While catalytic points of reference have shifted to include a now stronger, more dominating representation from the Global South, faithful efforts at establishing Christ’s Church in obedience to the commission of Matthew 28:18-20 continue from points all across the globe.
Christian mission has become the responsibility of the Global Church and within that charter we have witnessed the rapid growth of church-planting movements among unreached people groups of the world. Such movements typically involve initial large-scale evangelism followed by the establishment of churches that ideally spawn multiple new church starts. Movements of this kind have been identified in India, Africa, Latin America, China, and areas within Southeast Asia.
Other less spontaneous movements sharing some, but not all, characteristics of the former manifest a similar vision and mission to promote and facilitate the starting of churches in areas of the world yet unreached or minimally reached with the gospel. Church-planting movements are driven by principles modeled by Jesus. Within the establishment of church-planting movements worldwide, these principles have proven to be universally applicable and effective.
Using the strategy Jesus employed—of moving people from outside the kingdom to becoming believers, disciples, workers, and eventually world Christians—church-planting ministries have consistently employed their own versions of what Crossover Communications International calls the Ministry Multiplication Cycle1, and have found this method to be adaptable within the different cultural contexts. Drawing from Jesus’ pattern of making and mentoring disciples, church-planting ministries usually follow some or all of a 4-step approach in accomplishing the assignment: evangelize unbelievers, establish new Christians through programs of discipleship, equip future church planters by training them with the necessary skills, and extend leaders cross-culturally, having provided them with tools vital to such ministry.
Maintaining the Essential Elements
Fundamental to effective evangelization and establishment of any Christian witness in the world is the content of the Christian’s message: God’s grace extended to the spiritually lost through the coming of his Son at the perfect time in history to live, die, and rise as victor over sin and death on behalf of sinners, opening access into God’s presence for eternity. At the cross, Christ suffered unrelenting hellish bombardment from forces determined to rob the world of his saving grace. Sin viciously hurled every insidious weapon of wickedness at its disposal upon Jesus, until it—sin—was utterly and profoundly exhausted. Humanity’s final enemy was humiliated in defeat and its threatening, intimidating sting removed once and for all, swallowed-up in the victory of our risen Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 54-57). He arose triumphant, His cosmic supremacy jubilantly displayed before the vast throngs of heaven and proclaimed to the ends of the earth through the appointed voices of his commissioned envoys.
Our task in missions is to serve as courageous emissaries of heaven—to boldly present the supremacy of Christ to all religions of the world as the only means by which men, women, and children from every tribe, tongue, and nation may escape God’s judgment through humble repentance and faith.2 The reality that countless lives are transformed, churches planted, and missionary zeal evidenced around the world whenever this message is preached lends testimony to the saving, changing power of Christ’s redemptive grace in the experience of men and women from every culture, tribe, and tongue.
Multiplication not Addition
Basic to Jesus’ approach is the concept of multiplication, as distinct from addition. From the beginning, Jesus had commissioned his disciples to go out two by two. When he sent them out with his final charge to “be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts1:8b) he sent them in his own authority to make disciples of all nations. He had already promised that “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14) and in entrusting the task to the twelve, Christ anticipated vital, exponential growth.
David Garrison explains that church-planting movements typically multiply rapidly, become self-reproducing, and are indigenous, generating from within.3 The latter is most significant in that although an initial church plant may be started by churches or mission groups coming in from outside the culture, momentum will usually shift to where the movement “looks, acts, and feels homegrown.”4
Developing churches in keeping with the Three-Self Formula introduced by Henry Venn, the general secretary of the Church Missionary Society in London in the mid-nineteenth century, these newly planted churches are usually encouraged to be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. This strategy of planting church-planting churches, and encouraging that philosophy among developing church leaders, ensures that the idea of multiplication is embedded within the DNA of those new churches and their offspring.
Removing the Scaffolding
Healthy churches stem from healthy attitudes toward outside assistance. Where unhealthy dependence has not been created, churches flourish in the context of trusting God to provide for their need of leadership, finance, and vision. Hudson Taylor identified the importance of keeping the church indigenous. His original strategy shifted when he began to realize that the Chinese Church would never reach its potential maturity while foreign missionaries occupied critical leadership and decision-making positions within the Church.
He wrote, “I look upon foreign missionaries as the scaffolding around a rising building. The sooner it can be dispensed with, the better; or rather, the sooner it can be transferred to other places, to serve the same temporary use, the better.”5 In Moldova, Eastern Europe’s poorest nation, church planting is being conducted with Taylor’s thought in mind, encouraging indigenous independence as soon as is practically possible.
One Case in Point
The Ministry Multiplication Cycle was introduced and implemented in Moldova by Crossover Communications International at the invitation of local Christians. Now, after the establishment of over eighty such churches in Moldova, ministry strategy and initiative is designed and taken by the Moldovan Christians.
Evangelism takes the form of outreaches into townships and villages in an effort to support new church planters in their work of establishing a church in their community. Short-term mission support teams serve alongside church planters drawn not only from Western countries, but increasingly from Moldova.
New believers are given an opportunity to participate in a Christian Leadership Training Institute consisting of eight weeks of intensive Bible courses spread over two years, now taught mainly by Moldovan teachers. Graduating students become actively involved in their local churches and are equipped to offer ministry leadership, and in some cases, to eventually serve as teachers in the institute. Some of those graduating are selected through a series of interviews conducted by the Moldovan Church leadership to be trained further as church planters. Once appointed, these church planters are trained for an additional period of time in the Church Planter’s Training Institute, then placed and mentored on a regular basis by Moldovan mentors, and helped in the establishment of a new church entrusted to their pastoral care.
More recently, Moldovan church planters have begun training to go cross-culturally into Russia and Central Asia. Some of these cross-cultural missionaries will join Russian church planters in Siberia who have been trained by the Moldovan leadership. Moldovan Church leaders are investigating new territory, identifying and screening potential church planters and providing both training and mentoring. This is done through the Missionary Training Institute courses taught by an international team of teachers, including some from Moldova. The cycle is complete. From evangelism to extension, the Church of Moldova is implementing the Ministry Multiplication Cycle and God’s Church is being built.
An Encouragement and a Challenge
A resurgence of robust enthusiasm for missions is surfacing across the vast continents in a generation of young people ready to take this message of hope to their dying post-modern, post-Christian world. Hudson Taylor’s single-minded passion to see the Kingdom of God ushered in is being witnessed again in the hearts and mission aspirations of young men and women from China and throughout Asia, Australia, Africa, and Latin America.
The zeal of early pioneers like C.T. Studd and William Carey continues to manifest in a new generation of enthusiasts for the kingdom, evident across the United States, the United Kingdom, and parts of Europe. Young people who have experienced the impact of this message in their own lives stand ready to step beyond all zones of safety out into their beckoning world for the sake of the kingdom.
However, one obstacle remains in the way of accomplishing the task set before us. Over seventy percent of all missionaries sent out into the world today are going to Christian cultures where the gospel has been faithfully preached for generations. We need to go where no one else is going—to where the people have not heard and have no means of hearing. A confused world longs for the truth.
Our calling is to take it to them. “Go therefore into all the world” Jesus commanded us, placing his commission solidly in our court of stewardship and responsibility. Knowing his promise to never desert us in this task, we go in obedience to the unreached—here at home and abroad—to the millions who agonize through daily rituals bent on appeasing those gods that keep them in constant fear: in the West, where “sophisticated” deities hold sway over the hearts and minds of men and women controlled by fluctuations in the stock market, an insatiable desire for success, or the pursuit of an elusive happiness; and in the East, where flamboyant deities demand servile obedience from intimidated worshippers, threatening reprisals against acts of non-compliance with the will of the gods.6
Nomadic herders surviving on the edge of snow-smothered Siberian hillsides and postmodern traffic-plagued city dwellers en route to the office share in a common plight: each lives in desperate need of God’s transforming gospel of grace.7 Animistic peoples in remote regions of the world live in ignorance of the truth that can set them free. All they need is for someone to go who is willing, able, and equipped with the message.
You have that truth. Are you willing to be that someone?
1. The Ministry Multiplication Cycle has been developed by Crossover Communications International as a way to describe their 4-step approach to planting churches in Eastern Europe, involving “intentional intervention through evangelism, establishing, equipping, and extending to see the kingdom expanded” (Crossover Communications Communiqué, Spring 2007 edition MMVII Vol.1, p. 6).
2. See John Piper. 2007. The Future of Justification. Wheaton, Illinois, USA: Crossway, p 25 for further discussion on this topic.
3. 2004. Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian, Virginia, USA: Wigtake Resources, 22-23.
4. Ibid, 22.
5. Sweeting, George. 1985. More than 2000 Great Quotes and Illustrations. Texas, USA: Word Publishing, 184, quoted by Paul Hattaway’s 2003 book, Back to Jerusalem. Carlisle, U.K.: Authentic Media, 6.
6. Law, Peter. 2008. “Doing Missions in a Post-modern, Post-Christian World.” Communique. Crossover Communications International, Summer.
7. Law, Peter. 2008. “The Central Message of Missions.” Communique. Crossover Communications International, Winter.