Your Congregation as a Church Planting Network

The Holy Spirit blesses church planting movements. While the twelve held council in Jerusalem, a bunch of un-named people planted churches in Cyprus, Cyrene and eventually in Antioch. From Antioch, the Spirit kicked off a church multiplication movement that would sketch the history of Europe and the Mediterranean.

After the Goths and Vandals

After Rome fell a young Englishman held slave to Irish tribesmen broke captivity when Jesus informed him of an escape route in a dream. Back home he converted to Christianity only to sense a call to carry the gospel to his former captors. Years later, Patrick traveled across Ireland, healing the sick and preaching God’s kingdom as he made transit to the village of his former misery. From there he discipled a nation. He did this by planting a movement of monasteries and churches.

A generation later the Irish monk, Columba, launched a pitiful little boat load of twelve ‘brothers’ into the Irish Sea with no particular destination in mind. They had a goal, but no destination.

Once they reached deep water, they jettisoned oars and sail, trusting the Holy Spirit to take them wherever he could best use them. The sea could have swallowed them. It didn’t. They could have died of dehydration in the middle of the North Atlantic. But they survived. Rocks as sharp as razor blades could have flayed them like Atlantic Cod. Instead they fell ashore on a rare sandy beach on the coast of Scotland. After evangelizing that nation those motivated priests launched underground missionary raids preaching and planting churches across the then post-Roman, post-Christian European continent.[i]

Productive Church Planting Movements

As movements go, the Protestant Reformation comes to mind, as does Puritanism in England and the American Colonies. In turn England and the United States simultaneously birthed the great evangelical movement that we still identify with the worldwide growth of Christianity.

The underground church in China is busy launching their “army of worms” and sending as send secret missionaries into Muslim lands. The Christians in several African nations have strategically placed missionaries in the post-Christian industrial nations of Eastern and Western Europe (and even Japan and the United States). As I write, the church grows faster in Mongolia and Nepal than in most other nations. The Holy Spirit specializes in movements, especially those that plant churches.

So What You & About Your Church?

The sum of all of our goals will fall short of discipling nations. By that, I mean if you could gather the strategic plans of every congregation, every spontaneous movement, even every denomination the total of all their goals would fall short of total saturation evangelism.

Bummer! We should think bigger… We should be more responsible… We should this or that! But we can’t. None of us is responsible for eating the whole watermelon of world evangelism. We can, however, reassess our situation. We could take another look at our disciplemaking processes. We could raise our sights simply by choosing to turn from leading a congregation toward attempting to lead a cluster of them. If I sound a little simplistic, so be it—simple works. This is ultimately a numbers game. If we all multiplied instead of adding we would be farther down the road.

What would it take for you to plant a circle of Microchurches, pastored by “lay-people from your church? They would require no financial support. They could meet in homes or borrowed spaces (no rent). And you could train them (no education costs). And if one or two took off to rival your numbers that would be a good thing.

Your church as a network will draw fire. Some will criticize. Your denomination will feel threatened. Others won’t get their heads around larger goals. Etc., etc., etc. But it could happen—and it should.

Article adapted from How To Multiply Your Church by Ralph Moore

[i] John Eldridge, Waking The Dead (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2003), pp. 201-201.

Is this really possible?

What do you think? Have you done it? Am I blowing smoke? Please sound off below…

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8 thoughts on “Your Congregation as a Church Planting Network”

  1. Ralph, I give direction to ethnic church planting in Metro DC and Virginia. We are starting to see reproduction and praying for multiplication. It seems that our ethnic brothers want what the American church has–property, which is slowing a movement down. I have a few that understand simple church.

    I am approaching a time when I would like to get back to the local church and foster multiplication of disciples and equip them to live missionally.

    thank you for your posts,

    1. Thanks Larry,
      You are spot-on about people wanting property. I think new immigrants and other groups have been kept away from the table where “power” sits. They see land and buildings as a badge of entry. Need to help them look at the numbers of churches with empty buildings. A great book I just found is called “The American Church in Crisis,” by David T. Olson. The numbers are frightening. Also, I’m finishing the first draft of a book about “microchurches.” It will be free at Exponential.org in a few weeks.

    1. Thanks Romica,

      I’d like to hear more about your small churches. I’m currently writing a book about this. Could you send me a short rundown using the “Contact” button in the menu?

  2. Ralph,

    You are speaking my language! Thank you for this.

    I 100% believe this way of multiplication can work. Francis Chan is doing it in San Francisco, A movement in North Australia that I have heard of, that I believe is coming out of Glory City Church in Brisbane (http://www.glorycitychurch.com.au/) is apparently doing this in partnership with Christians in Darwin, and I know of two networks being launched in Melbourne, that are doing the same thing. Low cost, lay led church plants. Multiplication vs addition!

    I attempted to launch such a network in Souther California, I was constantly pushed back on as not being “a real church” because we were looking at a network of micro-churches that didn’t have big buildings and big budgets. “You’re not real until you have a building”, is what I would often hear. We were so opposed in our attempts, that we have taken a Sabbatical to regroup and reassess, and God willing we will attempt a relaunch of this network again soon!

    You may be interested in my book that I wrote on this topic- “Where Rivers Flow” (Andrew Scarborough 2016), grab it on Kindle or iBooks if you’d like. This isn’t a sales plug- I genuinely think it could be a resource to your circle of influence.

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this post and I will certainly share it with my Pastor friends. This can, and I believe MUST, be done. I honestly believe it is the next form of church planting structure for Western Churches. I am soon to be doing my doctorate on this at Fuller, commencing later this year. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this. Are there any key leaders in this model and movement that you could recommend, as well as further resources?

    Go for it Ralph, spread this message and model!

    Bless you,

    Andrew

    1. Thanks Andrew,
      I will check your book. I’m writing on this subject (to be published by Exponential in its current form). Always looking for more examples.
      As to pushback (i.e. “You’re not real, etc.”) we need to persevere and push back harder by doing the NT thing. Kind of sad how many people see church tradition as real and NT examples as not…

  3. Ralph .. what is the name of your book on Microchurches?

    The Discovery Bible Study model is having tremendous success esp. in closed countries, and microchurches are the fruit.
    However, here in Africa, there is still a sense that you’re not legit until you have the building and the sound-system. Unfortunately, many well-meaning and generous overseas partners unwittingly reinforce that.

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