After reading Neil Cole's "Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens", and the source of my previous post, I took it upon myself to reread the book a second time for specific things we might apply to our own work here in Ecuador. This second, slower reading has turned out to be quite a rewarding experience. Possibly the sentence that captured my attention the most appears on page 98 where he states, "The way to see a true church multiplication movment is to multiply healthy disciples, then leaders, then churches, and finally movements--in that order."
Cole goes on to point out that the Bible no where instructs us to start churches, and yet that is where most of our focus has been for the past seven years. We are church planters, we are here to start churches! Instead, Neil points out that we are not to start churches, but instead to MAKE DISCIPLES that make disciples. That is quite a different focus from the church planting focus we have had. "Jesus gave us instruction [the Great Commission] that is on the molecular level of Kingdom life...trying to multiply large, highly complex organisms without multiplying on the micro level is impossible...the basic unit of Kingdom life is a follower of Christ in relationship with another follower of Christ. The micro form of church life is a unit of two or three believers in relationship. This is where we must begin to see multiplication occur."
On page 99 he comes right out and clearly states, "Let's face it: if we can't multiply a group of two or three, then we should forget about multiplying a group of fifteen to twenty. By focusing on the simple, we actually can see dramatic results in the complex."
To see multiplication we must go smaller to the most basic unit of church life. If that unit can be infused with the DNA of healthy church life and reproduction, then the influence will spread throughout the entire Kingdom (page 99.) Neil then goes on to share seven Biblical reasons why he believes that "two or three" is the ideal size for effective fellowship and ministry that will go on to penetrate the rest of the church and ultimately the Kingdom.
1) Community is stronger with two or three (Eccles.4:9-12).
2) Accountability is stronger with two or three (1 Tim.5:19).
3) Confidentiality is stronger with two or three (Matt.18:15-17).
4) Flexibility is stronger with two or three (Matt.18:20).
5) Communication is stronger with two or three (1 Cor.14:26-33).
6) Direction is stronger with two or three (2 Cor.13:1).
7) Leadership is stronger with two or three (1 Cor.14:29).
What are the implications of all this for our local ministry here in Ecuador? How does this play itself out in our church planting context?
Neil talks about reproduction being easier at the level of "two or three" (page 103.) If you have a group of three and want to multiply groups of two or three, all you need is to find ONE OTHER PERSON. In other words if you have two people (disciples with the intent to plant a church) all you need to find is one other person. These initial three then begin multiplying by forming other groups of two or three. Together the various groups of two or three make up the new church plant. "By reducing multiplication at this simplest level, reproduction can be part of the genetic fabric of the entire body of Christ."
One of the difficulties of church planting is simply getting started. How does one get the ball rolling? What I can envision us doing in the days ahead is break down the process further to its most simplified level where we train groups of two to go out and simply find ONE OTHER PERSON and begin to make a disciple of him/her, following our already proven pattern of making disciples. The three meet together and reproduce by forming new groups of two and three. These groups continue to meet for discipleship and accountability, but also begin meeting with the other small groups which are forming. The combination of these small groups IS THE NEW CHURCH PLANT.