Here are some insights I shared while teaching the Perspectives Course awhile back.
Missional, Organic, Equipping Church Insights + ALPHA + Nameless
This section contributes to an understanding of how Christians are motivated and equipped for effective evangelism. It is the same issue that concerned A. Paget Wilkes in an earlier era working in Japan—that which motivates a Japanese person to care about his or her fellow man who is lost. For “unless we are deeply impressed in our own minds of the need of man we shall only play at being soldiers” (Wilkes, p. 10).
Missional thinkers are unanimous that the role of church members is to be ambassadors for Christ in their circles of influence (Cole 2005, Guder 1998, Hirsch 2006, 2009; Kimball 2007, Mallory 2001, Minatrea 2004). “A person who does not believe every disciple of Jesus Christ is sent by Him into the world rejects the essence of the missional church. The person must then believe that only select ones are sent by Christ on mission” (Minatrea, 2004, p. 79). But the process of developing church members into effective spiritual ambassadors is far from automatic. “The church by definition is the greatest gathering of potential servants in the world, but she is also the most notorious vehicle for disappointing, discouraging, and even destroying them” (Sue Mallory, 2001, p. 37).
Speaking to the essential intentionality to mature fruitful ambassadors for Christ, Milfred Minatrea writes, “Missional churches are not content simply to love people; they desire to see every person become an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ” (Minatrea, p. 19). Leaders have the key role to “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph. 4:12). “The Spirit empowers the church for mission through the gifts of people. Leadership is a critical gift, provided by the Spirit because, as the Scriptures demonstrate, fundamental change in any body of people requires leaders capable of transforming its life and being transformed themselves” (Guder, 1998, p. 183).
Finally, speaking to the contrast between simple churches which effectively develop ambassadors for Christ and complex churches which do not, Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger write, “Simple church leaders are designers. They design opportunities for spiritual growth. Complex church leaders are programmers. They run ministry programs” (2006, p. 26). Some church programs are indeed necessary, but “church leaders who are designers are focused on the end result, the overall picture. They are as concerned with what happens between programs as with the programs themselves” (2006, p. 26).
Cole, in Organic Church, writes about the amazing story of Awakening Chapels, a church multiplication movement that has planted so many new churches worldwide that he quit counting at 800 (Cole, 2008, personal communication). He struggled for three years with the question, “How do you organize a decentralized, rapidly expanding, spontaneous multiplication movement without killing it in the process? Can we be out of control and still have order?” (2005, p. 124). He answers his own question, “Yes!” Cole asserts “we can have order in chaos and structure without control” (2005, p. 124) if God is the engineer and we can allow things to go in a way we are not accustomed. We must let God control the church development process if we are to see amazing growth.
Cole (1999, p. 112) writes that “bad people make good soil” referring to the Parable of the Sower (Mat 13:3-8). This could mean people with a bad reputation or in a crisis of some sort. The Awakening Chapels movement that CMA started, initially reached drug addicts, occult practitioners, sexual deviants, and other social outcasts. The initial beachhead in any CMA outreach was a person of peace. As that person came to Christ, he or she introduced the CMAers to others ready to meet Christ through the transfer of trust from their informal opinion leader, the person of peace. “The transfer of trust involves the extending of the trust one shares with one person or group to each additional person or group involved in the relationship” (Mayers, 1987, p. 22-23). Cole has shared informally on many occasions that new Christians won this way would go up and down the beach after a baptism and invite other beach goers to believe and be baptized.
Leaders in Cole’s CMA movement are taught coaching: asking questions and active listening. In addition they are trained “one thing at a time” and “as needed” (2009, p. 220-252). To multiply leaders in addition to mentoring and coaching CMA uses a “show-how skill-training method” (2009, p. 248). To develop competence in leaders from the harvest for the harvest, CMA leaders use the MAWL method.
For discipleship, Cole says, “The smallest group in our movement is not the organic church but the Life Transformation Group (LTG). This is a group of two or three (never more) who meet weekly to challenge one another to live an authentic spiritual life (Cole, 2005, p. 29). LTG’s perpetuate the basic DNA of the Church: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission (Cole, 2005, 113-121). Members ask one another accountability questions and keep praying for the salvation of each other’s oikos (circle of family, friends, and regular acquaintances) a high priority. This results in continual multiplication of Christians, leaders, and churches in most cases.
In Awakening Chapels, the leadership structure is extremely flat as seen in this statement by CMA founder Neil Cole, “The idea that special people are set apart and called to serve the Lord ‘full-time’ is a cracked lens that distorts our view of everything” (2009, p. 104). Many Japanese churches have implemented Life Transformation Groups (LTGs) and other innovations introduced by Cole during consultation visits to Japan. In the area of leadership, some ideas are a stretch for Japanese pastors culturally, but the ones who succeed in implementation usually assume the role of lead coach of cell leaders or something similar.
Currently, all CMA church planters are bi-vocational in a variety of church planting models. Cole tells stories of several organic church planters in Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. All listen to God and follow his leading. Some pioneer in a new area and some stay close to home, but exit strategy is sometimes not necessary because the planter continues to be involved with the planted church. In other instances the exit strategy is very simple because the church structure is so flat. Steffen’s key axiom is proven true: “The church planters must never forget that in the spiritual domain, shared power results in multiplied power” (1997, p. 218).
*** Facilitational church planting differs from pioneering in that nationals are in the lead from the beginning. Expatriate workers come alongside national church planters in a variety of roles (e.g., hired evangelist, player-coach evangelist, disciple-maker, coach, mentor) to facilitate the establishment of new churches. Together the international team prays, plans, and implements.
The expatriate works to establish trust and credibility with mother church members. In time some of those members will sense a calling from God to work with the national church planter and expatriate facilitator in the development of a new church.
For phase out by the expatriate facilitator, it is essential for the mother church pastor and national church planter to develop the ability to coach and develop empowered leaders for the church. This enables the “eventual and total withdrawal of the team (facilitator) physically, but not relationally” (Steffen, 1997, p. 7).
Mallory in The Equipping Church (2001, p. 110), agrees with an important implication of Cole’s thinking when she writes, “As a church we have seen God repeatedly demonstrate that he loves to use the unqualified to do the unimaginable” (2001, p. 110). There is a flattening of the leadership of churches that effectively grow through evangelism that empowers members to risk for God.
Yet another church model in which members are equipped and supported to reach “their worlds” is that of missional church. Guder writing in Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America sums up the missional perspective as, “The Church as Apostle to the World” (1998, p. 110). Such a church is sent out on behalf of the reign of God in a world where many other principalities and powers vie for our attention and control.
A missional church that is sent out must engage lost members of society where the playing field has changed so drastically. In such a quest, creativity and extreme flexibility are needed. A new theology is demanded that addresses the changed “plausibility structures” (Newbigin, 1989, p. 8-9) and resultant entrenched skepticism—even hostility—that is prevalent in post-modern, pluralistic North America as well as secularized pantheistic Japan
The ALPHA Course (Gumbel, 2002) is a hybrid of event-oriented evangelism and relational evangelism demonstrating high potential to develop disciples who multiply through evangelism worldwide. It is in the growing trust relationship between a Christian and an unbeliever that the unbeliever experiences the incarnate Christ. Loren Cunningham of Youth With a Mission writes, “ALPHA is a soul winning, discipling, multiplying, spiritually dynamic ministry that has already touched the lives of thousands” (Gumbel, p. 10).
In preparing to run the ALPHA Course, Christians are trained to develop trust relationships through empathy toward and encouragement of newcomers. Graham Cray, Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, writes in part, “The great strength of the ALPHA Course is that it allows genuine enquirers to take time in exploring Christian beliefs and Christian values, while building relationships with members of the church” (Gumbel, p. 10).
Toyotome’s Nameless Christians were responsible for many people believing in Christ in Japan and other Asian countries. Nameless Movement evangelism internationally accounted for new churches developed in Japan, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. “There are many principles of personal evangelism but in the Nameless Movement the following three are selected for special emphasis: go to the non-Christian; talk only about Jesus Christ; and urge a commitment” (1974, p. 15). Toyotome writes that these are “the three points of great difficulty in personal evangelism” (1974, p. 15) which every Christian bent on evangelism struggles with every time the attempt is contemplated.
One Japanese group that uses the Socratic discussion method for discipleship is Sendai Baptist Seminary in Japan (http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~cbss1963/). The group translated the Church Based Theological Education (CBTE) published by BILD International in Ames, Iowa and is distributing it to many regions of Japan. One Asian Access Japan Board Member, Pastor Jiro Chida has empowered and launched 25 former lay church planters establishing churches all over Japan using the CBTE curriculum as his main small group discipleship curriculum.
This will provide some background info for “Leading the 21st Century Church” and “Practical Discipleship” for Promise Christian University: College and Seminary. This is going to be so fun! Once I learn how to work Canvas, I will load the classes into it for use online around the world. I know there will be thousands in Philippines, more thousands in Africa, and still more in Asia. I am praying some Americans will join on and learn some successful ways to “do church” in Post-Christian America.