The leading supporter for church planting in the twentieth century was the late Dr. Donald McGavran. In DAWN REPORT, Jim Montgomery tells of the following incident:
“During the last months of Mary McGavran’s illness, my wife Lyn would frequently spend time with her. Donald McGavran would be there, too. He would disregard his own painful cancer while taking care of his beloved Mary.
“‘You can be sure Jim and I will continue our commitment to church growth after you are gone,’ Lyn said to Donald one day.
“‘Do not call it church growth anymore,’ was his quick response. ‘Call it church multiplication!’
“Two weeks before his death, he said, ‘The only way we will get the job of the Great Commission done is to plant a church in every community in the world.’”
THE A.D.2000 AND BEYOND MOVEMENT
The A.D.2000 And Beyond Movement is gaining momentum all over the world. Its objective is to mobilize the Body of Christ to work directly toward fulfilling the Great Commission in our time.
It is a vision that is being adopted by churches, missionary organizations and denominations all over the world. There is more interest today in missions, world evangelization and church planting than ever before in history.
The following chart shows our progress in completing the Great Commission.
Non-Christians per Believer
Ratio = 360 220 69 27 21 11 7 ?
Year = A.D.100 1000 1500 1900 1950 1970 1990 2000
Dr. Ralph Winter is the founder of the U.S. Center For World Mission. Concerning this chart, he says, “In the last 20 centuries the meek have quietly been inheriting the earth!”
As you study the chart above you will note that nineteen hundred years ago there were 360 unsaved people in the world for every born again believer. This is a ratio of 360 to 1.
By the year 1500 this ratio had been reduced to just 69 to 1. By the beginning of this century the ratio was all the way down to 27 to 1.
Now see what is happening. Just since 1950, the ratio of non- Christians to true believers has been cut by 67%. It has gone from 21 to 1, to just 7 to 1!
Just as Jesus predicted, His Church is irresistibly penetrating all the earth. We’re getting closer to the time when truly the “earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (Hab 2:14).
CHURCHES IN EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD
Jesus commanded the Church to go into all the world and disciple all the nations.
The word “nation” in the Bible means people-group, or group in which the people share the same culture and language. According to missionary leaders, there are about six thousand nations, or people groups, that still do not have a church.
It will take more than a few churches to disciple a nation. The only way to disciple a nation is to plant many churches within that nation.
This will require a strategy of SATURATION CHURCH PLANTING, which means planting churches in every neighborhood with a population of 500 to 1000 people.
This vision for SATURATION CHURCH PLANTING is not only for developing nations. It is for all nations including those in Europe, Latin America and North America.
Most leaders of existing churches do not get nervous thinking about a house church movement if it is located half a world away. However, if it is taking place within their city, there can be quite a different reaction.
We shout the praises of God for all the Chinese who are getting saved because of the house church movement in China. However, the shouting stops and sometimes becomes a growl of protest if that movement arrives in our town.
Why? Many fear that it will cause a division within their own church body and draw away some of their people.
It would be good if we could see this house church movement as a multiplying of congregations. Then every church within a given city could become active in multiplying congregations, rather than trying to build one giant congregation.
We would be challenged in the area of raising up new leaders. We should be doing this training of leaders anyway.
“The field is the world” (Matt 13:38). It is always the right time to reach all unsaved people all over the world.
No one should say, “Hey, do not start a church there. That is MY territory!” There is no church that is reaching all the unsaved in any city, or even in any neighborhood. We need all the help we can get to reach out to those in need.
If a house church movement will speed up the evangelization of my city, I want to start as many house churches as I can. I want to see that they multiply. I also want to encourage any other pastor who loves Jesus. I encourage him (or her) to multiply congregations within my city or any other city.
DEVELOP UNPAID LAY LEADERS
Some people are concerned that multiplying house churches will lead to unqualified leaders. There is a concern that inept leaders will cause heresy and ignorance to grow.
This argument assumes that the rapid multiplication of congregations will empty our supply of qualified leaders. Some think that such multiplication will make it necessary to set over house churches men and women that God cannot use.
We need to keep in mind that Jesus did not go to the religious institutions of His day to pick leaders for His church. He chose men who were ignorant fishermen and plain everyday laymen. Then He empowered them with the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
God loves to use little things and weak things. Consider the following passage:
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
“And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1Cor 1:26-29 kjv).
There have been many worldwide, significant movements in the spread of the gospel throughout the history of the church. In each of them ordinary, everyday men and women have had a large role.
John Wesley was a man of great learning with years of education and religious training. He was the leader of one of the great revival and church planting movements of history. However, Wesley did not go to the established schools of religious training to find his pastors and leaders.
He said, “Give me twelve men who love Jesus with all their hearts and who do not fear men or devils. I care not one whit whether they be clergy or laity. With these men I will change the world.” And that is just what Mr. Wesley did.
To preach the gospel in the open air in Wesley’s day was the height of sacrilege. It was considered a serious affront to the established church. The sacred Word of God could not be proclaimed outside of a church building.
The Wesley brothers and George Whitefield suffered years of persecution for breaking the long-standing traditions of the established church. However, this did not stop them.
They knew the scriptures. They were convinced that if Jesus could break with tradition, it was acceptable for them to do the same.
Now we will quote again from the writings of the “father” of the church growth movement, Dr. McGavran. In his book UNDERSTANDING CHURCH GROWTH, he states:
“Develop unpaid lay leaders. Laymen have played a great part in urban expansions of the Church.
“From the beginning of church growth in the cities of Latin America, unpaid common men led the congregations.
“In some places laborers, mechanics, clerks or truck drivers teach the Bible — lead in prayer — tell what God has done for them — or exhort the brethren. In these places Christianity looks and sounds natural to ordinary men.
“Ministering laymen are subject to the same hazards, and bound by the same work schedules, as their congregation. They may lack in correctness of Bible teaching or beauty of prayers. However, they more than make up for this lack by their intimate contact with the common people.
“No paid worker from the outside can know as much about a neighborhood as someone who has dozens of intimate friends and relatives all about him.
“It is true that on ‘new ground’ an outsider has to be the one to start new works. No one else can. However, it is best if he soon turns the new churches over to local men.”
In his book BREAKING THE STAINED GLASS BARRIER, David Womack wrote: “There is only one way the Great Commission can be fulfilled, and that is by establishing gospel-preaching congregations in every community on the face of the earth.”
Roger Greenway, a specialist in reaching cities, says in DISCIPLING THE CITY: “The church’s evangelistic task demands that every barrio, apartment building, and neighborhood have a church faithful to God’s Word established in it.”
CHURCHES BY THE MILLIONS
Not long ago I was reading the book by Jim Montgomery entitled DAWN 2000. It has a subtitle that I could hardly believe: SEVEN MILLION CHURCHES TO GO. I thought to myself, “How could anyone even dare to think in terms of millions of churches?”
I had not read long before I knew that I could also believe for seven million churches to be planted throughout the world in the next several years.
I believe this because we are in the leading edge of the strongest missionary movement in the history of the world. There is more interest in reaching every tongue, tribe and nation now than there ever has been since Jesus ascended to the Father.
There is a great cry going up all over the world. It is: LET US FINISH THE TASK! LET US FULFILL THE COMMAND OF CHRIST TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE. LET US OBEY HIS COMMAND TO DISCIPLE ALL THE NATIONS.
LET US BRING CHRIST BACK TO REIGN IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. LET US SEE THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR GOD AND OF HIS CHRIST.
There is a groundswell that is gaining momentum daily.
Surely the stone that was cut without hands, which the prophet Daniel saw in his vision, is Christ. Daniel tells us how he saw this stone come crashing down to smite the feet of the statue which represents world powers (Dan 2:34).
This stone, which is Christ, is growing larger and gaining momentum. It has already crashed into the feet of this world’s system. It will soon grow into a mountain that will cover the earth “with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9).
The key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission is to plant churches.
There is a plan that is attracting the attention of many mission strategists these days. It is to plant a congregation of believers in every community which has from 500 to 1000 people. This is SATURATION CHURCH PLANTING.
We will have to discard our stained glass concept of church. We can no longer think of church as buildings.
We must begin to think of church as people. That means people coming together in the name of Jesus. They are coming together in homes, shops, offices, factories, stores, schools, mortuaries, parks, jails, prisons, hospitals, deserted buildings, street corners, halls, women’s clubs, service clubs and even church buildings.
THE APPRENTICE SYSTEM
The pressing question is: Where are you going to get all the pastors that will be needed to lead all these new churches?
A few years ago in Latin America several missionaries got together to make a plan for training young men for the ministry. Most of the people in their region were very poor. Therefore, it was highly unlikely that any of these men would ever be sent to a city to be educated in a theological school.
These missionaries set forth a plan called TEE — Theological Education by Extension. This was a course young men could take at home. It was an idea whose time had come. It became a very successful program.
Later, another missionary named George Patterson added another “E” to the name of this program. He called his plan TEEE—Theological Education and Evangelism by Extension. It was a plan for pastors to train young men for the ministry through an apprentice system.
The plan called for each pastor to oversee the personal training of the apprentice. He was to give the young man a “laboratory” for learning to pastor a church.
The “laboratory” was a real church, a small group of people meeting in a house or in some other place. The apprentice was sent out to pastor this group.
From time to time the apprentice would receive special assignments from his sponsoring pastor. These assignments were tasks such as reading certain books, listening to tapes, attending meetings or participating in seminars. Week by week the apprentice would fulfill the assignments given by his pastor-teacher.
The vision for multiplication would take place as each apprentice was taught to also sponsor another man out of his own congregation. Thus the vision of a church planting movement was becoming fulfilled.