Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiplies and Disciples Churches

October 30, 2015

I write this after spending the last week with an Asian church planting movement that has started thousands of churches in the last few years. The leaders of this movement are humble, with servant hearts; focused on filling thousands of villages with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea; very conscious of their own inadequacies and limitations; supremely confident in the power of the Holy Spirit through prayer to overcome the forces of darkness; effectively organized for the raising up and training of apostolic church planters who will reproduce themselves; and have a track record of identifying unreached, unengaged people groups, then sending workers to them to spread the Gospel. They are pioneering leaders.

Steve Addison has chronicled the advance of the Gospel through such movements, both on his website, www.movements.net, and in his three books. His first, Movements that Change the World, identifies five key characteristics of church planting movements. His second, What Jesus Started, provides the biblical foundations for this range of approaches to church planting, and briefly describes a number of such movements around the world. His new book, Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiplies Disciples and Churches, focuses on lessons regarding the type of leaders God uses in these movements.

The first six chapters are the meat of the book.  Chapter one relates Addison’s personal story of becoming a movement leader, emphasizing that successful movement leadership results from a change of heart and perspective rather than from adopting a particular strategy or following a particular formula. One characteristic of church planting movements is an emphasis on obedience, teaching others to obey all that Jesus commands, rather than simply teaching what Jesus commands. The author had to take that lesson to heart himself. One aspect of that change was shifting his focus to training others to build up the movement, rather than building dependency on himself, the leader.

Chapter two considers Jesus as the model for a movement leader, summarizing some of the content from What Jesus Started.

Chapter three then looks at Peter’s leadership of the early church. By any human standard, Peter was not qualified for this role. But he had been with Jesus – and that made all the difference. With that foundation, Peter continued to learn; he developed other leaders; he remained focused on the Word received; he moved wherever God led him. Along the way, Addison addresses a common misconception in Western churches. In Acts 6, the apostles do not get involved with the dispute about meals for widows so that they can focus on “prayer and the ministry of the Word.” He writes:

To our ears, [this] sounds like something a pastor does in his study before preaching. . . . [But in Acts] the Word is a living force unleashed by the living God (Acts 4:4, 29, 31). . . . So when the apostles described their priority, . . . it meant they were leaders of an expanding missionary movement driven by the living Word and the power of God released through prayer. (p. 54)

Chapter four focuses on structures that allow church planting movements to flourish. Paul’s missionary band was not an arm of the church in Antioch, but a separate entity, supported and encouraged by that church. This, Addison argues, should be the pattern for us today, as missionary bands go out in an apostolic fashion to unreached peoples, local churches go out evangelistically to those around them, and both partner, prayerfully and financially, for the advance of the Kingdom.

Chapter five relates the story of one contemporary movement leader, Nathan Shank, and some of the leaders developed through his ministry in South Asia. One of these new leaders, Lipok, had by any standard a successful ministry starting churches among the Mising people in the early 2000s. To Lipok, a successful church plant had to have a building.  Paid evangelists went out to the lost, bringing people to Christ, and then sending them to the churches with buildings. But he realized “he couldn’t build churches fast enough to reach all of the Mising people” (p. 83). Through Nathan’s influence, Lipok began training every disciple to become a disciple-maker. Multiplication skyrocketed. By 2014, Lipok attests that over 10,000 churches have begun in this movement. A movement dependent on paid evangelists would not multiply. Nor would a movement dependent on building buildings. But a movement that expected new believers to obey the biblical command to make disciples, and trained and encouraged them to do so, could grow exponentially.

In contrast, Addison tells the story of 19th century Methodist missionary William Taylor, who saw great response to the Gospel through his ministry on six continents. He aimed for missionaries to be servants rather than masters, founding churches that were self-supporting and self-governing. Yet his missions board was furious at this lack of dependency (p. 92). Such attitudes have been far too prevalent in the history of missions.

Chapter six details five levels of movement leadership, culled from the experience of numerous movements: Seed Sowers, who know how to share the Gospel and who to share it with; Church Planters, who know how to disciple others to obey Jesus’ commands and to become seed sowers, know biblically what a church is, and help new believers to become well-functioning churches; Church Multipliers, who help churches to produce daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter churches, releasing authority to the church planters they produce; Multiplication Trainers, who reach outside their own network to spur other church planting movements; and Movement Catalysts, who focus on developing church planting movements within an unreached people or region. Addison argues that church planting movements are rare today in the West because very few Church Planters ever even consider becoming Church Multipliers (p. 101).

Chapters seven and eight provide case studies of several movements and leaders in the US and in South Africa, while chapter nine discusses movements among Muslim peoples. Chapter ten concludes the book with a warning: All movement leaders will face crises, disappointments, and pain. All movement leaders are weak in and of themselves:

Movement pioneers see cities, regions and nations. They make bold, audacious plans. Along the way they face hardship and disappointment, opposition and delay. At times they may feel abandoned by God and alone. They will also see the power of God at work. Prayers will be answered. God’s provision will come at the very last moment. Workers will be mobilized. The gospel will spread. History will be made. There is a price to pay, and it’s worth it. (p. 164)

Some pastors and theologians, skeptical about church planting movements, have criticized taking lessons from the experience of a small number of movements and baptizing that experience as the way to do missions. They argue that CPMs are the latest fad – and we should not follow fads, but rather follow the biblical prescriptions for discipling all nations. I myself have made similar arguments about the faddishness of much of the church planting literature in the US. We surely want to remain grounded in Scripture’s lessons, and not jump from fad to fad.

Addison modeled how to counter this line of argument in What Jesus Started, by showing the biblical basis for this approach to missions, and highlighting movements that differ in many details but share this common biblical approach. Unfortunately, in the latter chapters of this latest work he sometimes slips into a pattern of speaking that lays himself open to the critics. For example, speaking of CPMs among Muslim peoples in chapter nine, he writes:

The place to begin [in evangelism of Muslims] is with the story of creation and move through portions of the Old Testament, such as the prophets of the Old Testament, before moving on to the stories about Jesus in the Gospels. (p 152)

Here Addison has departed from describing the way Muslim movements have worked, and instead is prescribing the way Muslim movements should operate. Yet other missionaries have seen a positive response among Muslims from starting with Proverbs, or starting with stories from the Gospels. Addison instead could have written, “Others desiring to work among Muslims should consider seriously this pattern of beginning with the story of creation and then much of the Old Testament prior to getting to Jesus.”

There are similar issues in the conclusion to chapter eight, where the author tells us how to become a Great Commission church. Addison again sometimes slips into using language that can sound as if he is providing a formula: “How to start a church planting movement in ten easy steps.” This too plays into the hands of the critics. The pity is that there are powerful lessons in this chapter for churches that want to move in this direction. And as he himself argues cogently earlier in the book, there is no formula. There are biblical patterns; there are experiences from around the world. So let us study Scripture, learn what we can from the experiences – and step out in obedience.

In sum, Pioneering Movements is a helpful and important work that draws on biblical foundations and the experience of church planting pioneers over the last 200 years to draw lessons for today. God is at work building His church among the poor and among the rich, among the reached and among the unreached. I have seen it firsthand. Read this book. Search the Scriptures to see if these things are true. Consider the experience of many in such movements. And then play your role in the drama God has ordained, as He builds His church from those of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Steve Addison, Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiplies Disciples and Churches, IVP, 2015. The book will be available in early December, 2015, and can be pre-ordered today. See www.movements.net for any possible discounts on orders.

The Scope A God-Centered Pastoral Ministry

October 15, 2015

By Fred T. Balbuena

Paul’s call to the church leaders in Ephesians 4:11–12 is for the elders to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. The leadership of the church is to raise up believers within the Body of Christ to be able to serve and care for one another in the matters of life and belief. They are to be good servants or “diaconas”—good ministers. Even though the word “servant” is used here, similar to the usage in chapter 3 for the deacons who serve alongside the elders, the excellent ministers of Jesus Christ are also pastors or servants. Their responsibilities are much more and they serve in a unique way. They are shepherds of the flock who are willing to do anything for the well-being of the sheep under their watch and care.

Pastoral Ministry is More than Preaching

In connection with the diaconal responsibility of the elders/shepherds, it is clear then that a biblical theology of pastoral ministry is an integration of pastoral and diaconal shepherding. They must also attend to all other responsibilities which a shepherd normally do in tending his flock besides preaching and studying. Shepherds lead, feed, nurture, comfort, correct, protect, and rescue the sheep. Being a pastor requires getting in among the sheep. It is not leadership from above so much as leadership from within. An effective pastor does not lead his sheep from the rear but leads them from the front. He shows them, not just tells them, where they are supposed to be going. This picture of a shepherd is what church leadership or pastoral ministry means. “Good preaching and good shepherding are quite compatible with each other, and he who is earnest will combine both.”[1] These are the primary responsibilities that should fill the pastor’s schedule.

The Ministry of the Word Through Pastoral Care

We need to consider that the ministry of the word is not primarily through preaching and teaching on a Sunday morning. Devoting ourselves to the ministry of the word is an important aspect of shepherding, but it’s not only through sermons and bible studies. There is more to it as we consider the word “servants of God”. We need to be servants who willingly serve in other areas of ministry that practically meet the need of our members individually. For this reason we must be willing to be intentional in engaging pastoral responsibilities that display biblical shepherding, not only those we think we are gifted in doing. Biblical theology is practical and useful in different situations and opportunities we face in the church, as Lawrence argued.[2] Therefore, we must see to it that we fulfill our pastoral task even when it’s not comfortable for us. People need to know about the word of God, but they also need to be guided, admonished and corrected in applying the truth of the word in the mundane and practical aspect of their lives.

 Shepherding Includes Lost Sheep

Every minister must believe what Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16) Jesus has other sheep which are still not in the fold who need to be led to salvation through the proclamation of the Gospel. This means the elders be intentional and sacrificial in shepherding not only those who are already in the fold but also those who are still lost. They need to hear the voice of Jesus. Thus, this reality must inspire us not only devote our energy to treasuring the gospel from within. We need to live out a biblical vision for pastoral ministry and biblical shepherding with the lost sheep in mind.

Biblical governance is a serious issue. The elders who serve in the church cannot take the responsibility of shepherding God’s church lightly or incorrectly. They will make an account before the judgment seat of God for their failure to care for his sheep, whatever role they played in shepherding. When pastors/elders do not emphasize what the Scriptures emphasize, it leads to confusion and disunity. This is predictable. Being a pastor/shepherd/elder is not easy and there are a myriad of potential problems that threaten them in leading God’s flock. Nevertheless, the reward is great when we obey the words of our Great Shepherd.



 

[1] John Angell James, An Earnest Ministry: The Want of the times (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Pub., 1868), pg. 91.

[2] Michael Lawrence, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), pg. 202.