CPx: Movements To Jesus
If you keep up with modern missiology (the study of missions) and what various organizations and people are doing and strategizing around, you might have heard the term “Church Planting Movements” thrown around. There is a book all about it, in fact, put out by the IMB (the missions board of the Southern Baptist Church). For the unawares, CPMs are modern movements of extremely large completely unreached and unchurched peoples coming to Christ rapidly. And by many and rapidly we are talking about a scale of tens of thousands of people (or more) coming to Christ in a years time or hundreds or more churches being planted in the same timeframe. So very rapid and very large growth.
It’s something we often don’t hear much about in the west. We’ve probably all heard about one popular example though — the underground church in a certain large Asian country that is slowly opening up. As I said, these tend to be the focus more than anything else of mission organizations across the board as God is moving in mind blowing ways. They tend to all have several characteristics, which I’ll dig more into in the coming weeks as we study here at CPx; we’ve only begun to scratch the surface, and it is a quite deep topic.
It’s an important topic to us as a part of All Nations as they have missionaries across the globe focusing on seeing this very thing. In the face of an increasingly flattening world, and the threat of an ever encroaching secularism of the west, these CPMs (or Movements to Jesus as we are more apt to call them) are changing this planet for the better. It’s because of them that the two thirds world is rising up to take the spiritual mantel from the west.
In our first week, we began to talk about these movements, and it started with a frank discussions about the nature of church and how we view it. We started by discussing our views of church, particularly our terminology in describing it. We have many words and phrases used and it’s interesting to compare those within the Bible to those external to it. Some of the external (read: nonbiblical) words we came up with were, “Building”, “Place”, “Parachurch”, “Organization” and other such words. These words tend to focus on church as meeting — as something external to a people — to more of a gathering or venue or more simply put, a non living and active thing. Words that describe church that we pulled directly from the Bible were things like “Body”, “Bride”, “People”, “Ecclesia”, “Brethren”, “Saints”, “House”, “household”, “Living Temple”, “Royal Priesthood”. The focus in this terminology set is not on the place or building or any non-living thing, but rather on the community itself. Church is a community of people — of followers of Jesus — and its this collective that makes Church what it is.
All Nations (the organization we are training with and joining) sees themselves (rightly) as this. Better put — they are a community of small simple churches. Simple church is the focus as they are (a) easily reproducible (b) put church in the hands of people and not in a the hands of a few leaders and (c) frankly, the form in which the vast majority of movements to Jesus are taking across the globe.
But its important to note that the focus shouldn’t be on the wineskin, so to speak. We had a frank discussion about Luke 5 and wine and wineskins. When I say wineskin in this context, I’m simply referring to some sort of structure. Simple Church then is a wineskin and it isn’t the focus. Yes — it is what is working best in our context and in our particular mission but that isn’t to say we chase after to the exclusion of all other models. We have to be attune to the Holy Spirit and the wine (getting back to the aforementioned parable of Jesus) that’s being poured. It could very well be that a different structure (perhaps a more traditional model?) is what is appropriate for other contexts.
I’ll admit to be slightly biased here — it’s hard to think of a context where simple church wouldn’t work fantastically well. It empowers people rather than leaders. It involves the church as a whole, inviting everyone to truly bring something to the table. It’s bent around fellowship and more often than not involves people walking in mission together. I’ve seen it work in American contexts (NormCom for example) as well as African, Asian and Latin American. But you never know — as surely as I write this I could easily one day find myself back in something more traditional.
Anyways, as I wrote it’s the structure that is much less important than what goes into it. Really this God’s concern (even though its so often not ours). As a church, All Nations sees three key ingredients to church: Worship, Mission, and Community. These three things are necessary, in fact for the health of the church. When you boil the Bible down, we see the purpose of the church wrapped up in these areas: to glorify God above any other, to love one another as He loved us and to go forth and disciple nations. And these three things are what we are seeing across the globe as necessary pieces in the movements to Jesus. It’s where we start and where we start them.
Look for more on this and other aspects of Movements To Jesus coming soon!