What I Learned from a Missiologist Part 2: Church Multiplication
Several weeks ago, I had a great discussion with Dr. John David Smith, executive director of BMA Missions. If you missed last week’s issue, I invite you to visit lifeinprogressministries.com to read part 1 of this article series where I highlight some of the main things I learned from Dr. Smith.
We must realize that everything about a multiplication culture is counterintuitive to American culture.
A consumer mentality permeates everything in America including church life. When people decided they want to go to church, especially if they are new to a town, they “church shop.” This can be a good thing if you are looking to find an assembly of believers in which you can serve, disciple and be discipled and commit for the long-haul. You certainly want to belong to an assembly that is vibrant and focused on the right things. However, many people are overly concerned with the appearance things like music, service times, youth programs etc. In order to have a really “impressive” facade that will be attractive to newcomers, you need money. In order to get more money, you need more members. In order to get new members, you have to keep on impressing people with your stuff.
You can see how the cycle just never ends.
What convolutes the situation more is that I don’t believe we can expect non-believers or the spiritually immature to come to church for all the “right” reasons. But we want them to come so they can hear the gospel, be convicted by the Holy Spirit and become disciples. So, it seems to me that attracting those with the consumer mentality can be used to God’s glory as well, right?
Multiplication mentality threatens a church with the potential of sending out some of its most dedicated and spirit-filled families! It can keep a church from maximizing it’s numbers and dollars, which makes it harder to “compete” for new members because you end up with fewer resources.
Imagine a church that has been around for decades, has grown to a large size and has just built a new building. Is there any chance that church is going to say, “You know what we should do? We should take about 10 families and have them leave us to go plant a new church!” It’s not likely or common.
It is for this reason that changing BMA culture at-large to a multiplication mentality (of course, there are church-planting churches already in the BMA) is going to take a true paradigm shift that might not occur for another generation or two. The transition might look something like going from “Hey, we have some resources and a full house, so let’s build,” to “Hey, we have some resources, so let’s send,” to “Hey, God has burdened us with this task and He has the resources, so let’s send.”
“The professionalization of ministry has choked the life out of church multiplication,” Dr. Smith said. We think we need to have the money for a building, a music guy, a full-time pastor/church planter before we can even consider planting a new church.
Lay and bi-vocational ministers are going to play a much larger role in the future.
The Baptist denomination flourished largely on the shoulders of bi-vocational ministers. In our affluence, we have become so accustomed to the full-time, seminary-trained professional minister that we have made such a position the definition of what it means to be a minister.
Is it any wonder we can’t plant churches when we believe we can’t have a church without enough income to pay a full time, or even part time salary to a seminary grad (who is likely to have a considerable amount of student debt) along with building expenses? It’s wonderful to have such people, but for the sake of making disciples who make disciples, we are going to have to revisit the definition of ministry to re-include those who, as Paul and Silas, work so that they would not be a financial burden to a struggling church.
The good news is that great Bible teaching and pastoral training at low or zero cost is widely accessible. It is very likely that in the future more churches will have a pastor or team of pastors who earn a living in the secular world using secular degrees and still minister to the people of God in Bible studies in the evenings and services on Sunday.
If this scares you, or you think, “Klint, nobody is going to want to go to a church that doesn’t have all the ‘stuff,’” I have good news. (This next point I did not discuss with Dr. Smith)
The next generation of young adults don’t care about the “stuff” nearly as much as you think they do.
Did you know we are living in a time where it is actually cool/hip/en vogue to be self-sacrificing, non-materialistic humanitarians? This is one of those rare times in history where the church really being the church is attractive to pop-culture. Taking up a cause such as sex-trafficking or living well below your means so that you can give more to others is in style. It’s also Biblical. You can talk about the gospel all day long but you won’t make much of an impact if people aren’t seeing Christ live through you. Unfortunately, many see churches of today like country clubs that only truly seek new members who can help the bottom-line.
Wouldn’t it be crazy to hear of a church, which had a beautiful campus and wasn’t in financial trouble, selling it’s property and using the money to plant multiple churches and fund multiple missionaries? Maybe what is more crazy is that we probably all think that is a crazy idea.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that is what God wants every large church to do. But I am asking the question, “Would our hearts be even a little bit open to God giving us such a radical idea?” Or have we settled, once-and-for-all, how all churches are supposed to operate?
Historically, the body of Christ as a whole has never flourished in times of comfort but has always grown under duress. You want a packed church meeting? I guarantee you that if your message is something to the effect of “Instead of building ourselves an empire, we’re going to use our resources to share the love of Christ and live sacrificially,” and then follow up by doing that, you will reach more people than ever.