In the second paradigm, every single Jesus-follower can start a church for free. He/she needs to lead at least one or two other people to Jesus, then meet with them regularly around the Lordship of Jesus in order to disciple them and walk with them. If each of the 15,000 already-Christians (?) in our town thought to themselves, “Hey I’m a missionary,” then each of them would only need to lead three other people to Jesus in one year in order see the entire city we live in come to Jesus. Yep. 15,000 x 3 = 45,000. On the other hand (using the 225 new churches idea), if there were 225 Christians in our town who thought of themselves as missionaries, then the math would look like this.
225+225 = 450
x2 = 900
x2 = 1800
x2 = 3600
x2 = 7200
x2 = 14,400
x2 = 28,800
x2 = 57,600
In less than eight multiplication cycles, the entire city I live in would be reached for Jesus Christ with just 225 people who said, “I am a missionary to my city, my friends, my family and my neighborhood.” This would have to be done relationally, but there would be no need for any specially gifted leaders with the vision to plant churches, nor would there be any need for millions and millions of dollars for equipment, buildings, offices, land, payroll and benefits, or anything like that. Every penny that anyone spent could go 100 percent to their own sense of mission. The only catch here is that each person would need to be faithful to Jesus personally instead of turning over the task of mission to the men and women with the official licenses and the “vision.” The Jesus-movement would either live or die based on the faithfulness of each Christian to keep the mission going.
About a month ago I had lunch in Fresno with a friend who is getting ready to plant a church under paradigm #1. He is not ignorant at all about the two paradigms I shared here. He can articulate both fluidly. He said, “Kenny, I feel called by God to live in the first paradigm and to do it that way.” I said, “Then do what God calls you to do!” So this is not an indictment of, or a rant against, the first paradigm, though it is a critique (which has to be a self-critique at the end of the day, because it’s how we “planted” and functioned). Whether we choose paradigm #1 or #2, every Christian is called to be on mission with Jesus and His church.
The first paradigm begins with an organization and a key leader who plant a church (of already-Christians), which they hope will make disciples. The leader dreams, organizes, leads and raises the funds needed to make it all work. Again, there are 70 of these in our town, and 15,000 people are connected to them. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people among the 15,000 have been part of the other 70 churches at one time or another.
The second paradigm begins with one disciple who decides to lead another person to Jesus. If they do it, they instantly become a leader, and if they meet together regularly with that disciple, around Jesus as Lord, and if they both follow him together and keep repeating this over and over, they are organically and automatically a church. If they keep doing this, the movement grows and grows.
1+1+Jesus = Church. If this addition (which becomes multiplication in just one generation) continues, it’s not long at all before there are thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions and millions of Jesus-followers. There was a time in the Jesus-movement when this was how the message of Jesus took over the world without a building, a website, a program, a slogan or logo, a fog machine, or anything else that has become the stock-in-trade of contemporary church-planting.
Whatever paradigm we embrace, (there may be others, or hybrids of these two), we need to be on mission with Jesus and His church.
All authority in heaven and earth has been handed over to Jesus,
So, get going—to every kind of person, discipling them by baptizing them into the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit,
Teaching them all the things that Jesus taught—and calling them to obey Jesus.
He’s with you to the end of the project. (My translation of Mat. 28:18-20.)
OK—time for you to jump into the comments. Let’s dialogue more about this.
For more resources on this important subject, check out …
The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
Organic Church by Neil Cole
Church 3.0 by Neil Cole
God’s Missionary People by Charles Van Engen
Organic Discipleship by Dennis McCallum & Jessica Lowery