9 Reasons NOT to Plant a Church in 2012 (Part 2)
11 Practices of a New Jesus Movement.

I visited a number of Asian countries in 2011 and was amazed at the dynamism and commitment of the young Jesus followers.

One network, in a country that I will not mention, stuck out to me as an outstanding example. They have started almost a thousand new communities, many of them multiplying into the second and third generation. And like many new movements in the non-Western world, a Sunday worship service as an evangelistic entry point for potential members, has not been part of their ministry portfolio. Which was the subject of my somewhat provocative post a few days ago, 9 Reasons NOT to plant a church in 2012.

So if they didn't start worship services, how did they start a replicating movement of Christian communities and how do they maintain such a high level of spiritual growth?

Of course it's hard and a little presumptuous to claim which elements of their ministry are the most important but . . . here are 11 practices that I think have contributed to their success:

1. Bible study.

The Bible studies were simple and regular. And there was a lengthy program of discovering Jesus in the gospels which took months to complete. Most who completed the study decided to follow Jesus by the end. Discipleship was based on an "obedience-based approach" to the Scriptures that happened around their 3 simple Bible study questions [see 4. Simple habits]. When the group meets again, everyone is held accountable to do what they said they were going to do and this way the Word becomes an integral part of life.

2. Open houses.

The people were hospitable to visitors who seemed to come at any time of the day or night. Their houses were full of young people living there while their lives were being transformed. I did not see any buildings used for worship or church functions. Bible studies and events took place in the houses, with young people sitting on carpets and mattresses, but I would not classify it as a house church movement, since there was no regular worship service to invite neighbours into.

3. Fringe focus.

The primary influx was young people from the margins, the underbelly of society and those discarded by it, drug addicts, and postmodern sub-cultures rather than mainstream folk. I have seen this trend all over Asia including Japan. Most of the leaders I met had come from these backgrounds also.

4. Simple habits.

Nothing took a lot of skill. Teaching Bible, sharing jesus, leading AA-type meetings, no need for a charismatic superstar to attract an audience and in fact, there wasn't one. Anyone could lead after a short time of instruction. The Bible studies, for example, were based on the same pattern:

January 20, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 10 comments

Substance Abuse Counselor

April 17, 2012  11:56am

These are without a doubt most of the factors contributing to these mission churches' success. I agree with the title, even if I'm misconstruing it a little, that we should not be planting churches and then walking off. Besides, our time would be far more beneficially used if we were to support the churches that are already established in these countries rather than start a brand new one. Momentum is a powerful tool when harnessed and used strategically. Thank you for sharing!

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Karen

January 26, 2012  8:09pm

Like others, when missional work and its fruits such as that described here is contrasted with "church planting," rather than given as an example of it, I suspect that the notion of "church" has suffered an unbiblical compartmentalization and reductionistic redefinition.

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Marie Allison

January 25, 2012  5:18pm

Wow! There are alot of similarities between what you have written and the Jesus Movment of the mid 60's and 70's. Fascinating.

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Dan S.

January 25, 2012  3:53pm

Ok, so you observed healthy home-group bible studies rather than "attractional" worship services. Why does this require the abandonment of church planting? I don't see why a church plant couldn't make use of all 11 practices you list. There seems to be a false dichotomy between "impacting people's lives with the gospel" and "creating community or starting churches." When the terms "church" or "church plant" are used only in the negative sense, I suspect they've been reduced to a straw man composite of what rubs us the wrong way.

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John Albiston

January 25, 2012  2:44pm

Someone once simplified those same three Bible-study questions for me. From -What does it say? -What does it say to me? -What I'm going to do about it? To -What? -So what? -Now what? Pretty easy to remember.

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andrew jones (tsk)

January 24, 2012  10:10pm

great responses. Dan Jr, yep there is a lot of detox and backwards regression therapy involved in American church planting. And i would add that even overseas, missionaries need to protect their environments from themselves, leaving few fingerprints, allowing natural shoots to rise up.

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David

January 24, 2012  3:39pm

The greatest problem I see is that the church of today seems to think that it has to be relevant. What is relevance? Does the church have to conform to every little movement in society's moral perceptions? I think not. One of the things that really stood out in the reasons for leaving the church is that there is no "God" experience. No "God" experience = no power. Jesus talked about power in Acts 1. In Acts 2 the disciples experienced the power, and there was evidence of the "God"experience. This is totally what is missing from churches today. the biggest problem facing the real "God" experience is that "Old Christianity" has demonized the "God" experience to the point that it is now something to be afraid of. Talk about fulfilling prophecy! Call evil good, and good evil! When this changes, then so will the retention rate of the churches. Stop calling it "Just a gift" and tell it as it should be, the evidence of receiving he Holy Spirit!!!

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jarrod

January 23, 2012  4:55pm

I get a glimpse of The Body just by reading your brief snapshots of what you saw in these gatherings. Thanks, Andrew.

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sheerahkahn

January 20, 2012  12:58am

2 words stuck out to me... two.very.simple.words. Obedience and Grace. Two of the most profound pieces of evidence that marks a follower of G-d, and yet seems so foreign to us Americans. Obedience to what Y'shua commands, and extending Grace to all. A pity the American Church still has a hard time with those two very simple words.

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Dan Jr.

January 19, 2012  12:42pm

Andrew, I think a significant difference in why there's traction abroad and not here even when similar approaches with pure motives are taken is because of the detoxification required here in the West. We are not working with a clean slate. Those in the church and outside the church are so loaded down with individualism, broken God-concepts, familiarization with the what they think the Bible says and a narrow Gospel. As church planter in a Post-Christian city I'm amazed at how much existing baggage our community has to weed through just to clean out peoples ears to hear the simple, beautiful message of the Gospel. I dream of that kind of movement here in the States but the hard, persevering work of deconstructing Christianity has to be done for a season to reap that kind of harvest.

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