Orality Methods Highly Reproductive in Church Planting
While interviewing candidates for missionary service, one missionary couple came through who were church planting candidates for a mega-city in Northeast U.S. After getting to know each other a bit, I asked, “What is your vision for addressing lostness?” The man said, “I want to help plant a church.” I responded, “The city where you’re going has one million lost people and the average church size is 45 members. What are you going to do differently to address lostness?” Without a blink he said, “Well, like I said, I’m going to start a new church.” I then asked, “Could you at least start four or five new churches simultaneously?” His wife leaned forward, clearly amazed and said, “How is this possible?” In their minds, they were hearing me ask them to pastor multiple churches for life rather than address lostness with other methods.
In 2014, Missions agency A with multiplication at heart trained 21,300 workers who began nearly 14,000 churches in one year. In the same year, Missions Agency B with an agenda to start one church at a time trained 5,600 workers who started 985 churches.
There’s a stark contrast here and it’s all based on desired training outcomes. What are your expectations and do you train accordingly? If you’ll commit to make disciples who can make disciples of others should be bedrock, since it is Jesus’ edict to us all (Matthew 28:18-20).
What are your expectations and do you train accordingly?
If you train one to reach one, you’ll get one. If you train one that can reach groups of people in a way that they can reach other groups, then you’ll be used of the Lord to start a movement.
A motivational slogan for evangelism used to be, “Each one reach one.” Not bad at all, right? Jesus taught His disciples to win households and then villages. He sent them out two by two in Luke 10 to be accepted by houses of peace. In Acts 10, Peter saw Cornelius’ whole household (oikos) believe along with his household. Paul saw Lydia and the Philippian jailer believe along with their entire household (Acts 16).
What works for witnessing, works for disciple-making, and church multiplication.
When you’re planning to start a new group, consider its start-up DNA. Will this group evangelize to grow an existing church? Will it be actively seeking to start new small groups? Will it be primarily new believers or transfers from other churches? And is this group going to start intentionally a new church or just hope to someday?
Small groups that use oral methods have a huge advantage since it is so highly reproducible. Remember Missions Agency A? They typically use orality methods in highly reproducible disciple-making. Missions Agency B typically uses lecture methods focused on doctrine that must be gotten only from highly-literate seminary graduates. Your leaders can train other leaders very quickly. They don’t need to be seminary graduates (although that’s not a bad thing at all!). Lay-led churches are one of the ten characteristics that God often uses in church planting movements.
Answer the call to cities of one million people and multiply yourself as the Lord leads.