Archives For Movemental Christianity

A couple of months ago, I shared a brief critique on church planting movements while advocating a “word-driven movemental Christianity“.  Because of our church’s new church planting initiative, I have been living in the book of Acts quite a bit, which has been rather rewarding.  The “word-driven” post speaks to the nature of the Word of God in church planting, but I want to go a different angle and consider the relationship of the Word of God and Spirit of God in the early church.

The emphasis on the relationship of Word and Spirit was really brought out during the Reformation, especially in the writings of John Calvin and later in the Puritans.  The agency of the Spirit and the instrumentality of the Word are, in my mind, key to understanding how God worked among His people then and now.  The paradigm of Word and Spirit together helps to prevent theological error and recognize the source (or foundation) of our work.  I hope to elaborate this paradigm more in the future, but for the time being, allow me to list seven places in the book of Acts where the Word and Spirit paradigm can be seen.

Word and Spirit in the Early Church

Acts 1:1-2

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

Jesus, through the Holy Spirit gave the commands to his apostles.  The commands (word) were communicated in the power of the Holy Spirit (spirit).  The Word and Spirit paradigm was first seen in Jesus and then emulated by the apostles.

Acts 4:8-12

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders,  if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,  let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.  This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Peter declared the gospel (word) to the rulers and elders having been “filled with the Holy Spirit” (spirit).  Proclamation of the gospel, as seen in the post-Pentecost Peter, is done in the controlling influence of the Spirit of God.

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Bruce Ashford is the Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies and associate professor of philosophy and intercultural studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is also on the team of the best SBC blog, Between the Times, and has written some very helpful articles on a theologically-driven missiology as well as contours of a great commission resurgence.  While I would like to commend all his articles to you, allow me to post an exerpt speaking to church planting movements.  You may recall that I wrote briefly about a word-driven movemental Christianity and raised several questions regarding David Garrison’s paradigm that is being used (seemingly uncritically) by the IMB (and others).  Dr. Ashford writes (emphasis mine):

In recent days, much has been said about Church Planting Movements (CPM), and rightly so. David Garrison defines a church planting movement as, “a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.” Evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, have long been praying for and working towards the birth of CPMs among the unreached people groups of the world, and indeed, even in our own country.

But there is much work left to be done to ensure that, here in the United States and across the oceans, our methodology is driven by the Scriptures. It must be biblical theology that gives church planting methodology its starting point, trajectory, and parameters. Of the many substantial missiological issues that cluster around CPM theory, here are two that must be treated:

First, in regards to CPM as a goal: As laid out in Part Three of this series, our ultimate goal, above all others, is the increase of God’s glory. No goal that we have should subvert this goal. For this reason, we are concerned not only with rapidity, but also more importantly with the purity of the gospel and the health of the church. On the one hand, if the church multiplies rapidly, but is not healthy, the long-term picture is bleak. An inordinate emphasis on rapidity will likely lead to reductionist methods of evangelism and discipleship that will harm the church in the long term and actually curb its growth. On the other hand, if the church is “doctrinally pure,” but not seeking to multiply, the long-term picture is bleak. Or maybe it would be better to say that a church cannot be doctrinally pure without praying for, and working toward, the healthy and rapid growth of God’s church.

A final note regarding CPM as a goal: CPMs are not the only worthwhile missiological accomplishment. Sometimes, God does not grant such a thing or He does not grant it immediately. In Hebrews 11, we read of men and women of great faith whose reward was not a CPM; instead, their reward was torture, destitution, affliction, and martyrdom. Many faithful workers who labor in prayer and in deed, hoping with all that is within them to see a CPM, never see the birth of a CPM. This does not mean that their labor is in vain. If they have labored for the glory of God, then He is pleased with their efforts. (Also, it should be pointed out that the early church experienced its most explosive growth only after many years of prayer and work. See Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Early Christianity.)

Second, in relation to leadership development: The rapid reproduction of the church will lead to some challenges in leadership identification and development. If multiple churches are planted in a short period of time, the churches are faced with the question of how recent is “too recent” for a believer to be recognized as an elder. Further, in a context where the church is persecuted, how will these elders train for pastoral ministry? Also, how will they be discipled if they are not able to read? These are not hypothetical scenarios; there are multiple church planting situations, globally, that are facing these challenges at any given time. We must take seriously the biblical teaching concerning the church, discipleship, and elder qualifications and work hard to apply it in challenging situations such as the one above.

Dr. Ashford is hitting on many of the things I have attempted to bring up but only in a more articulate and substantive way.  There’s no question that we all want to see a movement where churches are being planted and multiplied, but pragmatism cannot and must not win the day when it comes down to what drives our methodology.  As Ashford explains, we must have a theologically-driven missiology, one where the Word of God does not merely play a supporting role but is the driving force behind the movement.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had a friendly discussion (see comments) with Ed Stetzer shared a little of his presentation of “Movemental Christianity.” The title really resonated with me as I have been spending a lot of time in Acts and considering the movement of the early church as the gospel spread to the ends of the earth (and how that should look today). Stetzer provides ten elements of movemental Christianity in North America, following the lead of David Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements. I want to take a moment to explain the premise and presuppositions of Garrison’s movemental Christianity as Stetzer calls it “excellent work” and “paradigm-creating.” For the sake of filling in gaps, here are Garrison’s ten elements found in every church planting movement:

David Garrison on Church Planting Movements

1. Extraordinary Prayer

2. Abundant Evangelism

3. Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches

4. The Authority of God’s Word

5. Local Leadership

6. Lay Leadership

7. House Churches

8. Churches Planting Churches

9. Rapid Reproduction

10. Healthy Churches[1]

Garrison later gives another ten elements found in most church planting movements. Well, you might be asking the question, “What is a Church Planting Movement (CPM)?” Garrison answers the question, stating,

“A Church Planting Movement is a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.”[2]

Garrison begins his description of a CPM with five characteristics: First, there is rapid reproduction. Garrison says that CPMs “always outstrip the population growth rate as they race toward reaching the entire people group.”[3] Second, there is multiplication. Garrison explains that CPMs “multiply churches and believers like Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”[4] Third, CPMs are indigenous, that is, generated from within, contrasted with those influenced or started by outsiders. Fourth, CPMs have churches planting churches. At this point, Garrison hones in on the strategic point where things get out of control, like a cascade of falling dominoes. This reveals that “when the momentum of reproducing churches outstrips the ability of the planters to control it, a movement is underway.”[5] Fifthly, CPMs occur within people groups or interrelated population segments. Church movements most naturally occur within “shared language and ethnic boundaries.”

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