations.
I am very thankful for what several brothers have already said about this book. Here are their words:
“A wide-eyed look at one of most strategic missiological opportunities for the church today. I was encouraged by Payne’s presentation of the possibilities and convicted by our failure to thus far capitalize on them. What if the leaders for the completion of the Great Commission were right now ‘visitors’ in our cities?” (J. D. Greear, author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary and Breaking the Islam Code )
“The world has not only shrunk; it has become energetic and mobile. It might be a tad clichéd to say it, but the world is now on our doorstep, which requires us to take the gospel seriously and devise a mission strategy to reach, train, partner and resource our global neighbors as they return to their homes with the gospel. J. D. Payne has presented us with the gospel imperative to take responsibility for those from all over the world who are among us. Some books impress you with their fresh insight, while others hit you with a clear and compelling statement of the obvious. This book does the latter, and it does it very well indeed.” (Steve Timmis, Director for Acts 29 Western Europe )
“It is shocking how negligent the Western church has been in reaching the peoples of the world that God has brought to us–especially compared to how active we have been in leaving our countries to go to them! Strangers Next Door clearly depicts the opportunity before us, and most excitingly, shares great stories of those already having a global impact by reaching the ‘stranger next door.’” (Chris Clayman, church-planting catalyst, North American Mission Board; team leader, Global Gates; and author, ethNYcity: The Nations, Tongues, and Faiths of Metropolitan New York )
“Many in our society–and even within our churches–see immigration as a threat or an invasion, but J. D. Payne challenges us to see immigration as Scripture does: as a missional opportunity. Many immigrants bring a vibrant faith with them to their new country, breathing new life into local churches, but others do not yet know the hope of a transformational relationship with Jesus. If we have the eyes to see it, immigration presents an opportunity to ‘make disciples of all nations’ without even leaving our zip codes, and Strangers Next Door serves as an informative and practical guide.” (Matthew Soerens, U.S. church training specialist at World Relief and coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate )
“Strangers Next Door is a candid admission that a strategic frontier of world missions in the 21st century has returned to the home front. This book will charm readers with heart-rending anecdotes, relevant surveys and the author’s insightful analysis of the realities in the changing landscape of missions within the borders of the Western world. This is perhaps J. D. Payne’s most fascinating, coherent and convincing work on diaspora missiology to date!” (Tereso C. Casiño, professor of missiology and intercultural studies, School of Divinity, Gardner-Webb University, and executive chair, North America Diaspora Educators Forum (Global Diaspora Network) )
“By reading this book of J. D. Payne’s, you will be informed of the opportunities created by global migration and inspired by the real-life stories and case studies of how seemingly ordinary folks can participate in the Great Commission by implementing his proposed action plan–reaching out to new neighbors in the West from abroad with the gospel, then partnering with them in kingdom efforts. This is a practical guide for Christians who embrace the vision of global mission and engage in local action.” (Enoch Wan, president, Evangelical Missiological Society, and director, Institute of Diaspora Studies, Western Seminary )
“J. D. Payne has provided an excellent resource for the church in the West to be involved with ‘missions at its doorstep.’ Scholarly yet written in a very approachable style, full of interesting and illustrative stories, this book is a wonderful addition to the small but growing literature on ‘diaspora missiology.’ It merits wide reading by academics, church leaders and lay members of congregations alike.” (Steven Ybarrola, professor of cultural anthropology, Asbury Theological Seminary )
“Strangers Next Door is informative, insightful, inspirational and instructional to mission researchers and practitioners; clergy and parishioners; and missiology professors and students. J. D. Payne presents us with a great contribution to the fast-emerging diaspora missiology discourse. It summons the global church to action!” (Sadiri Joy Tira, senior associate for diasporas, The Lausanne Movement, and vice president for diaspora missions, Advancing Indigenous Missions )
“The author summons an urgent invitation to Christians and the church in the West to live missionally now! Both the statistical information of the migration of global strangers and the biblical inspiration of the sovereign God’s orchestration for kingdom expansion are convincing and compelling for us to seize the amazing harvest opportunities in our neighborhoods.” (T. V. Thomas, chair, Ethnic America Network (EAN) )
“With an eye toward Scripture, J. D. Payne has helpfully narrated the history and present reality of ‘peoples on the move.’ Yet he takes the conversation one necessary step further and offers practical advice for Western Christians to welcome the nations and effectively reach the ends of the earth in their Jerusalem.” (Edward Smither, professor of intercultural studies, Columbia International University )
“J. D. Payne is at it again with another perceptive and prophetic call to the Great Commission community! With the perfect blend of Scripture, stories and strategies, this book turns us toward our global diaspora future. Read it with careful attention to what the sovereign God is doing in our time–and with a commitment to be in step with his work in the world.” (Grant McClung, president, Missions Resource Group)
Healthy church multiplication is not a possibility unless you have the multiplication of healthy leaders. And the multiplication of healthy leaders should begin in the harvest with the multiplication of disciples. With this in mind, I want to draw your attention to an upcoming event related to disciple-making.
Lord willing, next month, David Platt and Francis Chan are speaking at the first Multiply Gathering. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate.
The Multiply Gathering (and several on-line resources) is designed to address the importance of healthy disciple-making. This free event is scheduled to be on-line on the evenings of November 9 and 10. Both sessions (one shot in AL and the other in CA) will address the same material–just check out one of them.
Below are several links to provide you with more information.
One of the means the Lord used (in my heart) to lead me to serve as the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills was that I encountered a leadership team and a congregation that had a D.N.A. consisting of a passion for the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. It is my hope and prayer that the Lord may use this event in November to establish such a passion within your congregation–or continue to fan the multiplication flame that is already burning.
I do hope that you and your church will participate.
“We want the high caliber, high capacity-type to lead this ministry. For apart from these we can do nothing. We want Superman, not the Greatest American Hero!”
We want to use the extraordinary to reach the world.
“If only our church had some outstanding leaders, then we would be better poised to reach the 4 billion. Unfortunately, global disciple making will have to wait until we can find just one.”
We want the extraordinary because we think they are the way to accomplish the extraordinary.
“Multiplying churches is a daunting task, please send us some strong leaders to enable our church to be about such work.”
But…what if the way to reach the nations is not through the extraordinary. What if in our Father’s Kingdom economy the primary way to accomplish the extraordinary is through the ordinary?
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 ESV).
Do you catch that? The ordinary doing the extraordinary.
Yes, our Father uses the extraordinary to accomplish the extraordinary, but not in the way we have come to believe. For the extraordinary is found in Jesus and not His followers’ intellect, leadership capacity, experience, degrees, or charisma.
What about your church? Do you have any members who are common, ordinary people? Are you a common person? If so, then you and your church are in a good position for the Lord to do the extraordinary through you.
“But ordinary people can’t plant extraordinary churches?”
Really? What is your definition of extraordinary?
“With all that they have going on with work and family, they can’t organize, administrate, lead, preach, and conduct church ministries like I do.”
Then maybe you need to revise your understanding of what is necessary for a healthy local church to exist and be involved in our commission?
The way to accomplish the extraordinary is through the ordinary. The ordinary confounded the religious leaders. The ordinary was accused of turning the world upside down in the first century (Acts 17:6). The ordinary was responsible for the word of the Lord going forth everywhere (1 Thes 1:8). And it was through the service of the ordinary that you and I eventually came to faith in the extraordinary.
Stop looking for the extraordinary among people. Look for the ordinary who are filled with the extraordinary. . . if you want to accomplish the extraordinary.
If you follow my posts, you know that I often share information on the Hispanic communities in North America. I believe that they are–and will continue to be–a powerful group when it comes to global disciple making. And for those who are not followers of Jesus, we have the wonderful opportunity to share Him with them and gather them together as new churches. Churches in North America that will be making the most global impact in the days to come are likely to be significantly engaged with Hispanics.
If you are interested, here are some previous posts related to this topic:
The U. S. Census Bureau just released the following information in recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month. (You may find the source of the following information HERE.).
The U. S. government started recognizing a National Hispanic Heritage week in 1968. By 1988, this observance was expanded to a month-long celebration from September 15-October 15. It has been a time for America to celebrate the history and cultures of her Hispanic citizens.
52.0 million — The Hispanic population of the United States as of July 1, 2011, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. Hispanics constituted 16.7 percent of the nation’s total population. In addition, there are 3.7 million residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.
1.3 million — Number of Hispanics added to the nation’s population between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011. This number is more than half of the approximately 2.3 million added to the nation’s population during this period.
2.5% — Percentage increase in the Hispanic population between 2010 and 2011.
132.8 million — The projected Hispanic population of the United States on July 1, 2050. According to this projection, Hispanics will constitute 30 percent of the nation’s population by that date.
50.5 million — The number of Hispanics counted during the 2010 Census. This was about a 43 percent increase from the Hispanic population in the 2000 Census, which was 35.3 million.
2nd — Ranking of the size of the U.S. Hispanic population worldwide, as of 2010. Only Mexico (112 million) had a larger Hispanic population than the United States (50.5 million).
63% — The percentage of Hispanic-origin people in the United States who were of Mexican background in 2010. Another 9.2 percent were of Puerto Rican background, 3.5 percent Cuban, 3.3 percent Salvadoran and 2.8 percent Dominican. The remainder was of some other Central American, South American or other Hispanic/Latino origin.
Florida — The state with the highest median age, 34, within the Hispanic population.
14.4 million — The estimated population for those of Hispanic-origin in California as of July 1, 2011.
8 — The number of states that have a population of 1 million or more Hispanic residents — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
More than 50% — The percent of all the Hispanic population that live in California, Florida, and Texas as of July 1, 2011.
46.7% – The percentage of New Mexico’s population that was Hispanic as of July 1, 2011, the highest of any state.
147.9% — The percentage increase in the Hispanic population in South Carolina between April 1, 2000, and April 1, 2010, the highest of any state. Alabama had the second highest increase, with 144.8 percent.
4.7 million — The Hispanic population of Los Angeles County, Calif., in 2010. This is the highest of any county.
97% — Proportion of the population of East Los Angeles, Calif., that was Hispanic as of 2010. This is the highest proportion for any place outside the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with 100,000 or more total population.
82 — Number of the nation’s 3,143 counties that were majority-Hispanic.
1 in 4 — The amount of counties in which Hispanics doubled their population since 2000.
25 — Number of states in which Hispanics were the largest minority group. These states were Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
2.3 million — The number of Hispanic-owned businesses in 2007, up 43.6 percent from 2002.
$350.7 billion — Receipts generated by Hispanic-owned businesses in 2007, up 58.0 percent from 2002.
23.7% — The percentage of businesses in New Mexico in 2007 that were Hispanic-owned, which led all states. Florida (22.4 percent) and Texas (20.7 percent) were runners-up.
10.7 million — The number of Hispanic family households in the United States in 2011.
63.1% — The percentage of Hispanic family households that are married couple households in 2011.
61.1% — The percentage of Hispanic married couple households that have children younger than 18 present in 2011.
66.9% — Percentage of Hispanic children living with two parents in 2011.
43.6% — Percentage of Hispanic married couples with children under 18 where both spouses were employed in 2011.
37.0 million — The number of U.S. residents 5 and older who spoke Spanish at home in 2010. Those who hablan español constituted 12.8 percent of U.S. residents 5 and older. More than half of these Spanish speakers spoke English “very well.”
17.3 million — The number of U.S. residents 5 and older who spoke Spanish at home in 1990.
75.1% — Percentage of Hispanics 5 and older who spoke Spanish at home in 2010.
$37,759 — The median income of Hispanic households in 2010.
26.6% — The poverty rate among Hispanics in 2010, up from 25.3 percent in 2009.
62.2% — The percentage of Hispanics 25 and older that had at least a high school education in 2010.
13.0% — The percentage of the Hispanic population 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2010.
3.6 million — The number of Hispanics 25 and older who had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2010.
1.1 million — Number of Hispanics 25 and older with advanced degrees in 2010 (e.g., master’s, professional, doctorate).
6.2% — Percentage of students (both undergraduate and graduate students) enrolled in college in 2010 who were Hispanic.
23.2% — Percentage of elementary and high school students that were Hispanic in 2010.
47.1% — Percent of the foreign-born population that was Hispanic in 2010.
(image source: Microsoft Office)
I am excited and thankful to share with you that my latest book has been released by Thomas Nelson. Kingdom Expressions: Trends Influencing the Advancement of the Gospel provides an overview of the most influential gospel advancing movements and trends in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries.
Over a year ago, Thomas Nelson approached me about writing a reference book that would address some of the new expressions found in American Evangelicalism that were not attached to a particular denomination.
While Evangelicals have experienced many changes in the last 60 years, I wanted to concentrate on the developments that grew from deep convictions regarding the missionary nature of the church. During this time, Evangelicals wrestled deeply with how to better evangelize the nations, both across the street and across the world. What started with a heightened evangelistic zeal among a few people oftentimes developed into movements to advance the gospel, with large numbers of participants and abundant resources. While many people participating in these new expressions remained loyal to their denominations, these new trends and movements were not bound to a single denomination. They often developed and matured outside of any one denominational authority.
This is a reference book. I have attempted to remain as objective as possible, without providing critique. This approach allows both history and the convictions of such movements to speak for themselves. While there are several expressions in this book in which i am in much agreement, there are others that trouble me to various degrees. My objective has been to present the facts and allow those involved in such expressions to speak for themselves.
The chapters address the following:
Cell Church Movement
Church Growth Movement
Church Planting Networks
Cowboy / Hip Hop / Biker Churches
Emerging Church Movement
House Church Movement
Missional Church Movement
Purpose Driven Church Movement
Short-Term Missions Movement
Spiritual Warfare Movement
Multisite Church Movement
The content of this book provides an overview of the topics examined. I include definitions, history, common convictions, and individuals who have provided representative leadership for each expression. Some of these expressions have already gone through their life cycles, with few people still talking about them. However, other expressions are just past their births and in the adolescent stages. Regardless of whether or not such expressions are considered passé or current, their influence lives on and they are worthy of being listed in such a reference book. The Church stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before us–whether we like it or not.
I hope you will get a copy of this work. It is my prayer that the Lord will use this book for the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches across the world for His glory.
If you would like to read a portion of the text, you may find it at Thomas Nelson’s site HERE. The Kindle version should be available very soon.
I recently spoke with a church planting leader for a particular denomination. As we talked over coffee, he inquired about the direction of our church when it comes to church planting. My response was to describe our future missionary labors in terms like we read about in Acts 13-14; 16; 20; 1 Thess 1:2-10; and Titus 1:5. He responded with much surprise as if my thoughts were coming from an unusual source.
What does it reveal about our missiology and biblical convictions whenever we think it is strange to advocate that those first century church planting teams have something to teach us? What does it reveal about our Kingdom stewardship when we view such an advocate as being peculiar? Do we not recognize a problem exists whenever we label a church planter as being innovative, creative, or unusual for following a Pauline model?
Granted, not everything we read in the Bible is prescriptive. However, I believe our brother Paul and his example should be on a pedestal for us to consider. He was a church planter, you know.
As wise stewards of the mystery of Christ, we must subscribe to a definition of biblical church planting as evangelism that results in new churches. Or, to communicate it in other terms: disciple-making that results in new churches. The weight of the biblical model is on this definition.
Imagine what would happen if we began to create a church planting atmosphere in North America whereby the expectation for new churches is that they should consist of 95-100% new believers–at the moment those churches are planted.
Consider what would happen if our strategies did not embrace methods that would result in new churches consisting of 95-100% long-term Kingdom citizens–at the moment of their births.
What would happen if we recognized that a wise use of our Father’s resources (e.g., money, people) should be to assist in planting churches from out of the harvest fields, instead of establishing a new work in a community to provide a different style of worship/ministry for the believers who are already there?
We do not need another flavor of church in the Baskin Robbins of North American Christianity; we need missionary bands to settle for nothing less than disciple-making that results in new churches.
What would happen if we equipped and commissioned church planters with the task of only going to the lost in the people group/community?
Yes, we say we are advocating these things, but let’s begin to question our results.
Try this. The next time you hear about a new church planted, a record number of new churches birthed in an area, or church planting goals reached, just ask the question, “What percent of the members of those churches recently came into the Kingdom of God?”
We say we want to see churches planted from out of the harvest, but our actions and our leadership practices do not often match our words. And the sad thing is that even when faced with such inconsistencies, we are likely to continue repeating our past behaviors–expecting different future results (Maybe the Ridley Assessment has something to say to those of us who oversee church planters?).
Whenever a biblical model for church planting is viewed as unusual, the path to change will come with pain.
In order for healthy change to occur, we have to change our ecclesiologies, missiologies, and what we celebrate, reward, and expect.
We have a poor understanding of our Commission. We act as if Jesus has commanded us to plant churches. We are commanded to make disciples. It is out of disciple making that churches are to be birthed. The weight of the biblical model rests here. Not transfer growth. Not acrimonious splits. It is evangelism that results in disciples, who covenant together to be and function as the local expression of the Body of Christ.
We have a poor understanding of the local church. If our definition is poor, then everything we say and do related to church planting will be poor. We often expect newly planted churches to manifest structures and organizations like what is observed in churches of 20, 40, 50 years of age. Our definition of a local church is oftentimes so encased with our cultural desires that we do not know the difference between biblical prescriptions and American preferences.
We operate from a poor definition of church planter. If we do not recognize the missionary nature (and thus apostolic functions) of church planters, then we end up equating them with pastors. And take it from a pastor who has been involved in church planting: missionaries and pastors have different callings, gift-mixes, passions, and functions to play in the Kingdom. We end up sending pastors to do apostolic-type work, or sending missionaries and expect them to be pastors. Such is a perfect storm for problems, frustrations, burn-out, and disasters.
Are there other ways to plant churches than what we read about in the ministry of Paul? Yes, and I am in favor of some of those models. Are there times when a church should hive-off members to begin work in another area? Yes. Is it okay for a congregation to send out a pastor with several church members to plant an “instant” church in a community? Yes, under certain circumstances.
However, such models tend to be difficult to reproduce (in view of four billion unbelievers), pose contextualization challenges, are costly, and often do not result in a great amount of disciples made. The weight of the biblical definition for church planting is not found here. Such models should be the exception when it comes to church planting. Today, they are often the expectation.
I expect my “surprising” conversations will continue in the future. Such is necessary as we move in a direction where a biblical model is not looked upon as the exception. But until our church planting expectations change, we must ask ourselves a question and recognize the troubling answer:
What do we have whenever a biblical model is viewed as unusual?
We have a major problem.
(image credit: Microsoft Office)
What is obvious to you as a leader is not always obvious to others. Sometimes our familiarity with the obvious shocks us into silence. Being a wise steward with the wisdom and opportunity from the Lord often means overcoming this silence.
The temptation for many of us is that to us the obvious is so obvious that we tell ourselves, “I can’t say anything about this matter. Everyone will think I am a poor leader. That is elementary. It is on everyone’s mind. To open my mouth now and make such a simple statement of resolution would be a waste of time and leadership credit. It must be more complex.”
But it is not always on everyone’s mind. The solution is not always complex.
You know the wrench will fix the leaky faucet, but others do not. . . even those who often work with wrenches.
Part of excellence in leadership involves reminding people of the obvious. The effective leader is someone out in front. He or she is ahead of others, farther down the path–at least a few steps.
The leader walks where few others are walking. He thinks thoughts the majority are not thinking. She sees things others often fail to see.
The leader lives in the world of the obvious so others can come to dwell there.
But we sometimes reside in that world for so long that we come to believe everyone lives there.
Solomon was once confronted with a conundrum that no one else was able to solve. He quickly resolved the matter with (to him) an obvious solution (1 Kings 3:16-28), for the “wisdom of God was in him to do justice” (v. 28, ESV).
As the faucet continued to drip, Solomon saw the wrench nearby.
Maybe the matter is obvious to us for we are the Lord’s leaders for the hour. Maybe the divine wisdom we have received wants us to speak and overcome the shock of silence.
Will people listen to your obvious? Yes. Maybe. Not always–for the foolishness of ten spies triumphed over the obvious of the two.
So, whenever a challenge comes along in your next meeting, take a leadership risk and state the obvious. Maybe someone will agree and see the wrench and fix that faucet that has been dripping for a few years.
(image source: Microsoft Office)
“There are a 104 days of summer vacation and school comes along just to end it…” (If you don’t know what cartoon theme I’m singing here, just sing this line to your ten year old and he or she will tell you.).
Ah…. Yes, today was the first day of school for all three of my children. I am very thankful that it went well. They were all eager to start; Mom and dad were also eager.
In light of this end-of-summer-break reality, I wanted to share the following numbers and their corresponding statements that were recently published by the U. S. government on students in this country. It is my hope and prayer that we will take a moment and pray for the individuals represented by these numbers. May we never forget the students who live among us. They are in need of the gospel and healthy churches.
They are a potentially powerful force for Kingdom expansion.
Are we shepherding them well?
Are we challenging them with the claims of Christ?
Are we encouraging them to obtain marketable skills, trades, and degrees that would best position them for mission in the global marketplace?
Here are the numbers. Here is our present reality.
Will we be wise stewards with this incredible opportunity set before us?
The number of children and adults enrolled in school throughout the country in October 2010 — from nursery school to college. They comprised 27 percent of the entire population age 3 and older.72%
Percentage of children 3 to 6 enrolled in kindergarten who attended all day, as of October 2010.24%
Percentage of elementary through high school students who had at least one foreign-born parent in October 2010.70%
Percentage of 6- to 17-year-olds who were highly engaged in school (children reported as liking school, being interested in school and working hard in school) in 2009.11.8 million
Number of school-age children (5 to 17) who spoke a language other than English at home in 2010; 8.5 million of these children spoke Spanish at home.16%
Percentage of all college students 35 and older in October 2010. They made up 34 percent of those attending school part time.41%
Percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college in 2010.56%
Percent of college students who were women in 2010 (includes both undergraduate and graduate students).
(image source, Microsoft, Royalty-Free/Corbis)
Vision casting for multiplication paints a picture of possibilities that can occur, by God’s grace. Vision casting for multiplication allows each member of the church, with their diversity of gifts, personalities, interests, and talents to “see” where they can fit in and be a part of carrying out the vision. Effective vision casting causes people to say, “Yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can see our church, in general, being involved in church multiplication, and I can see myself, in particular, being involved in that process.”
Steps Involved in the Process
The following are some of the important steps to work through in the process of casting a vision for church multiplication.
Assuming that the vision from the Lord has been received, the vision must now be cast before the people. The first step in the vision casting process is to pray. Pray that as the vision is cast before the people they will be receptive to that vision. Pray that God would be glorified in the vision casting process. Pray that ungodly conflict related to the vision will never exist. Pray for spiritual protection for both you and the hearers. Pray that God will give you the necessary wisdom along the way to draw out that vision within your heart.
Pray for patience as you cast the vision before the people. Just as the Lord was gracious to allow you to have the time to mull over the vision for multiplication, likewise you need to extend the grace to the people and allow them the time to reflect, discuss, and pray over the vision that you set before them. It is unfair and selfish to have grasped the vision over a period of weeks, months, or even years, and then expect others to grasp the vision within minutes or hours.
Understand what “Communicates” with Your People
Understand the people to whom the vision is being cast. Who are these people? What do they like and dislike? What are their educational levels? What are their backgrounds? An intimate knowledge of the people provides the vision caster with a better foundation on which to contextualize the vision for the people. For example, knowing that a group of individuals grasp ideas better through interpersonal communication rather than through a lecture, will affect the way one casts a vision to the people.
Know the Possibilities
Part of the vision casting process includes educating oneself and the church to what the Spirit has shown both historically and in contemporary societies, to be a multiplicative-growth possibility. People need to know and to see what the Spirit has done and continues to do through His churches. Begin this step with a study of the Scriptures. As you study, constantly ask the following questions: What was the role of the Spirit in the Apostolic Church? What did the Spirit enable the believers to accomplish in regard to a disciple-making movement? What was required of the believers to be used by the Spirit in such a movement of churches that planted churches that planted churches across the known world?
Take some time to examine what the Spirit has done throughout Church history during the times in which rapid disciple-making occurred resulting in the planting of numerous churches. A brief study of the Moravians, early Methodists and Baptists, and Pentecostals would be very helpful, even if one does not agree entirely with their theologies.
Examine what the Spirit is currently doing among churches throughout the world in what is commonly referred to as church planting movements. In many countries, the Church is witnessing an extremely rapid rate of reproduction in which churches are planting churches through evangelism that is primarily carried out by non-professional clergy. We are hearing of a handful churches multiplying into scores of churches with hundreds of new believers, all within a few years.
Compare your biblical study with the church planting movements that have occurred since the days of the Apostles. What characteristics of the rapid growth of the Apostolic Church can be found in the times of rapid growth of the Church throughout history? What were the understandings of the nature of the Church and the nature of church leadership among the believers in the Scriptures and among the believers who have participated in church planting movements throughout history?
Recognize the Barriers
Recognition of the barriers to church multiplication must be taken into consideration both before the vision is cast and during the vision casting process. The Lord may provide the vision, but we may hinder the fulfillment of that vision by allowing our cultural expectations to overrule the vision. When God speaks, we must always allow our traditions to bow to His Lordship.
Since church multiplication is such a foreign concept to some, cultural barriers must be understood and overcome before an effective vision can be cast and appropriated by the people. In all likelihood, most established churches that have been in existence for years will not be able to overcome the cultural barriers hindering church multiplication movements; however, those churches can understand the barriers are present and do all they can to work to plant churches that are not encased in the cultural barriers from the very beginning.
One common barrier is that of accommodation. For example, many North American churches are built upon foundations that are a blend of biblical principles and Western ideologies such as, individualism, institutionalism, pragmatism, professionalism, a bigger-is-better mentality, and a “no money, no movement” perspective. This accommodation to Western culture is unhealthy for our churches in general, and for church multiplication in particular. If we have been involved in a church that has accommodated itself to the culture to an unhealthy degree, then it will be difficult for us to grasp a vision of planting churches different from our past and present experiences.
One way to work with your people in overcoming an unhealthy understanding of the church is to conduct a study of what the Bible says is the church. In examining passages throughout the New Testament, ask the following questions: In what ways were the early believers required to be different from their cultures to be followers of Jesus and thus a part of the Church? How much of our current understanding and practices of the church are solely our culture, and how much of our current understanding and practices of the church are biblical? Are there any elements in our cultural understanding of the church that hinder the natural expansion of our church through church planting? What are the most basic requirements for the church to exist in any culture and in any time throughout the world; do we desire to plant this understanding of the church, or are we trying to clone our cultural understanding of church among the people we desire to reach with the gospel? Are we trying to plant churches that accommodate to the unbelievers’ culture at the sacrifice of the biblical elements necessary for a reproducing congregation?
Another common barrier is maintaining a poor definition of leadership. For example, many North American churches have a very unhealthy understanding of church leadership. In most cases, we define leadership in terms of academic achievements and popularity, instead of defining leadership according to the biblical guidelines; we tend to define leadership in a very narrow and exclusive sense. Ask yourself, how many of the biblical guidelines for overseers are related to academic achievement, including the ability to teach and exhort from the Scriptures? How many of the qualifications for leadership are related to character, moral, ethical, and familial areas that can only be known by the congregation as they have spent time with the potential leaders? An unhealthy understanding of leadership hinders the possibility of church multiplication.
A third barrier to overcome is holding to a shallow understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit to seal, sanctify, and empower new churches. Many missionaries have a tendency to keep a heavy hand on new believers, as if they cannot be the church from the very moment when they come together as a baptized body of regenerate individuals. The Apostle had such a missionary faith in the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of the new believers that he could spend a short time with the people, and travel on to preach the gospel and plant other churches.
A fourth barrier to overcome to be effective in casting a vision for multiplication, is to understand that in most cases whenever church planting methods and new churches are dependent upon large amounts of finances and a great deal of resources from outside sources, multiplication is hindered. Whenever new believers in new churches are taught to depend upon a source necessary for their existence as a church, outside of the Holy Spirit working through them, they develop a mentality that hinders rapid multiplication.
A fifth barrier that must be overcome is the belief that churches should not and cannot send out missionary teams that follow after the practice of the Apostle Paul. It has been said that we fail in missionary work in exactly the areas in which the Apostle Paul succeeded. There should be an expectation for church planting teams that will evangelize unbelievers, congregationalize the new believers, raise up leaders from the new church, and then repeat the process.
The sixth barrier to overcome is that of cultural blindness. Even if the lost population to which I feel called to plant a church speaks the same language, is of the same ethnicity, wears similar clothing, lives in the same community, and is in the same socio-economic bracket as myself, I should not assume that we have similar worldviews. I should not assume that the methodologies used to reach me with the gospel, and the culture of church to which I am the most comfortable will be the necessary methodologies and culture of church that will connect with those unbelievers.
Communicate the Vision Redundantly
Rick Warren recommends restating the vision every twenty-six days. Begin with the church’s leadership. If the leaders of the church are not behind the vision and willing to work to fulfill the vision, then it is highly unlikely that the rest of the church will be supportive of the vision. As much as possible, keep the vision before the leaders and equip them to keep the vision before the rest of the church. Develop creative ways to communicate the vision to the leadership and the entire church. Take your leaders on a weekend retreat to spend time in prayer, bible study, and discussion concerning the vision. Make the vision a part of your sermons, classes, bulletins, home gatherings, newsletters, and casual conversations with the church.
This post first appeared as a portion of a larger article in the Journal of The American Society for Church Growth, Volume 16, Fall 2005, pgs. 35-42.
(Image Credit: Fotolia, Microsoft Office)
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Mission (Grand Rapids,
MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 111.