After returning last week from a month-long trip in Central America, I noticed the above ad at the top of the mountain of mail awaiting our attention. It was advertising a “new church” was starting in town. (I covered up the church’s name at the top).
The print quality was high. The layout had a good marketing appeal. The words on the back advertised that the pastor would tell jokes in his sermon. The wording appealed to disenfranchised former church goers.
This ad struck me as a great example of the contrast between consumer-oriented church planting in the States (Great services…Great advertising…Come be with us on Sunday morning!) and some basic principles we see laid out in scripture for going to non-Christians, preaching the gospel, looking for persons of peace, and making disciples among the lost (with new churches the result of making new disciples).
To be clear, I believe God uses everything, and he will use almost any well-meaning act of faith to bring the gospel to a city. However, there’s got to be a simpler way for everyday people to bring the gospel and grow Christian communities in the areas where non-Christians do life together.
As a reminder, I’m posting a simple 5 Step Church Planting Strategy given by my good friend, Dr. Pam, from All Nations Family.
Dr. Pam has planted multiple reproducing churches in, let’s just say, “some not so safe environments” over the last 15 years. She has become a mentor and coach to several students who are now growing simple churches on university campuses in the States and overseas. May this encourage you to reach your campus, neighborhood, or marketplace with the gospel!
A successful strategy for those starting simple churches should be biblical and simple.
We have formulated it in five easy to follow steps:
Pray – Meet – Make – Gather – Multiply
Pray. Pray fervently with God’s heart for the people you are reaching out to. Pray to meet people by “divine appointments.” Pray until you can weep over people. Pray fervently. Fast and pray. Walk and pray. Ask God to let you see what he sees and feel what he feels. It is in the place of prayer that God will reveal the unfulfilled purposes and broken covenants for the people you are reaching. Pray for a man or woman of peace to open the door the hearts and minds of people you are reaching. Pray for understanding and love of the culture. Pray for the word of the Lord to guide you and give you specific strategies to make disciples, train leaders and plant a church planting movement.
Meet. Meet people where they are. Hang out with those who don’t know Jesus. Get outside the Christian bubble. Resist the temptation and emotional need to focus on teams issues that absorb your time and energy. As you pray, trust God to give you strategies for meeting people. Begin to build a network of relationships, what the Bible calls an oikos (literally a household). This network is the beginning of your future church plant. This network of relationships will become the future support system for those who accept Christ if they are disenfranchised by their family and friends. Build this network in faith that it will become a church for God in that place.
Make. Make Disciples. Invest in people’s lives. Don’t wait for them to pray a prayer to accept Jesus or say they want to follow Jesus to invest in them as people. Disciple making is another way of describing evangelism, and of building meaningful relationships. As you build those relationships, seek to discern what God has in his heart for each person.
Jesus commanded us to make disciples. Disciple making is about introducing people to Jesus in such a way that they get to know him personally, and then learn to love and obey him. When it’s the right time, teach people the seven commands of Jesus:
repent and believe
gather with others
make disciples of all nations
Do not hesitate to tell new believers the cost of following Jesus. Emphasize the privilege of going to other nations so God’s mission is part of their spiritual DNA.
Gather. Gather those you meet who are spiritually open with other seekers for fun, hanging out, enjoying common interests, prayer, and study of God’s word. Focus on the words and stories of Jesus. Don’t wait for them to say they want to become a follower of Jesus to gather people into a community of friends. Gathering around a meal with others is one of the best ways to build community. Jesus said that where two or three gather in his name, he is with them. This is “church” in it’s simplest, most essential form. Nothing more is needed to “be church.” There is more that can be done to contribute to growing a healthy, vibrant church (see Acts 2:42-47), but gathering people together is the beginning of planting that church.
Multiply. Plan for growth. From the beginning, train new believers to take responsibility for your meetings and outreaches. Stay in the background as much as possible to encourage others to grow and exercise their spiritual gifts. As soon as you reach 15-20 people, multiply. Start a new gathering. Give those you have been investing in assignments that will help you discern their giftings, strengths, and weaknesses. Build the community from the beginning, just like Paul did, by facilitating the development of indigenous leadership.
Let’s practice these five simple steps (pray-meet-make-gather-multiply) to see the gospel transform the lives of students and spread from campuses to the nations!
P.S. check out the new student church online community at www.studentchurch.org