Disciples or Crowds?

So do rapidly expanding church planting movements grow disciples or just gather crowds? Let's take a look at what happened in Rwanda. Here's the email traffic with David Watson. . .

Hi David

I noticed on your blog that you've been to Rwanda.

I've had some thoughtful mission leaders question the effectiveness of church planting movements in Africa. The concern is that a country like Rwanda was predominantly "Christian" and yet experienced genocide.

Do you have any wisdom on this?


Hi Steve

One of the problems we face globally is cultural Christianity. Africa seems to have this disease a little worse than some other places. In cultural Christianity we find high public visibility of religion that is so compartmentalized in the lives of the people that they can literally go to a Bible study and plot genocide.

This is nothing new. The 8th Century BC Prophets of Israel dealt with the same issues - People who looked highly religious, but had no concept of obedience to God. See Amos 5:21-24.

Church planting definitely did not fail in Africa. Every denomination and independent church has succeeded in replicating their brand of church. What has failed is Gospel Planting and obedience-based discipleship. We have made converts to various flavors of religion, but we have failed to make disciples who know the mind of Christ and obey him regardless of the consequences.

I have invested the past five years in Africa. We focus on discipling people to conversion in a way that produces obedient disciples of Christ.

We have seen more than 10,000 new churches and 400,000 new disciples. The pattern is about social networks receiving the Gospel and becoming obedient.

So, I think the answer to the question posed is that the critics are right. But it is not church planting that failed. It was a methodology that did not take into account social networks, did not require obedience to the Word but adherence to a religion, and did not transform communities from the inside out but imposed leadership and practices from the outside in.

Much of what I see in Africa is a false movement that is fueled from overseas, and has been propped up for several hundred years. We are avoiding these situations to start new work. The ones God touches from the old work come and join us, but we have learned it is not possible for man to impact the old Africa churches.

There must be new Africa churches that are established using the principles from you book with a strong emphasis on obedience-based discipleship.

Hope this helps.


David Watson