This past week I shared a couple of posts I saw in Missions Frontiers on social media (http://www.missionfrontiers.org/). The first article speaks of 5 lessons American churches can learn from the Church Planting Movement (CPM) in the rest of the world (http://tw.gs/VbSa0). The second is how these things can be adapted to work in American churches (http://tw.gs/VbSaC). One addresses a need in typical American churches across the board (denominational and non-denominational), while the other gives examples and insights how these changes can be implemented. Most church plants in No America tend to draw from the existing pool of believers. However, many studies show that new pioneering church plants are more effective in reaching nonbelievers with the gospel (re: evangelism) than established churches. Yet, a fair amount of the people involved with new church plants are "transplants" from another church. Much has been said about the right and wrong of all this, but most of it is philosophical rhetoric (imho).
I've viewed the church planting experience from two perspectives, that of a church planting pastor, and as a member of a new church plant (currently). In the (hot) summer of 1978, my wife and I planted a church in the high desert area of So California. Brilliant timing, huh?! We survived the initial startup, which is another story in itself, and the church is flourishing to this day (thankfully). My original vision and heart for the church was reaching the unreached and unchurched. I'm thankful God graciously brought that about then and now.
Currently, Susan and I are involved with a new church plant in our present home town. Most of those attending are younger than us, a lot younger. We are the old folks in the back now. The church vision is similar and reminds me of the early days we experienced in the Jesus Movement of the early 70's. And BTW, the music is loud (lol)!
Here's my observation—the vision for reaching the unchurched and de-churched is essentially the same, but many who attend (including us) are transplanted from another existing church. This is not a bad thing—it's necessary—good experience is valuable.
But here's the challenge—How do we (the church) keep from falling into the same rut as so many churches. A lot of work is put into getting people to come into the church, and even more effort to keep them in it. Then the command of Jesus to go out to the world is set aside, except for those specially trained to go. But things are different now, or are they?
My heart to reach the unreached and equip those who desperately need training remains. I'm not a senior pastor, nor a missionary serving on the field full-time. Yet, I'm not absolved of my responsibility in God's kingdom. This is perhaps the most difficult hump to get over—removing the separation between clergy (ministry professionals) and laity (people in the congregation).
Lots of reasons exist for this separation, but that's another tangent. What's needed is training (discipling) for the believers in the church to go out to reach the nonbelievers. This requires intentional, relational discipleship—the method Jesus used to establish His church at the beginning. The very thing I experienced as a young believer.
This is why I appreciate these articles. They bring us (the church) back to our roots. In the early years of the Jesus Movement, discipleship was a natural part of the Christian life. There was little specialized training or organizational leadership. It was organic. Was it messy? Yes. Did it bear fruit? Yes. Has the church in America improved on it? No.
If this sparks any interest at all, please take time to read those articles. If you have a longing for discipleship in your own life or to disciple someone, these articles are well worth the investment of your time. Finally, what is your personal experience with discipleship? If you were discipled, pass it on. That's how Jesus did it.