Revitalizing Church Multiplication in Hawaii

Thirty-nine years ago, Aaron Suzuki and I moved our families to Hawaii from Southern California.

We had a strong church behind us yet had plans to start an automotive repair service as a bivocational fallback.

We didn’t anticipate strong spiritual hunger among the people we would meet. I would now admit that our years there triggered a “spiritual awakening.” It never felt like an awakening during those years as much as what the Living Bible called “steady plodding.”

We operated much like the churches we witnessed in Acts, chapter 2, and it paid off.

Focusing on God’s masterpieces (Ephesians 2) and our roles as equippers (Ephesians 4) rounded out our overall strategy.

Between the Hope Chapel and New Hope movements, we planted 138 churches in the state and many more beyond the immediate borders.

However, church multiplication has slowed in Hawaii.

So last week, we invited everyone we could find who are still interested in planting churches to a meeting at Kawaiaha’o church in hopes of networking with like-minded people.

Significantly, the earliest missionaries to Hawaii planted Kawaiaha’o back when Hawaii was still a kingdom. The Hawaiian royal family made this their home. Ken Makuakani, their pastor, trained in Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, the church Aaron and I led. Ken’s involvement connects us to the 2nd Great Awakening as those missionaries were a direct product of that move of God.

We prayed for 30 people to show up but would have been happy if we saw only 20. God surprised us with 74 highly focused individuals.

The pandemic changed the face of the church in the state.

Churches have closed. The larger congregations face severe budget restrictions and loss of attendees; however, we discovered that people are planting churches in carports, beach parks, and the marketplace. God is at work among these people.

The biggest blessing was the realization that many of the “popup churches” are a direct result of the microchurch model springing from our focus on microchurches within our congregation.

While I was living in Hawaii, we saw microchurches as a training ground for pastors who would launch mid-size congregations. Under the stress of the pandemic, many have slipped into autonomous microchurch mode. Churches like these won’t get counted in most surveys, but they function as the salt in the earth, taking the gospel to people who wouldn’t otherwise attend a larger congregation.

The unifying message in the meeting we held was “go, not come!”

Our purpose was simply to help players get to know one another. That worked out quite well, and I’m hoping that a sort of “multiply Hawaii” movement emerges from our short meeting together.

I’ll post more about this next week, videos, and a podcast featuring my son, who was actively involved with us from the beginning in Hawaii at age 11. Later, he and a couple of friends planted two churches in California during and immediately after his college years. His observations of what we experienced in that meeting are uplifting and encouraging.

If you’re reading this, I’d appreciate your prayers that God would continue what he birthed so long ago among a people hungry for more and finding it in Jesus.

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