Tag Archive | Church Planting

On The Road to Multiplying Movements

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And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number

-Acts 5:14

But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

-Acts 12:24

There was a season of early church history where believers were added to the church. Adding speaks of taking people who didn’t know Christ and attaching them to the church.

There came another season in the church, however, where the word of the Lord was being multiplied. This described people not just joining the church, but becoming workers like the ones who led them to the Lord and bringing other people to Christ as well. It wasn’t just one more lost person joining the church (as glorious as that is!) but it was one person leading three people to Jesus who each led three to five more to Christ.  One person was in some way responsible then for fifteen or more people coming to Christ.

We’ll always take addition. We want people coming to Christ no matter how they come. But we strive for multiplication, where disciples are made who can make more disciples  and the math of multiplication takes over. Eventually, when the body learns how to multiply in a healthy way, we can see movements of people coming to Christ.

Here’s the path to multiplying movements1:

Multiply Disciples

Multiply Leaders

Multiply Churches

Multiply Movements

We continue to work towards multiplying disciples. When multiplication of disciples begins, those responsible for the multiplication are functional servant leaders.  When the functional, servant-leadership is multiplied among multiplying disciples, we start to see churches birthed. As churches are multiplied, we begin to see movements. As these movements grow, we even seek to multiply them where they are happening for the glory of Christ.

All of this starts with beginning to make disciples. You can’t get to movements without churches being birthed and you can’t get to churches being birthed without servant-focused leaders being formed. And servant-formed leaders are birthed through multiplying disciples.

So if you want to get to movements, begin discipling people.Begin asking yourself how do I multiply disciples. Discipleship is where movements start.

Prayer Request:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,

Lumbard-Ric-16Recently a brother in Christ who is dear to many of us hear in Iowa suffered a massive heart attack. Rick Lumbard is the Director of Wind and Fire Ministries, a man of prayer, and a servant of the Lord that has been used in a number of peoples’ lives throughout our city and the state.  He currently is unconscious and in a hospital in Des Moines. Would you join us in prayer for Rick as we believe for healing for him? He has a wife and several children that would be thankful for the prayer support.

Sincerely,
Travis

The Life is in the Seed

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Churches can be so simple that they can be planted easily. But how do you instruct someone to plant a church in a few hours or a few days? Yesterday, I wrote about the power of the Gospel to transform broken men and women into the church.  Today, I think it’s important to acknowledge a truth that we often forget: Churches are planted and grow because the life of the church is in the seed of the Gospel.

Jesus often described the Kingdom of God growing like a seed. In the Gospel of Mark he describes it this way:

Jesus also said, ‘The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.’

Mark 4:26-29

Notice something important here. The Kingdom grows, but the man who planted does not know how it happens. It happens while the man is asleep or awake, night or day. There is literally nothing he can do after he has planted the seed to make it grow faster.

Often, when we talk about church planting, we are talking about a very man-driven idea. We are talking about not just sowing seed into the ground, but going out and forcing that seed to grow, reproduce, and stay healthy, all in our own strength. Going back to the seed analogy, we don’t often trust the genetics of the seed to grow a healthy plant.

This is why we have such a hard time believing that a church can be planted in hours or days or weeks. Instead, because we feel like we must create an environment for believers to flourish, we stay very involved creating perfect scenarios for believers to succeed. Undoubtedly some  will flourish in this type of environment, but they won’t multiply and reproduce well.

It’s important to stop here and say something very clearly: There is power in the Gospel of Jesus to change people. This power doesn’t stop changing people once they’ve decided to become a believer. After someone decides to follow Jesus, the Gospel continues to have a transforming affect on them. In fact, it’s critical that believers continue to draw their strength from the good news of the Kingdom because when they stop, they begin to be deceived. We never graduate from receiving life from the Gospel, we just continue to find new places where it changes us.

This is part of the reason why Paul was able to move on from the churches that he started–he trusted the power of the Gospel seed he had sown into each church’s life. Undoubtedly persecution and the need to spread the Gospel played a part in that decision, but ultimately Paul came to a place where he could trust the Lord with each of the churches he started. He recognized it wasn’t his oversight or preaching but the Gospel that he sowed into each believer that would cause them to continue to move toward Jesus.1

Paul and company truly believed that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Philippians 1:6). So they would entrust a church to the Lord, believing that a living, resurrected Jesus would continue to move them toward Himself by the power of the Gospel. The Gospel that they had sowed initially (the beginning of the good work) would continue until Christ returns.

Friends, we can plant churches in short periods of time, not just because the training is simple or the follow up is good, but because the Gospel has power to transform people. When the Gospel is living and active in a person’s heart, they move towards Christ and towards each other. They may need reminders and encouragements and these can be given, but the strength to walk the Christian life comes not from leaders or elders or programs, but the Gospel’s ability to make us real disciples.

And it all starts with a simple seed.

Photo Credit: Ready to Spring by Mike Lewinski

1I am not saying oversight is unnecessary. Paul set up overseers and commissioned others to appoint overseers. I’m only saying he didn’t understand overseers as the primary thing that fueled spiritual growth in believers. That started and ended with the Gospel.

How To Start A Church That Is Easily Planted

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The other day I shared an older post on Facebook about how house churches can be planted in a few days time. One of my friends and a regular encourager here at the blog wrote in and asked how someone can be trained in such a short time to start a house church. I think this is a fantastic question simply because it forces us to be clear on what makes a church a church.

In the book of Acts we see churches planted by simply by preaching the Gospel and lost people coming to Christ. Because there were many places where no one knew Christ, the preaching of the Gospel and the repentance of sinners was the only criteria for starting a church. There are a number of situations where Paul and his team would preach the Gospel, remain only a couple of weeks, and have to leave shortly thereafter because of persecution (see the examples of Antioch of Pisida in Acts 13:13-52 and Thessalonica in Acts 17:1-10). While this wasn’t ideal, there was something real enough that Paul deposited in those churches that it would sustain them in Paul’s absence.

That something is the Gospel.

If you think about it, Paul really only had enough time to teach them that. These were new converts, unschooled in the ways of Christ, that would have to hold up under persecution themselves when Paul got to leave.  He probably also gave them some basic instructions in how to grow in Christ and how to meet together. But much of it was done through modeling and teaching the basic tenets of the Christian faith. As long as they gathered together and gave themselves to telling the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, the church would exist and thrive.

Fast forward several hundred years to now. We live in very complicated society that is seemingly filled with churches on every corner and an accessibility to the Gospel that is nothing shy of miraculous.  But the ability to plant a church with little but the preaching of the Gospel is unchanged. Where lost people come to Christ, we do our best to teach them basic discipleship strategies that we can copy down on the back of a napkin.  This keeps them growing in Christ and taking on the basic life of discipleship. Then we give them things to do when they and their newly found brothers and sisters meet as a church.

The point here is that the Gospel creates the church, especially in situations where there was no existing church before.  The Gospel doesn’t just save individuals, it drafts the people who say yes to it into a new family, known as the church.  This new spiritual family will most likely meet regularly (I suggest they do), but it’s their shared identity around the Gospel of Jesus that makes them the church. The life of the church plant is found in the seed of the Gospel. If the seed is real, a church will sprout.

Lastly, I’d say this: Paul didn’t abandon the churches he planted. So while a church can easily be planted in a manner of days or weeks, the task of supporting, resourcing, and parenting a church can go much longer than that. Though he couldn’t return to Thessalonica, he wrote several letters to them to correct problems in what they believed. Other times Paul would make return visits, appoint elders, or send other workers to do what he could not.  This kind of apostolic fathering is essential to the life of churches that are birthed in a quick amount of time.

A church can be planted quickly if it has the seed of the Gospel and some good soil for it to fall into. The power and identity of a church is found in the Gospel it was given.  Letters, leaders, and visits will supplement the Gospel, but can never replace it.  When a people believe in Jesus together and regularly gather to encourage one another in Him, a church is born. We help it mature by sharing our walks and lessons we’ve learned, but the Gospel itself is what makes churches.

May we never become so advanced that we forget that.

Photo Credit: Dawid Zawiła

Prayer Request:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ around the country,

Lumbard-Ric-16Recently a brother in Christ who is dear to many of us hear in Iowa suffered a massive heart attack. Rick Lumbard is the Director of Wind and Fire Ministries, a man of prayer, and a servant of the Lord that has been used in a number of peoples’ lives throughout our city and the state.  He currently is unconscious and in a hospital in Des Moines. Would you join us in prayer for Rick as we believe for healing for him? He has a wife and several children that would be thankful for the prayer support.

Sincerely,
Travis

An All-Too-Common Story

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It’s a story that I hear over and over again.

Go down the street to a church that has had a measure of success and grown fairly large and talk to the people who have been there since the beginning. Those people will tell you about the days when the church was small. In the days when the church was just planted, everyone knew everyone else. It was like a small group. They knew each other like family. “Man, I miss those days,” is how I hear people sum up those beginning days.

What changed? Well, the church was able to attract people. More people kept coming. They had to get a building. Then they had to get a bigger building.  The number of people caused the feeling of family to disappear. There were small groups, sure, but they didn’t feel the same. There was more business that needed to be attended to. The pastor was busier. Those who were around at the beginning had responsibilities to help the new people who were coming.

They grew out of that season.

There is a way to grow without losing that close-knit family. You can make more disciples without giving yourself to keeping the doors open and the lights on. It starts with a commitment to meet as a house church, to birth more house churches instead of growing large, and to make disciples who make other disciples instead of growing a crowd. Not all church plants have to lose the spirit of family and discipleship.

It’s a path we chose.

Related: So…Why Haven’t You Started A House Church Yet?

Photo Credit: City Group 07-07-2017 by Parker Knight

How to Share the Gospel without Inviting Them to a Building

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Recently I wrote about the need to stop fishing for new converts among people who are already followers of Jesus.  This is especially true among house churches who are often more at ease converting people from traditional churches than they are talking to the lost about Christ.  But not everyone is comfortable sharing their faith and very few people really know how to share their faith without inviting them to a building.

There are lots of reasons why sharing our faith is difficult. Fear, insecurity, lack of training, “not having lost friends,” and complacency are all culprits that keep us from sharing our faith.  But these can be overcome, if we are willing.  Many of these issues made it easy to invite people to a church building to hear a message preached from the front. At that point our job was done and it was the pastor’s job to take over.

The times have changed, though. Our society is less and less willing to darken the doors of an existing church building. As I shared yesterday, existing churches continue to compete for roughly 35% of the population while the remaining 65% goes unreached.  All of this means as believers, whether we’re part of house churches or not, will need to become missional in order to reach the lost.

We’ve talked about the definition of missional before.  Essentially it means that you leave your world (where many people know Christ) and enter into a world where few, if any, know Christ in order to declare who He is and what He’s done. This going to others with the gospel will be strategic in the days ahead simply because fewer and fewer are coming to us.  For those of us who were used to inviting others to hear and are newer to going to those who haven’t heard, I thought I would include a few things to consider:

  1. Don’t go alone. Jesus said not to, which is a great reason right off the bat. Part of this was for accountability. Going alone could put you in dangerous and morally compromising situations. Having someone with you helps.  But having someone who is part of the work also helps you overcome fear. It encourages you when your heart is weary with the work.
  2. Eat with people. Do it all the time. This is part of the reason Jesus was considered a glutton. He was constantly eating with sinners and those the world wouldn’t accept. There is nothing like food to break down barriers between people.  When Jesus sent out missionaries, He told them to “eat whatever is set before you,” (Luke 10:8). Who we eat with still says a lot about who we love, so take time to eat with people who the world thinks you shouldn’t be eating with. It will break down doors and start conversations.
  3. Tell stories. Jesus was always telling stories about what the Kingdom of Heaven was like. These stories often had twists, turning what everyone thought God or Heaven were like on their heads (See The Story of the Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan, or The Pharisee and the Tax Collector). But they also pointed people to the goodness of God and the truth of following Him.  I always thought I had to come up with my own clever stories that would win peoples’ hearts. But here’s the good news: You can use the ones Jesus tells! They will win peoples’ hearts all on their own.
  4. Bring God into the process. One of the things I think we forget when we attempt to share the good news is that God is more concerned for the lost and broken than we are! He delights to draw people who don’t know Him to Himself. So we should invite Him into this process. Pray with the sick who you meet with faith that God will heal them. Ask God to give you words of knowledge that reveal God as real to your friends (1 Corinthians 14:24). God will demonstrate that He is real to those who don’t believe, yet.
  5. Share the Good News of the Kingdom. Talk often about the fact that the death of Jesus has opened the door of God’s Kingdom to people who could never deserve it.  I find that often we believe the Gospel has to be hidden until we really get into people’s hearts.  Not so! Tell people the Gospel early and often.  If you need help, check out this reproducible way of sharing the Gospel.  No one get saved if no one speaks the Gospel, so get good at telling the news. Telling it literally unleashes God’s power to save someone.

There’s always more that could be said about this topic, but this is a good start. If this is new to you, start by doing some of these things.  Bringing the Gospel to others can be slow and hard at first, but as you do it more, you will both see people respond and get better at following the Holy Spirit. Remember, He is the one who changes hearts, not you.

It’s through this process of partnering with the Holy Spirit to change hearts that lost people come to Christ. As lost people come to Christ and become disciples, churches are started. All of this is part of the mustard seed process that God is doing all over the earth.

The Fellowship of the Mustard Seed

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God is big. Really big. But often God shows up in small, seemingly insignificant ways that we can miss if we’re not looking.  His Kingdom is like a mustard seed.

If God brings His Kingdom in small ways, like planting a mustard seed and waiting for it grow into one of the largest plants in the garden, then God’s church must be willing to partner with Him in His process. We can’t try to mass produce and outproduce God. If he’s decided to work through small things that eventually have great impact, He needs a people who will join Him in that process.

He needs a fellowship of the mustard seed.

What is a fellowship of the mustard seed? It’s a people who are content to partner with God in small, seemingly insignificant ways, believing that if they do, it will lead to something  greater, either in this age or in the age to come.  The fellowship of the mustard seed is those who have abandoned the big show in favor of great faithfulness and love, whether the task is big or small.

This won’t be easy. Our world teaches us to want more, bigger, better all the time. In fact, we spend much of our time trying to amass more- more people to our cause, more money in our accounts, bigger more explosive events that attract the attention of more people.

The point of God’s Kingdom coming like a mustard seed is it weeds out those who are looking for anything besides Jesus. If you wanted to be the center of attention or be known for doing great things, mustard seed starts don’t give it to you. For those of us who are trying to be faithful to the Kingdom, being part of mustard seed beginnings is enough. We don’t gain our significance from our ministry, we gain it from the love of God. And that is enough.

The truth is the way to the big impact is through faithfulness in small things. Jesus tells us how that happens:

If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones.

Luke 16:10

You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things

Matthew 25:21

Think about Billy Graham, Bill Johnson, John Piper, or whatever other large scale Christian leader that you think has impacted this generation. Many people want to be like these men, doing great things and being recognized for leading people to Christ and teaching the masses. But hardly anyone knows the names of the men who faithfully discipled these men. They were just faithful men, planting mustard seed-sized truths of the Kingdom of God into soil and hoping that they would grow. These will be true heroes in the age to come.

Think about Johnny Appleseed, a bit of a myth at this point, but he was a real man who walked across the United States sowing apple seeds into the ground.  He may have never seen the fully grown apple orchards from the seeds he planted. He definitely didn’t see the other apple trees that grew from the trees he planted. But he believed in the power of the seed to affect human kind, and he’s become famous for that belief.

We have a seed more powerful than an apple seed, but we must believe in it’s power to transform mankind. It might not happen overnight, but if believe in its power and sow seeds wherever we go, our seeds will take root in the hearts of men and will change the course of generations of humanity.

We just need to become the kind of people who trust the power of God’s seed.

Photo Credit: Mustardseed by Molly

Planting a House Church on the Back of a Napkin

In case you missed it, I’ve been attempting to put reproducible patterns on the back of a napkin. This is what I would give to someone who was asking for details about planting a house church.

The Back of a Napkin Series:

The Napkin Test

Evangelism on the Back of a Napkin

Discipleship on the Back of a Napkin