As church planters, “What next?” is probably one of the questions we ask the most. What do we do after reaching the lost? How do we make disciples and train them to train others? How do we form groups and catalyze a movement of reproducing churches? There are so many methods and answers out there that it can overwhelm us at times.
But Jesus never meant for us to be overwhelmed but confident in the calling He has placed in our lives. The biblical process of gathering the harvest for the Great Harvester is actually very simple. These biblical principles have not changed with time or culture but can be applied to every context in the world. Here are 4 processes to help us launch sustainable church multiplication movements…as lived, taught and modeled by Jesus, Paul and many other modern day disciples.
Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-19 was authoritative, GO to where the lost are. God has given us the Holy Spirit to discern where the fields that are ripe for harvest are. For some of us it’s across the street among the unchurched of our city. For others like me, it’s across an ocean, through the jungle and down a mountain to the unreached of our world. We are responsible to reach our lost family members, friends and communities. Jesus did not leave GOING as an option to be considered but a command to be obeyed.
The best part about going is that God has already prepared hearts. In Luke 10:1-17 Jesus sends out his new disciples into new fields to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Most of the time they faced rejection or downright persecution but in some places they meet people of peace. People of Peace are individuals who receive the messenger into their homes, respond to the message of repentance, and opens relational doorways into their relational network.
I’ve been rejected many times while going from one village to the next. Most of the time we’re just prayer walking and looking for social needs that can be met – which are many. We meet people who are afflicted with chronic seizures, lack access to clean water, overcome with madness and overtly demon possessed. All want healing but not everyone wants to follow Jesus. Even among the suffering and desperation we sometimes find a diamond. Like the demon possessed woman who was healed and together with her entire household chose to follow Christ. Her life has opened several relational doorways to other lost people and now there is a new emerging village church with 6 families. Our calling is to GO while God is the one who prepares hearts.
So what’s next? Jesus’ command in Mark 1:15 was clear, share the Gospel. Whether we do it by power, presence or proclamation, we must use the Gospel as a filter to find those that God has prepared to respond. We have been entrusted with the most important message in the universe; that we are dead in our sin, separated from God and only through the death and resurrection of Jesus can we be reconciled to Him. There is no way to make it sound any better or any worse but there are many ways to share it with love.
Everyone has a story. The demon possessed woman had a story. After many weeks of helping her memorize her story and walk in freedom she grew more confident. Recently we sat together with her family and some village leaders to discuss whether this “Jesus God” was good or bad for the village. They listened to her life before Christ, how she met Christ and how she is now changed. They couldn’t deny her story as she was a living testimony of transformation. In the end the village leaders gave us permission to share the Gospel with other families.
Sharing our stories together with Jesus’ story is one way to lovingly proclaim the Gospel. We must practice doing it well and train those who respond to do it so they can train others. You know your context better than anyone. Share it in a way that is culturally appropriate but never change the core message. Our calling is to share the GOSPEL while God is the one who produces the response.
So what’s next? Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:20 was simple, teach them to obey. Disciples obey out of love not out of obligation. You will find that many people are not good soil and will play the religious game out of fear, duty or tradition – they will bear no fruit. We must invest in disciples who bear fruit. These individuals may not have a lot of knowledge but they listen to the Holy Spirit, respond to the Word of God and do what it says. Loving obedience is the cornerstone of a true disciple.
Sometimes true disciples can’t even read. One man grew up in a Christian household but never took his father’s faith seriously; he only played the religious game. After his father died he repented. It was then that we started the process of discipling him and walking with him in the faith. He taught himself how to read so he could study the Scriptures. For 6 months we met with him every two weeks teaching him Biblical stories and modeling a process called Training for Trainers (T4T). He was both a learner and a doer at the same time. Now he is leading two village churches and has started two other T4T groups using this process:
- Pastoral Care
- Loving Accountability
- Vision Casting
- New Lesson
- Pray & Send
There is no short cut to growth. We must spend quality time with people, keep one another accountable and have a plan for growth. This would include some basic foundational lessons and some long-term lessons. Using biblical stories is a great way to help new believers understand, apply and reproduce their faith with others. Our calling is to GROW disciples who are making more disciples.
So what’s next? As disciples obey and affect Kingdom transformation in their environments, groups will naturally form. Many will share with their families and friends. Others will gather lost people into their homes. They will go through all the growing pains that new babies go through; doubt, fear, failure, trial and persecution. This is an emerging church – one that is being led by local disciples who are still in training and actively serving their relational network. During the discipleship process (Grow) your trainees are simultaneously learning and practicing the core functions of church (Acts 2). Some of these lessons would include:
- The Word
- Lord’s Supper
- Sacrificial Giving
- Make Disciples
- Caring Leaders
As these baby churches grow, you must continue to address worldview issues. Chronological stories can be used where the people are discovering the truth of God’s word on their own using simple inductive questions. Leadership must also be strengthened in character, usually through some trial or sin – trust me everyone deals with failure. At this point everything is done from the background as an observer because you are assisting the local leader. Our calling is to assist our trainees to Gather his relational network into a faith community.
In less than two years I have seen multiple discipleship groups started among illiterate, unskilled and marginalized tribal Animists. I have watched God use a demon possessed woman as a person of peace, an illiterate boat driver as an apostolic evangelist and a shaman priest as a church planter. We have not seen a movement of thousands yet but have seen more than a hundred people come to Christ and at least six 1st generation churches started. It is a trickle of things to come as we are still in the pioneering stages
Jesus meant for this to be simple. Go to where the lost are in your community. Share the Gospel in a contextualized way. Grow disciples using a reproducible process (T4T). Help your trainee Gather his network into a community of faith. Healthy disciples grow healthy churches. Healthy churches are reaching the lost, making disciples and starting more churches. Pretty soon, you won’t even be able to keep track…but that’s the whole point of launching Kingdom movements.