Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today we learned about the concept of EndVisioning.  It is pretty simple, really.  All it is is envisioning what the end would look like should we achieve everything we are praying and trying to accomplish.  But then we do something more...

The speaker compared it to climbing a mountain.  We can imagine what it is like to stand on the very peak before we ever get there.  Then, when we do get there, we are so excited by the accomplishment, the beauty, the view, and the air that we forget the long struggle it was to climb to the top.  But before we took the last step to stand on the summit, we were there--one step away.

If we imagine the end of our mission--everything that we have set out to achieve and pray to see happen has been fulfilled.  Our people group has been reached.  There are churches in every village.  A high percentage of the total population have heard the gospel, accepted or is in the process of being discipled by other people in their own group who have been trained.  The Bible has been translated and given to them in forms they can use.  Etc., etc., etc.

Now imagine what the last step was before we got to that final end vision.  What was that like?  What was the last thing that needed to happen before the vision was finally achieved?  Not something you do necessarily, but something that needs to be done.  What is that?

Now, how about the last thing that needs to happen before what we just described happens?  What is that?

And the thing before that?

Do you see where this is heading?  If we envision the end, or "endvision," then we can start stepping backward considering what needs to happen in a reverse order.  If we are disciplined about it, we can describe all the steps that bring it back to the situation as it actually exists in the present.  This little exercise helps us to make better plans for doing what it takes to accomplish our missions that lead to an ultimate vision of what we want to see happen. 

Just thinking about our mission in this fashion has both excited me and helped me think clearly about the path we need to be taking now.  An important concept is that we don't ask ourselves, "What can I do?" but, "What needs to be done?"  Then we consider what role we can play in what needs to be done, and who needs to help with the things we can't do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things That Kill CPMs

Today we learned about certain elements and dynamics that tend to stifle or kill an indigenous church planting movement.  It would be possible to write a book just on this topic, but I'll include the outline I wrote in my notes from the training.


1. Extra Biblical Requirements for being a church
     a. Buildings.
     b. Having to have a minimum number of members.
     c. Having to have a dedicated location for religious things to happen.
     d. Hymnbooks.
     e. Choirs.
     f. Have to have a Bible college.

2. Extra Biblical Leadership requirements
     a. Seminary graduates.
     b. Ordained clergy.
     c. Paid leaders.
     d. Full-time leaders.
     e. That only clergy can administer sacraments.
     f. Extra requirements not found in 1 Tim3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9.

3. Loss of cultural identity
     a. To be Christian you must take on Western culture.
     b. Political Stigma. Christianity is the religion of the Imperialists.
     c. Teaching, worship, Bible in something other than the “heart language.”
     d. Foreign elements in the service (furniture, vestments, communion materials…).
     e. Extraction evangelism, creating a Christian sub-culture.—idea of winning people as individuals.

4. Non-Reproducible Church Models
     a. Externally funded buildings.
     b. Foreign funds that tie movement to outside sources.
     c. Relying on very talented people to do ministry (talented in preaching, music, etc.).
     d. Teaching Methods
          i. Literate exegesis with oral learners.
          ii. Using expensive non-local materials in teaching. Posters or Power-Point.
          iii. Using complicated discipleship materials.
     e. What should we do?
          i. Train local leaders to think critically about reproducibility and copying other methods.
          ii. Discipleship: “I never do things a 1-week old believer couldn’t do.”—Charles Brock
          iii. Use local materials reflecting economic level.
          iv. Use storying with oral learners.

5. Overcoming bad examples of Church
     a. Non-believing “Christians.”
     b. Moral failure of leaders.
     c. Religion is only for outcasts.
     d. White man’s religion.
     e. Christians are the paid lackies of the imperialists.

6. Financial Dependency
     a. Foreign funding of local pastors weakens the relationship between pastor and local believers.
     b. Outside salary subsidies create jealous, division.
     c. Outside funding sitles local initiative and giving.
     d. Local churches are robbed of the gift of giving.
     e. Unhealthy partnerships which do for believers what they should be doing for themselves.
     f. Dependence stops a movement from developing.

7. Linear, sequential thought and practice.
     a. Thinking you can't do something until something else is finished.
          i. Language .
          ii. Build relationships.
          iii. Disciple new converts.
          iv. Form churches.
          v. Raise up leaders to take over.
     b. Want to be thinking in a parallel fashion, and do things together.
     c. Thinking the real work is later stifles urgency for the task (God is delighted to use you and your  
          bumbling efforts.)
     d. Fixating on the steps may cause you to miss today’s opportunities.

Monday, September 28, 2009

True Fruit

"The true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple; it's another apple tree."

“The true fruit of a church is not a new disciple but a new church.” --Christian Schwartz

Resources in the Harvest

Wow, there is so much I could write about the first day of Church Planting Movement (CPM) training.  Too much to put into one blog post, so I will focus on one powerful concept we learned:

The resources are in the harvest.

We compared movements to avalanches--large movements of snow that flow down a mountain.  People sometimes set off avalanches intentionally (such as by throwing dynamite or shooting the snow with a gun), and sometimes they set them off unintentionally (such as by skiing down the mountain).  In moments, the snow gathers such momentum that it sweeps everything away with it and the skiiers cannot control it.  It can be very dangerous for them.  But the people who start avalanches do not make them flow and gain velocity.  The potential energy is already built up in the snow and only needs to be triggered in order to make it happen.

Though the analogy is incomplete, it demonstrates that CPMs, when they occur, do not occur because an individual missionary or Christian is organizing and structuring the entire effort, and raising tons of money and people to come in from the outside to make it happen.  Instead, one flake of snow pushes the next flake of snow and it multiplies on a grand scale.  CPMs happen when the people themselves share the gospel with the people around them, plant a church among them, and then they in turn repeat this process until churches are multiplied throughout the entire people group. 

The method initually introduced must be simple and reproducable.  If a missionary starts out with an evangelization or church planting method that the people themselves could not reproduce, then it will not trigger a church planting movement.  He might start one awesome church, but it will stop there.

This approach is like trying to move snow by making a snow ball.  You roll it and it grows in size until it is quite large.  But then it becomes too large to push and it stops.  To make it move you must call other people in to help push it.  The snow itself can't push itself as it does in an avalanche. 

Though it is counter-intuitive, sometimes the "better" we do church makes it more unlikely that there will ever be a movement among the people we're attempting to reach. 

Common Elements

In the book Church Planting Movements the author describes ten additional elements that are present in most CPMs, though not all.  They are:
  1. A Climante of Uncertainty in Society
  2. Insulation from Outsiders
  3. A High Cost for Following Christ
  4. Bold Fearless Faith
  5. Family-Based Conversion Patterns
  6. Rapid Incorporation of New Believers
  7. Worship in the Heart Language
  8. Divine Signs and Wonders
  9. On-the-Job Leadership Training
  10. Missionaries Suffered
This actually sounds quite like the book of Acts!

Alpha Groups

Though the author admits this is not (or not yet) a Church Planting Movement (CPM), he takes some time to describe a program that is being used with success in England.  This is the Alpha Program.  From the book...

...The Alpha Program is an introduction to the core truths of the Christian faith built around a setting of openness to inquiry.  Lasting 15 weeks, the course focuses on non-Christians, often meeting in homes rather than in the church building, typically including a shared meal, welcoming skeptical questions, and resulting in an astonishing number of conversions....

First, it gets non-believers into small groups meeting in the homes of believers.  Second, it actually encourages difficult questions that non-Christians have, without feeling a need to answer every question.  This is very important.  Christians think they have to have an answer for every question.  Non-Christians want to know that they are free to ask--asking is more important to them than receiving a half-baked answer.  Third, by the time the 15 weeks is over, it is often the small group itself that converts the non-Christian.

Today there are thousands of people in Alpha Groups and thousands of churches that have begun to use them effectively to reach people in Europe who have considered themselves "post Christian."  It will be interesting to see if these Alpha Groups could spark a house church planting movement across the continent of Europe which is filled with ancient and empty cathedrals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yanyin Church Planting Movement

One Strategy Coordinator (missionary) for a Church Planting Movement (CPM) lived in a province of China the author nicknamed Yanyin.  He began by moblizing Chinese evangelists from other locations to do widespread personal and mass evangelism in Yanyin.  This was their process:
  1. Do abundant evangelsim by showing the Jesus film and using other materials so that as many people as possible are exposed.  The idea was that in nature trees produce thousands more seeds than ever sprout--but by sewing more you reap more.
  2. Identify those who are interested in knowing more about Christ from the initial exposures to the story of Christ.
  3. Then, direct the gospel message to the heads of households--those who have the most authority in the family.
  4. Trace family lines of these inquirers and heads of households to invite family members to a series of meetings that more fully explain the gospel and how to become a Christian.
  5. At the conclusion of these Bible studies invite the listeners to make a commitment to Christ.
  6. Incorporate new believers into basic discipleship Bible studies and baptize them at their conclusion.
  7. In each group of new believers identify suitable leaders and turn leadership of regular public worship meetings over to them.
  8. After such a church is established, reproduce (divide into) another church when the size of the group exceeds the number of people that can comfortably fill a household.
The last point was very appropriate for their situation to avoid persecution from the Communist government.  The police would oppose the building of church buildings (of any size) and large gatherings of people.  Gatherings of people confined to a single house were not viewed as a threat. 

The Strategy Coordinator began this effort in 1991.  At that time Yanyin province had 8-10 million people with only 18 churches all belonging to the controlled registered "Three-Self Patriotic Movement" church.  These churches were not growing, nor were they interested in evangelism.  The first year of their effort produced six new house churches.  The next year saw 17 more churches sprout.  The following year there were an additional 50.  Six years after beginning the total number of churches had climbed to 195 and the gospel had reached every county in the province with churche among each of the five ethnic groups that inhabited Yanyin.  By the end of 1998 when the Strategy Coordinator left, there were 550 house churches in Yanyin province with more than 55,000 believers.  Finally, a survey done in the summer of 2001 revealed more than 900 churches with close to 100,000 believers worshiping in them. 

There is more to tell about the Yanyin CPM and the methods they used for training.  You will have to get the book Church Planting Movements and read it for yourself.  It is very interesting stuff! 

On thing that is notable--though he was probably involved in some of the initial plants, the foreign Strategy Coordinator (missionary) isn't described as being the one planting any of the churches.  The movement went far beyond his influence or ability.  Why?  Because it started that way.  If he had begun by being "the man" then the model wouldn't have been reproducible and people would have felt that only a foreigner can do those things.  He started with a few local believers, along with some Chinese workers from other provinces, prepared them with a simple reproducible approach that was in its DNA, and helped to get it going. 

It is easy for missionaries to arrive on the field and do ministry.  It is easy to do things that impress supporters back home or puts an emphasis on what the foreigners (or his short-term guests) are doing in ministry on the field.  However, often the spread of the gospel is hindered because of those actions.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Elements Present

Below is a list of elements present in every Church Planting Movement (CPM), according to the author of the book, David Garrison. First, he defines a CPM as the following:

A Church Planting Movement is a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.

There are other kinds of movements. Some of them see masses of people coming to faith or joining one big mega-church organization. Some are cell church groups that are organized under one such mega-church. But if they are not churches--and if they are not churches that plant the new churches (as opposed to cell groups which are not autonomous but part of one over-arching structure) then they are not CPMs. The idea is that independent church groups (usually relatively small because it helps it to be more reproducible) are planting new churches, and those new churches go on to plant new churches, and so on for many generations until it reaches saturation in the population segment.

Looking at such movements, the author identified the 10 listed elements found in every single authentic CPM. This is a description, not a prescription. And it is very interesting:
  1. Extarordinary Prayer
  2. Abundant Evangelism
  3. Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches
  4. The Authority of God's Word
  5. Local Leadership
  6. Lay Leadership
  7. House Churches
  8. Churches Planting Churches
  9. Rapid Reproduction
  10. Healthy Churches
I'll tell you more about the book next time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Church Planting Movements

Starting next week I will be attending a training for two weeks for "Strategy Coordinators" of Church Planting Movements.  In preparation for this course we are reading the book Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World.

I was a bit skeptical, but this is a really good book.  It captures much of what I have been thinking after nearly a decade of service in The Location.  It has also encouraged me to refocus and reignite my passion for playing a part in reaching our particular unreached people group.  It has been encouraging to read about different movements of church planting around the world.

I like this book because it emphasizes the planting of churches as discipling agents rather than simple mass evangelism and large numbers of people coming to faith.  It takes time to survey different Church Planting Movements around the world and identify universal elements.  It also discusses the dynamics that kill Church Planting Movements.  Among these include over-injection of foreign funds, church buildings, dependency upon foreign funds, clergy-leadership, having short-termers doing too much for them such as building buildings,  paying preachers, etc.  And it doesn't limit the discussion to third world non-Western countries--it discusses every continent on the globe.

You can download the booklet for free here.  However, I am reading the full version, which you can purchase on Amazon or the Church Planting Movements website at the link above if you are interested in reading.  I recommend it for anyone doing ministry involving church planting, discipleship and evangelism wherever you are--even in the West.

I will post a few items from the book over the next couple of days.  Then, as I go through the training, I plan to make a post each day of the most important things we've learned.  So, stay tuned...

Update on Pastor

I really don't have any news to update you with, but I know some of you have been praying and would like to know what's going on.

We have one contact who is able to give us news about VK's situation.  And the news is that nothing has changed.  The funny/encouraging thing, however, is that our contact (let's call him SK) isn't too worried about it. 

You see, here in The Location persecution is a part of the landscape for a Christian.  Getting arrested?  That's just part of the package you sign up for.  SK doesn't think anything bad will happen, apparently, but it will just take time.  VK seemed to have the same attitude when we last saw him regarding talking to the police.  It's not his first time.  When we had a dinner together with all of our disciples I asked the question, "What do you guys think--Is persecution a good thing or a bad thing?"  Before they had time to think VK spoke up and said, "Good!  It makes us strong.  It keeps us from getting fat and weak."  It was a good moment for our disciples to be a part of. 

Please continue to pray for VK.  But take heart--he is spiritually and mentally prepared for the trial is is going through.  I will let you know whenever we hear anything more.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pastor Arrested

Please pray for a man I'll call VK.  He is a pastor here in The Location.  He is in jail now.  He was arrested last Friday because he was going to send two young men from his village to work with us (in another province).  I just found out today.  My heart is heavy for VK.

They are accusing VK of human trafficking because he was going to send these two young men to "study" but he couldn't give them the name of the school or company.  All he gave them was the name of one of our workers.  The charges are a farse.  For one, the two young men never made it here.  They were apprehended at a bus stop and escorted back home.  Plenty of people travel for no reason (and many even for bad reasons) and are never harrassed.  But VK is someone they've been harrassing for years because of his faith.  He is one of a very few number of Christians (and one of the first) in a very unreached people group.  They can't say they've arrested him for practicing his faith, so they say he was involved in human trafficking. 

We don't know what is going to happen.  Please pray for VK.  Please pray for our worker who was named.  Please pray for us.  This could eventually all come back on us and potentially be the end of what we're doing here.  Or, it all blow over and be forgotten. 

We trust in God.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Good Things Take Time To Grow

They say the definition of impatience is standing in front of a microwave oven screaming at it to hurry up!

I live in a semi-tropical country.  That means that by all comparisons, things grow fast.  In March I planted some trees from tiny little seeds around our parking area at our offices.  Now these trees are over 3 meters tall already.  Pretty fast, actually. 

But these trees are still not big enough to provide shade for my vehicle parked there.  When I look at them I think, "Hurry up!  Grow taller.  Grow bigger.  And do it now!"  I try to think of what fertilizer I can put on them to make them grow faster.  I am being impatient.

The truth is, good things take time to grow.  While I may wish for success overnight, I can't expect to plant a seed one day and get a tree the following day.  It just takes time.  Especially for things that grow.

You see, I could have constructed a shade roof for our parking area.  It would have been finished in less than a week and our vehciles would have been basking in shade for the past six months.  But that shade roof would never grow.  In fact, without a lot of maintenance it would probably be unusable in a couple years, depending on the materials I used. 

If I wait one more year my trees will provide better and cooler (as in temperature) shade than any roof I could build.  And they will continue to grow providing shade for decades to come.

That which is built can be big fast; that which is grown takes time.

So it is with disciples and church planting.  I could build a church.  It is growth by addition.  But I'd rather plant a seed by making a disciple and watch, over time, a church growth movement multiply far beyond my own influence.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gluttony 3

More thoughts on gluttony...

My theory of how we should use/possess money is related to how I view gluttony.  You will usually hear one of two approaches regarding Christians and money:

1) It's not wrong to have money as long as you tithe (10%) to God/church. 

2) It's not right for Christians to be rich or make lots of money.  We should live simple and not be wealthy.

The former preaches against the love of money rather than the possession of it, arguing that it's okay to have it as long as you don't love it.  The latter preaches against the possession of money, usually arguing something to the effect of, "If you still have it, how can you convince me you don't love it?"

The Bible teaches us "You cannot serve both God and Money."  Also, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil."

The Bible also reprimands the greedy by saying, "You have hoarded wealth...".  Jesus told us the following story in Luke 12:15-21:
Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
It is clear that we should not love money and wealth.  It is not our goal.  It is not our purpose to become wealthy.  Our purpose is to serve God and his Kingdom.  If we pursue worldly wealth, then we are not walking according to God's plan. 

And while we may certainly use money in God's service, the Bible also tells us not to hoard wealth.  What does that mean?  It means we should not keep extra wealth around that isn't necessary when it could be used for more important things or for helping others. 

This is how our use of money relates to gluttony.  It is not wrong to have it or use it but we should not consume (or store it up like fat around our waistlines) more than we need. 

I have no problem with Christians making millions of dollars doing honest work and business.  But how much of that do they spend on themselves?  Do they feel they have the right to use 90% of that just because they tithed 10% to their church?  Are they not still accountable for how they spend every penny?  Would they not also be guilty of "building bigger barns" and hoarding wealth when they build themselves mansions and buy lots of very expensive "toys"?

I know of one Christian business man who does in fact make millions of dollars.  But his standard of living is on par with someone making $30,000 - $40,000 a year.  No one would ever know how much money he actually brings in, and indeed most people around him do not.  What he spends on himself is a small percentage of what he could spend.  So, what does he do with his money?  Not only does he tithe to his church (and beyond) but he also supports many different kinds of ministries and specifically, he helps missionaries in his denomination establish businesses in "closed" (creative access) countries.  He has helped establish dozens of these enterprises in order to get the gospel into places that are difficult to reach.  No one can accuse him of hoarding his wealth.

I also know of a young man who does not make enough money to live on.  It's not because he's lazy, addicted or mentally impaired.  It's just that he has never had anyone to help him get a good start.  I expect that he will eventually establish himself and make enough to live on and help others.  But it will take time.  Right now, he sponsors a child in Haiti and gives a few dollars to his church on Sunday.  If you were to do the math, the money he gives to his church and child would probably be around 5% of his income.  Yet, it is still difficult and a sacrifice for him.  Most people with his level of income don't give a penny because they need it to eat on.  I believe this man is like the woman who gave a few pennies to the temple--Jesus said she gave more because he was giving all she had to live on.  It was a sacrifice.  Many of those giving large amounts weren't sacrificing, but giving from what was left over from an abundance.

We should not be gluttons for money.  We should use and give money; not love it and hoard it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gluttony 2

A few more thoughts on gluttony...

If we compare the consumption of physical food to the consumption of "spiritual food" it is interesting to draw some parallels between our physical and spiritual health.

I didn't get into the whole topic of the kinds of foods we should eat versus the kinds of foods we shouldn't eat in my ramblings on gluttony. It is important, but I didn't go there. One of the points I wanted to make was that, for weight loss, added exercise doesn't usually help us if we don't have a change in our diet.

So it is spiritually. Doing good things, serving and performing other kinds of ministry are good. But they don't really help our spiritual health a whole lot if we are still consuming a steady diet of spiritual junk food: TV smut, pornography, celebrity gossip, soap operas, romance novels, pop psycology books, gossip with other people, music TV, advice from men's/women's magazines, or any other media that convey messages about our worth, value, meaning, or worldview that is different from God's word.

I'm not saying we can't "taste" SOME of these things so we at least know what the world is saying and how people who do eat these things up are affected, but they shouldn't be our "main course." Instead, it would do us well to have a steady diet of God's word and to help us understand God's heart and how to hear/listen to his voice.

Bearing good fruit without being deeply rooted in the Vine is very difficult to do.