Dave Gibbons at Exponential last week said that the nomenclature in the church world has shifted over the last 20 years from megachurch to multisite to movement. Good observation, although I would add that many of us shifted over to “movement in the mid 1990’s thanks to teachers like John Robb, Thom Wolf and David Garrison. Glad to see the American mainstream church is catching up.
Dave says we need to focus on movements of the Holy Spirit, rather than people and numbers. I agree. Its God’s church and its God’s movement and God is building up his body in His way and in His time. I want to humbly offer a little addition to Dave’s message.
Question: How do you know the Holy Spirit is at work and not just your own adrenaline, or the timely implentation of your ministry plan.
In a word, a miracle.
Dr Thom Wolf told us about a church planing movement in the Philippines, possibly related to Met Castillo of “The Church in Thy House”, where they refused to start a new church unless there was some miracle, some significant healing, or exorcism or supernatural demonstration of God’s power that created a tongue-wagging gossip about the gospel situation in that town. Before that miracle happened, they would pray and share the good news of Jesus and lead the new believers into maturity . . BUT . . they would not start a new community until God made it clear that the timing was right. And he would do so through a public demonstation that was obvious to all.
In my experience, the most successful church plants could all point to a moment in time when something beyond the church planter’s control happened – a miracle of sorts – and that gave them the confidence that God was at work, that what they were building was part of a Holy Spirit movement, and more than just a great idea.
This is encouraging TSK – I’ve been thinking about the ‘size’ pressure a lot recently as I think the pressure to have a ‘mega church’ is even greater with online ministry. Somehow it’s assumed that because the Internet is so big, online ministries have to be big to be valid as well. But things seem to work best at a size where meaningful community can happen rather than some form of ‘shepherding’ as a formal process.
Not sure we’ve had a miracle yet – other than still being around – but that’s a good thing to bear in mind for me since the question with anything unfamiliar is how we gauge its authenticity and worth.
Hope things are going well for you. I’ve just been to a conference about using Wisdom literature to connect with culture which was fascinating and deep.
Ummmm … there could be something in this
I am sure that there is something in this Andrew. In my experience, it can also be triggered a tragic moment (like a death) which opens the opportunity for God’s love to reach out into a circle which had hitherto been unreached by church life. If God has placed people there in advance, this can act as a catalyst for them planting a church.
while i’m completely open to (and thrilled by) power encounters and miracles and the like, i think we’re making a big mistake when we refuse to “start new communit(ies)” until we’ve seen them. i’ve got two problems with this.
1) God is certainly powerful to do anything, and I believe he often does. but let’s not forget that the most powerful event in history was Christ’s death and resurrection. i’d argue the most powerful witness of Christianity today, then, is the willingness of believers to die to the people they once were, and be born again to love God and serve others — a death and resurrection. the greatest testimony of God’s power is changed lives, not healings or exorcisms. when a group of people begin loving and serving those around them, and giving of themselves in order to do so — and this is in direct conflict with who they used to be — people take notice.
i would go further to suppose (with much less certainty) that these healings and miracles take place most often when there is no (or little) representation of God through the changed lives of believers.
2) there is an assumption being made that we (church planters, missionaries, whatever you call us) are able to “start a new community,” as in it’s up to us to plant churches. or that it’s our responsibility to “cut the ribbon” or “make it official.” you mentioned a group that continues to share Christ and lead disciples to maturity, but doesn’t start churches. i would argue that a church is when it is. if there is a group of disciples who are being matured and becoming obedient to God, there will be a church. they may not know to call themselves one, and they may not be recognized by a particular group or denomination. but they will be doing the things that a church does… making them a church.
i agree with you completely, however, that we ought to “let” it be God’s church and God’s movement, and that we ought to look for the workings of the Holy Spirit. i just think that the Holy Spirit may be most active just in the drawing of men to Christ. and i think we’re not really “letting” it be God’s church when we claim the authority to start it or open it or allow it.
Woooooooooooo you’re singing my song bro. Certainly there is a bond that is creates when people experience, I mean truly experience the Kingdom of God. Seeing that as a starting point to draw together and seek God from that common point is brilliant.
thanks james. i like what you say and agree that a real “church” might actually exist when new believers meet together informally.
but i would add to that that there is a sense of timing involved in “coming out” to the local community, something to be prayed about.
The church did not form immediately after Christ’s resurrection and ascension but they were told to wait in Jerusalem. God was going to “out” them Himself and in his own way.
this happens today when God does something publicly but [thanks for reminding us] it might not always be a spectacular miracle but might actually be an answered prayer or something more mundane . . . but it might be something that is noticed, even though it is small. in that way, God is free to do his own promotion.
You make some very good points. As a worship leader, and pone who teaches others worship leading, there are many times you can do the job but not sense the move of the Spirit. A miracle, and these come in all shapes and sizes, is when you truly know the Spirit is moving.
I agree. Henry Blackaby said it best – you know when God is at work when He accomplishes something that only he can do! We like to think we can do wonderful things for God, but what He wants is for us to let him accomplish something we could never do through us!