You may find this hard to believe, but our modern churches don’t act like the New Testament churches did. We major on preaching to big crowds and erecting auditoriums, but are we deeply impacting people’s lives? Jesus didn’t build churches out of bricks — he built the church out of people.
Now there’s nothing wrong with buildings if they serve our purpose. What’s that, you say? It’s to reproduce disciples like Jesus. Are we doing it? No. Can we fix it? Maybe. But it won’t be easy.
From America and Europe, our western church traditions were exported to the mission field as “the way to do church.” Now the church on mission field is mature and outperforming us. They are send out workers and teach us new ways that reap the harvest faster than our old ways!
This new model is working well in China, India, Africa, and Latin America. It is called the “cell church” model. It reproduces quickly and cheaply. It involves fathers and mothers in the faith who train lay people to minister. It is not flamboyant. It is simply making disciples. You won’t see it on Christian TV because they don’t need publicity to make it happen, nor will you see big fundraisers. It is beneath the radar. It even works in Muslim nations.
This biblical model of ministry multiplication is different from what we have created in the western church. Our traditions don’t line up with what the Lord gave us in The Acts of The Apostles.
Do we have the same power? Not anymore. We don’t have the same kinds of leaders or the same pattern of training, either, or the same kind of prayer meetings.
The model of the Early Church was fruitful, effective, and flexible. And in some instances it worked fast. Paul spent three weeks in Thessalonica, but he left a thriving work. In Ephesus, he finished his work in about two years, the longest he ever stayed in any one place. Let’s stop right here and admit that they succeeded. They turned the world upside down. And they did it without cell phones, the Internet, or TV stations.
Their way of doing things was also faithful to the Lord’s two prime directives (love one another; go with the gospel), and faithful to the pattern for developing leaders, a pattern laid out in the four gospels. (see Mark 3:13-15)
What’s the pattern? Start small. The church began with one person doing one thing: Jesus training new disciples. That means intense one-on-one time, not big crowds or fancy buildings. No big budget either. It was real; it was relational; and it rocked the world.
Wonder why we don’t do it today? Oh yeah, there’s no fame or fortune attached to it.
When Jesus had finished that work, the Father took it to the next level, the Son sacrificed himself and departed, and the Holy Spirit completed the equipping of this small band of followers on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. That’s a John 15 method. MLM invented by God.
This is important: Jesus didn’t start big. He didn’t think big crowds were a measure of success. He started small. He instilled his values and vision into a handful: the Twelve and the 120 in the Upper Room, trained men and women, praying. They became the core group for a gigantic enterprise that spanned the world and has lasted until our day.
Ron Wood is pastor of Trinity Assembly of God. Go to: www.trinitymeridian.com
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