Movement case studies

Testing the health of a multiplying movement

Don Dent and a team took a trip to Asia to test the health of a multiplying movement which has planted 20,000 churches in eight years.

Here's a summary of what they found.

  1. These churches multiply, i.e. churches plant churches that plant churches.
  2. Evangelism is normative among these churches and a large portion of the believers are actively sharing their faith.
  3. There is accountability to share the gospel.
  4. Almost all additions to local churches are through baptism following conversion from another religion. 
  5. New churches result primarily from evangelism and baptisms instead of planning, money raising, and grand openings. 
  6. I met several teenagers who have already started one or more churches. 
  7. Local church leadership is almost always chosen from within the group on the basis of who is faithful in sharing their faith and training the new believers in discipleship.
  8. Intensive mentoring is a primary means of raising up quality leaders. 
  9. These churches show deep commitment to mission partnership. One network of churches gives 30% of their offerings to mission work outside their local church. 
  10. Although gospel proclamation is the priority in ministry, the believers also pray for the sick and demonized.
  11. A commitment to on-the-job practical training is essential to growth. 
  12. Several networks that are approximately five years old have planted churches in several other countries. 
  13. A majority of the leadership is between the ages of 22-40.
  14. False teachers are trying to infiltrate the church, but leaders are equipped to counter them. 
  15. This growth is taking place in a climate of persecution, where it is illegal to become a Christian. Believers can be beaten, thrown out of the village, and jailed.

keep reading. . . 

169-Tracking Progress Downunder - Dave Milne

Dave Milne has been tracking progress towards multiplying movements in Australia. He talks to Steve Addison about the lessons.

For a copy of Dave's research when it's released, send me an email.

Why the Southern Baptists are doing ok

Recently I compared the demise of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) with the continued vitality of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Demographics play their part, but in the end, movements make their history depending on their core identity. The PCUSA has chosen decline and decay, the Southern Baptists have chosen differently. Here are five elements I can observe (from a distance) that characterize the SBC: 

1. The authority of Scripture

If there’s one thing that distinguishes Southern Baptists from the Protestant mainline, it’s their belief in the authority of the Bible. Now belief must be backed up by obedience, but there is no hope for a movement that won't come under the authority of Scripture. 

Movements are born and renewed by the Word and Spirit.

2. The primary missionary task

At the heart of the SBC's mission is the spread of the gospel, the making of disciples, and the multiplication of churches. This is the reason for their existence. They may not always live up to it, but the Great Commission is central to their identity.

3. The independence of the local church

The SBC is a Convention of independent churches, not a centrally governed denomination. Every movement institutionalizes. But it’s a lot harder to institutionalize if the local church owns the property, governs and finances itself, and has the authority and responsibility to plant new churches and send out missionaries. Centralize those activities and your future is bureaucracy and decline.

4. The priesthood of every believer

A professional clergy class is the end of any dynamic movement. The Southern Baptists have a long history of empowering ordinary people to share the gospel, make disciples and plant churches. Their explosive growth on the US frontier was achieved long before they built their first seminary. Again, they may not always live up to the ideal, but it’s who they are and a key to their future.

5. Descendants that can't be counted

Historian, Philip Jenkins wrote an article on how Baptists are being left behind other Protestant traditions in the explosive growth of the church in the developing world. He's wrong.

Baptists differ from virtually all other Christian traditions in that newer churches are nowhere near matching or overtaking their northern world counterparts.
— Philip Jenkins

What he doesn’t know is SBC missionaries don’t plant SBC churches, they plant churches. Those churches will share the same convictions outlined above. But they are indigenous churches. The churches don’t belong to the SBC. Now they are becoming partners in fulfilling the Great Commission.

For a generation, SBC missionaries have been at the forefront of pioneering church planting movements around the world. Now many former SBC missionaries are leading the way in a host of other mission agencies that are catalysts for indigenous church planting movements.

The SBC has children and grandchildren all over the world, we just can't name or count them.

The PC USA and the SBC — Two histories, two futures

 Baptism: PC USA & SBC

Baptism: PC USA & SBC

The Presbyterian Church (USA)  has released a new hymn for its 223rd General Assembly meeting in St Louis, Missouri this week (June 16-23). The hymn is entitled “Draw the Welcome Circle Wider.” But statistics released ahead of the gathering reveal a denomination struggling to retain it’s aging, mostly white (91%), membership.

In 2017 the PCUSA lost 67,714 members and a net 147 congregations.

2017 was not an aberration, but a continuation of long-term decline that dates back to the 1960s and shows no sign of change. 

Issues to be discussed at the Assembly include:

  • Seeking God’s Peace Through Nuclear Disarmament
  • A call to the denomination to divest from investing in the fossil-fuel industry
  • The creation of an Advocacy Committee for LGBTQ+ Concerns
  • A number of anti-Israeli measures

In Dallas last week the Southern Baptists held their annual Convention amidst some controversy and some signs of decline. Membership was down for the 11th year in a row. Baptisms were down.

But Southern Baptist were still baptized a quarter of a million people in 2017. The number of SBC churches grew for the 19th year. More important than the membership, weekly attendance grew from 5.20 million to 5.32 million in 2017. Congregations gave over $1 billion to missions.

Compared to the PCUSA the Southern Baptists are doing ok. The question is Why?