Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
Church Planting Movements in the Western World: Why Comparisons Are a Mistake
Comparing the West to the Majority World (developing nations) is not valid. Although we have much to learn from the church in the Majority World, the West is not Africa or Asia.
Church planters rightly admire and celebrate the great work of God in church planting movements (CPMs) across the non-Western world. However, all too often they pay attention to CPM statistics (number of conversions, rate of reproducing churches, percentage of people groups reached), not CPM missiology. As good Westerners, we gravitate to the numbers in CPMs and decry the slow resurgence of the gospel in the West. We mine these movements for compelling strategies instead of learning from the mundane stories of perseverance that constitute the history of CPMs.
A results-based comparison between the Majority Church and the Western Church isn't helpful for several reasons:
1. Church Planting Movements are not overnight phenomena
Contrary to popular impressions, non-Western church planting movements often take decades of silent plowing before they reach a monumental tipping point. Therefore, describing them as "rapid" can be a deceptive and naive comparison.
2. The Western context is much different from the non-Western context
The West is diverse in its receptivity to the gospel, ranging from receptive Christianized pockets to resistant, post-Christian areas. Gospel receptivity in Africa is much higher; however, not all receptivity results in true conversions. The numbers are inflated. Discipleship is critical.
3. Definitions of “church” vary considerably
The definition of what constitutes a "church" in Africa & Asia varies significantly in number and expression, especially compared to what constitutes a traditional church plant in the West. A church in the Majority World may be a 15-20 person house church, a range that barely constitutes a missional community by many Western standards.
4. Church Planting Movements are movements of the Spirit
The regenerating work of the Spirit is a mystery, moving like a wind throughout history, sometimes breezing through nations and other times rushing through people groups. Church planting movements are not the product of great strategies but of the sovereign work of the Spirit to build Christ's church.
5. There are three overlooked, non-strategic ingredients for movements
Ultimately, church planting movements are born out of great persecution, an outpouring of the Spirit, and faithful prayer. All three of these ingredients are largely absent from church planting in the West.
I suggest we stop banging the drum of non-Western CPM results and, instead, focus on emulating their faithful, prayerful, gospel labors. It’s important that we don't overestimate comparisons or underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit in our attempt to advance the mission of the Church.