All around the
world there is a spiritual revolution brewing. It is bound to come
Church Planting Movements (Read: The Amazing
Power of Doubling Groups)
The way they do missions today is
totally different from the way it was done when I grew up in the
Forty years ago, it worked like this. An
evangelist would go out and share the faith. Some would respond.
After they responded, the evangelist would gather these new
Christians into churches. (This order is important as we will see in
a moment.) The churches would take on an approximate form to a
church in America. They would have a choir and a Sunday School and a
constitution. (How can you run a church without a constitution?) They
would have committees and Wednesday night supper, church counsel, & visitation. In the early days we even built buildings with red
bricks, a tall steeple and white columns out front.
Then, we grouped churches together in
Associations, State Conventions and National Conventions. We created
institutions, seminaries, agencies and so forth. We sent our young
ministers to our seminaries and they received degrees that
duplicated the kind of degrees they can get here. In short, we not
only exported the gospel, we also exported the whole form of the way
we do church in America. We exported not only the wine, but the
wineskins as well.
Around 20 years ago, we started experimenting
with a different model, one that is now known as Church Planting
Movements. It is the dominant model of missions around the world
these days. I found this statement on the International Mission
Board's web page:
International Mission Board’s Overseas
Leadership Team adopted a vision statement: We will facilitate
the lost coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ by beginning and
nurturing Church Planting Movements among all peoples.
Now, the phrase "Church Planting
probably not all that clear to you, as it was not to me. I think of
"Church" as "Church as I know it." These are more like house
churches, as was made clear to me on a recent trip to Richmond and a
conversation I had with an IMB executive there. These are not
churches as we think of churches. The executive clarified this to me
adding, "In fact, we try to keep them small and continually
These Churches in the Church Planting
Movements are more like Sunday School classes than they are Churches
as we think of them. They are small groups led by laymen that meet
in homes. They are house churches.
I am curious what comes to your mind when you
think of the phrase "House Church." It has always had a bit of a
negative connotation to me. It has always spoken to me of people who
could not get along with the people in traditional churches and
decided to just do church at home. But, these are not rebels. This
is an intentional strategy. Those who follow this strategy are
following the top leadership of the IMB.
One other caveat. I don't see an essential
difference between a Sunday School style group and a home group. To
me, a group is a group is a group. Whether the group meets on campus
on Sunday morning or off campus during the week does not change
the essential character of the group. There are pluses and
minuses for both home groups and Sunday School style groups. One is
not essentially superior to the other. A group is a group is a
I have done a little reading on House Churches
in America. I was surprised to learn that many who participate in
House Churches in America actually attend a traditional church on
Sunday morning. This raises an interesting question. What is the
difference between this house church and any other home Bible study?
One word: attitude. They see this house church as just that, a
church. It is just as legitimate as the traditional church, it just
takes on a different form.
Church Planting Movements
This change of strategy is resulting in
unprecedented world-wide growth of the church. For example:
When a strategy coordinator began his
assignment in 1993, there were only three churches and 85 believers
among a population of more than 7 million lost souls. Four years
later there were more than 550 churches and nearly 55,000 believers.
In his weekly Friday sermon, an Arab Muslim
cleric complained that more than 10,000 Muslims living in the
surrounding mountains had apostatized from Islam and become
City in China
Over a four-year period (1993-1997), more than
20,000 people came to faith in Christ, resulting in more than 500
Two Baptist unions overcame significant
government persecution to grow from 235 churches in 1990 to more
than 3,200 in 1998.
A strategy coordinator reports: “Around the
end of 1996, we called around to the various churches in the area
and got their count on how many had come to faith in that one year.
When they were all added up, it came to 15,000 in one year. The
previous year we estimated only 200 believers altogether.”
A missionary in Europe reports: “Last year
(1998), my wife and I started 15 new church cell groups. As we left
for a six-month stateside assignment last July, we wondered what
we’d find when we returned. It’s wild! We can verify at least 30
churches now, but I believe that it could be two or even three times
A missionary strategist commented, “It took us
30 years to plant four churches in this country. We’ve started 65
cell churches in the last nine months.”
Abdul came to faith in 1987. The team found
more than 350 evangelists serving in 29 districts, nearly 2,300
pastors serving among some 4,000 churches, and 89,315 baptized
members—all direct spiritual descendants of Abdul. More than 23,000
of the baptisms had occurred during the previous year alone. And
that’s only part of the overall church-planting movement now
spreading through Abdul’s people, who number in the tens of
millions, comprising one of the largest unreached groups in the
Consider this chart I found at
By AD 1430, (1%) were Bible believing
By AD 1790, (2%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1940, (3%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1960, (4%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1970, (5%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1980, (6%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1983, (7%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1986, (8%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1989, (9%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1993, (10%) were Bible believing Christians.
By AD 1997, (11%) were Bible believing Christians.
It took 1430 years for 1% of the world
population to become Christian. Now, we are gaining 1% every 3 or 4
years. The percentage of Christians doubled between 1970 and 1993
from 5% to 10%. WOW!!
If this doesn't seem quite right to you,
consider this. I heard a statistic from George Barna years ago that
said that North America is the only continent on the planet where
the church is not growing. It feels like we are not making progress
because we are in the United States. But, in many places around
the world we are making rapid progress.
I'd invite you to do some reading up on Church
Planting Movements. Do a search on
www.google.com and start chasing down the links. It is exciting.
Let's experiment together with how to make
Church Planting Movements a reality in America.
We recently had the privilege of hosting Josh Hunt for our mid
winter Sunday Morning Bible Study leadership conference. The
emphasis on investing and building relationships is the key to
reaching our society today. Fellowship is premium in a world where
we face an epidemic of loneliness. People are looking for more than
a "friendly" church. They want a place where they can grow and
develop lasting relationships that will assist them in building a
biblical foundation for life. If you have not had the opportunity to
have Josh Hunt in your church or attend one of his conferences, make
plans to involve your leadership. His concepts will make a
difference in your thinking about how simple it really is to reach
out to people.
Charles F. Stanley
Senior Pastor First Baptist Church Atlanta
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