Platform vs Portal——-Two Operating Systems
- Partition your “hard-drive”
- Run two operating systems at once—one as “normal,” the other as an experiment
Graduating from Level 3 is more about evolution than revolution
I want to introduce an operating system that we’ve used, successfully, in the United States. However, I learned it on a teaching trip to a developing nation.
Often, we discover that the world outside the United States is forced to act more like the first century church due to persecution and poverty. Their discoveries make good lessons. Look at this example of a multiplication movement instigated by a single church operating among a fairly hostile population.
So, here goes the story:
It was late. My ride to the airport hadn’t shown up… [CLICK HERE to listen to the story].
Five Elements to this Operating System
Here are 5 takeways from this story. They constitute a new operating system that you could use while doing business as usual with the other 99 percent of congregation:
1. A megachurch operating as a launch platform for church multiplication.
2. A career-holding pastor who leads a church (actually two of them) as a freelance church planter.
3. Autonomous microchurches planted by “lay pastors.”
4. Church planters who remain in fellowship (and tithing to) their home church.
5. Penetration of corners of society that would otherwise not interact with the gospel.
These five elements, taken together, present you with a new tool for experimenting your way into becoming a church multiplier—at limited cost of money, manpower or momentum.
Success At Home and Abroad
26 YEARS LATER this strategy has multiplied more than 2,060 churches (with just under half meeting in homes). Starting with just 28 people the group has baptized more than 22,000 people since 1983. More than 18,000 people attend their churches. Persecution restricts the churches to evangelism through disciplemaking—they don’t rely on “altar calls” or an attractional model. This is a country where they systematically persecute Christ-followers.
By the way, the group has planted reproducing churches in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Bahrain, the Emirates, India and Bangladesh. I currently work with one of their pastors in the United Kingdom he re-ignited an aging movement of sixteen churches, taking them to 46 autonomous churches in just six years. He moved there as an IT professional and then planted a reproducing church. The keys to these stories are the twin concepts of microchurch and freelance pastors.
Career & Freelance Pastor… What’s impressed me the most about the guy in this story is that they view their careers as providers of financial capital which sponsor ministry away from the marketplace. This is important, for us, because most of what American churches do, off campus, is focused on the marketplace. These guys are taking new territory—we can learn from them.
By now, you know that what I’m calling microchurch figures big in my ideas about the future. It is the backbone of the operating system I observed in Sri Lanka. I also believe that such a vehicle fits into the near future of a church multiplication movement in the United States.
A microchurch is different from a bible-study in five ways:
- It is semi-autonomous from the platform church that gave it birth. While answering to an elder board in a sending church, microchurch elders are the “troops on the ground.” They make decisions necessary to expand the kingdom in their unique turf.
- It responds to the “go” of the Great Commission rather than the “come” of Level 3 churches. Bible studies and marketplace missionaries both operate in close conjunction with a central church. “Come join us” is a subtle subtext to their message.
- The idea is to take the gospel to people who would not fit easily into the sending church. Again, the motive is “go” rather than “come.” Missionaries who remain planted geographically. It brings church into cultures where people are not likely to identify with the cultural majority. Cultural similarities are part of the glue binding any congregation. People worship and play with people much like themselves. Microchurches utilize “bridge people” who are comfortable in more than one culture to penetrate unreached people groups.
- Its elders are endorsed by the sending church as pastors, rather than marketplace missionaries. This generates a huge motivational difference. When a group can self-identify as a church its leaders carry the weight of spiritual authority and the responsibilities attendant to it.
- It is authorized to celebrate the sacraments and reproduce itself as its leaders see fit. More than any other distinguishing factor, handling of the sacraments denotes a spiritual reality not found in Bible studies or marketplace ministries. This may be the determining factor in turning out a movement of culture-penetrating microchurches.
Next Time: Five Direct Benefits of Making Disciples and Multiplying Churches