A few months after we started New Song I began to pray about how our little church could play a part in Jesus’ Acts 1:8 vision for the church. How could a young church like ours play a part in reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world? Fast forward twenty years and God has done exceedingly abundantly above what we could ask or imagine. By His grace, New Song has played a measurable part in planting 163,000 churches around the world. Those 163,000 churches have seen over 7,000,000 come to Christ.
The other day I asked myself, “How did this happen?”
Clearly, it’s a miracle from God. Yet God often orchestrates miracles through the actions of people. So what can church leaders do to increase the potential for ministry miracles? I’ve got seven suggestions for you:
Work done by the Holy Spirit starts with work done with the Holy Spirit. Prayer is the key to every great work of God.
About the time I started praying, Paul Becker, one of New Song’s Board members, got a sense that he should expand his ministry of mentoring church planters. Coincidence? I doubt it.
2. Have a BHAG
Jim Collins coined the term “BHAG” in his book Built to Last. A BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
As Paul prayed about the expansion of his ministry, he first felt God leading him to impact the planting of a thousand churches in his lifetime. That seemed like a huge goal to us. Then one day, the Lord blew Paul’s vision apart by impressing on him the need to impact the planting of a millions churches instead.
Paul emailed me to ask if I thought that was crazy. I said,“Of course it is! It’s a BHAG!” Paul picked up a copy of Built to Last and has been working on his God-given BHAG ever since.
3. Work with others
Paul knew that if he was going to plant a million churches, he was going to need help. No single church can hope to plant a thousand churches, much less a million. So Paul founded an organization dedicated to church planting. It’s called Dynamic Church Planting, International (“DCPI”).
My associate pastor became chairman of DCPI’s board, and my wife is a board member. Other members of our church volunteer and a few have become support-raising missionaries with DCPI. DCPI has become an organization of church leaders from around the world dedicated to planting churches. We partner with any evangelical willing to make church planting happen. In fact, we are constantly on the look-out for more leaders. We’ve even begun training high school students in how to plant churches. (God is doing incredible things with “Youth Churches” around the world.)
4. Make everything replicable
If you want to add a church or two (or a ministry or two), to your Great Commission efforts, you can start them intuitively, doing the things you know will work. But if you’re going to multiply churches (or ministries), you’ve got to develop reproducible systems so that others can do what you are doing and get similar results. Early on, Paul asked me to record everything we had done to launch New Song. A few years ago I was blown away to see our original launch timeline on a blackboard in the middle of a rural village church in Africa. The same fundamental principles and processes we used to start New Song Chruch in Oceanside, California were being used by Masai warriors to launch churches in their territories in rural Kenya!
DCPI currently has five week-long training events designed to teach church planters what we know and how to do it themselves:
1. Church Planting Essentials
2. Churches Planting Churches
3. Mentoring Church Planters
4. Launching Church Planting Movements
5. Growing New Churches
At each training event dozens of leaders are trained and several of them are certified to train others, using DCPI materials.
5. Set simple goals
Every year, DCPI’s leadership sets simple goals. The goals revolve around: How many church planters will we train? How many new trainers will we certify? And How many new countries will we train in?
From surveys, we know that the average trained church planter will plant 2.7 churches in five years and that those churches will lead an average of 46.7 people to Christ. Everything is focused on achieving simple goals which result in kingdom expansion.
6. Give it away
We have been given freely, so we freely give. All DCPI training is free. This eliminates barriers of who can afford to come, and encourages financial participation by those who see the vision and see that we have no ulterior agenda except to plant to more churches.
7. Keep doing it
By God’s grace, I’ve had the privilege of watching several kingdom-expanding ministries incubate in our church. (I’ll describe a few more of them in blogs over the next few weeks.) What tends to happen is, miracles develop like snowballs. The longer they roll, the bigger they get. We started by praying we could impact a thousand new churches in our lifetimes. That number seemed impossible at the time. Yet this year, DCPI trainers impacted the planting of twenty-one thousand churches! The key is to continue to roll that snowball down the hill by praying, working with others, and setting simple goals to expand our efforts a little farther every year.
A million is too small
A few years ago, a numbers guy did some projections and figured out that DCPI was on-pace to reach its million-church goal by 2022. Six months later, God once again blew over Paul’s vision and challenged him to plant five million churches by 2050. Think we’ll make it? Maybe.
My hope is that the Lord will return before we get there. But in the meantime this colossal vision drives prayer, and partnerships and passionate training throughout the world.
God gets the credit
You could say that an accomplishment like planting 163,000 churches comes not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. It is all his work. But I think that if you’re going to see the Lord accomplish something great through your ministry, most, if not all, of these seven actions will be involved in the process.
Pray about it. I believe the Lord is calling today’s church leaders to pray bold prayers, dream big dreams, and take God-sized risks for the fulfilling of his Great Commission in our lifetime.
Hal is the Founding Pastor of New Song Church in Oceanside, CA. He is currently encouraging churches to launch a Bible Reading Revolution in their churches and cities. Find out how to participate at www.pastormentor.com.