4 million micro churches planted in less than 30 years
From a podcast by 100 Movements
Curtis Sargent, who has deep missions experience in Asia with the Southern Baptists, has worked on church planting at Saddleback Church and now helps train and help a coalition of movement practitioners that are targeting every people group and place globally, talks about how discipleship, expectations, and organic models help the Gospel become viral.
What variance have you seen in disciple-making patterns east to west, the different cultures?
To me, the huge difference is not on the side of the disciple-making, but on the side of the evangelism. There are massive differences in how you need to approach evangelism or attracting people to Christ in different cultures because the worldviews are so drastically different. But if we do that well, that means when they come to Christ, they recognise who He is, what He's done, and therefore, the fact that they, in choosing to follow Him, they are totally subject to what He desires, what He wants, what He feels, everything. That's what determines everything. And so from that point onward, really disciple-making's the same in every context. It's listen to what the Lord says and do it. It's not easy, but it's simple. And it's really the same everywhere.
What has the result of that combination of extremely contextualised evangelism and then universal principles of disciple-making? What kind of impact and fruit have you seen from that?
I think in a variety of places we've seen a remarkable level of growth. Like in the parable of the soils, you've got the hard soil, then you've got the rocky soil, and then the weeds, and then the good soil. And so there's this portion of people in every place that really do reproduce 30, 60, and 100-fold. So we can see really remarkable growth where good approaches are used like that, because those people are completely sold out. And they do reproduce. They're not consumer Christians, they're producers. They're not passive recipients, they're active propagators.
Give us an idea of the scale of impact that you've seen and participated with.
From the coalition of movement networks, we've got more than 4,000,000 churches represented that have been started from nothing in the early '90's. I did my first training for the US in March of 2013, and we've traced just people who've been through our little training, and then we do follow-up coaching and then it's sort of voluntary if you want to stay in touch or not. And so now, every year, we're having over a million baptisms reported, and around 150,000 simple churches started every year. And that's starting from a house church on our back porch. These churches are having babies. The longest I know, of since that March of 2013, is 38 generations. That's of churches, not of disciples.
So what would you say are the barriers to discipleship here in the West?
Every place has barriers, and things that are counter-kingdom culture. And then, every place has some good aspects too. In the West, if I had to pick one, I think it would be a lack of time. And I have a personal theory on why that is. We see that, especially in the Gospel of John, very often Jesus is saying, "I say only what I hear from the Father." "I do only what I see the Father doing." And that's a really interesting perspective. I think here in the West, we say, "Oh yeah, I want to do everything God wants me to do. But, I've also got a bunch of stuff, that I think it would be great to do." And it may not be bad things. It could be good things. But the problem is, that's not what he or she is intended for. In Ephesians 2:10 it says, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." So He's got specific plans in mind for each one of us. It leads to divided heart and a divided mind, and a divided life. And that's not what He designed us for. He designed us as citizens of the kingdom, and that's who we are. Everything we see needs to be in light of eternity, in light of how He sees it. How we interact with people, what we do, how we do it, all of those things, it's an entire life.
Where do I start?
In very practical terms, one of my favourite sort of tools to help people grow in this area is actually prayer walking. So, think about when you prayer walk, essentially what you're doing is you're physically walking somewhere and seeking to see it as the Lord sees it. In the Lord's Prayer, we pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." So we're recognising there's this gap between the current situation and what God actually intends. And that is what we are to step into as disciples. And so when we're prayer walking, we are either asking the Lord to reveal to us, or seeking to see through His eyes, what is that gap to be praying into? And sometimes He's calling us to literally step into that and interact with people or cause us to respond to something that we're seeing, or whatever. But during that prayer walk, that is our goal to see it as He sees it. And so if you do that regularly, that can become more and more habitual. So that then, you don't set aside time for a prayer walk, you're prayer living. It's everything I do, everything I see, every person I encounter, every conversation I have. That's the perspective.
A big part of why we don't hear more I think, from Him, is people are not taught to expect Him to be speaking, which He is constantly. All around us. In a whole variety of ways. He is communicating, but people when they come to the kingdom, they're not taught to expect to hear from Him. And then, we don't spend enough time listening to Him. And then we don't ask Him enough questions. And there's all of these things that are a big part of just the patterns of disciple-making.
If you're a parent, you can go to the playground, it can be bedlam, but if your child calls out "mummy" or "daddy", you instantly recognise their voice, despite the hubbub and the chaos, right? And so, as we're learning to recognise His voice, we definitely need it to be quiet. But as we learn to recognise it better, it doesn't matter the environment we're in, we recognise it. So people should be taught He is communicating, how to recognise His voice, that we should be constantly listening,
Then there's just how we interact with Scripture. That's a major part of being a disciple and growing as a disciple. we need to constantly be evaluating not just how much we know, but how much we're doing and how much we're passing that on to others. And that ratio is what I would say describes faithfulness. If those are equal, we're faithful.
When people are brand new believers in these microchurches, how do you teach them to interpret and apply Scripture?
In the regular churches we're familiar with, we model good interpretation and application. That's the idea. And we'll model it over and over and over and over in the pastor's sermon, when they're preaching. And then we assume listeners know how to do that. I can talk a long time about this, but a real quick jump to the end, that's like trying to teach someone to ride a bicycle by having them watch the Tour de France. So we sit them on a couch for 22 days, roughly 8 hours a day, have them watch the best cyclists in the world, and then at the end of that three weeks, take them out, give them a bicycle and say, "Okay. Take off." If they didn't know how to ride a bike before, they still don't. Watching someone model it, no matter how good the model is, doesn't teach you to do it. You have to do it. And so then at the beginning, people do make mistakes in interpretation and application but over time, because of different tools that we use, they become quite adept. So if you're in a house church or simple church, or micro-church, whatever you want to call it, that's using these approaches, and the people have been believers for very long at all, like say six to eight months, you'll hardly ever hear heretical stuff said in those groups. Because they've learned they've been allowed to make the mistakes, they've been allowed to fall down, but they'd been on the seat of the bicycle themselves, applying things.
What is 'normal'?
So when they come to faith, 3 foci are to lead others to the Lord, start a new spiritual family, which is a church and to equip others to do that. Make a list of 100 people you know, pick five you want to tell straightaway, equip them to share the Gospel and their testimony right there, practise five times with them, pretending you're that person. Then send them out to do that. Meet right back up with them. See how did it go, did they do it, did they then go through the same process with them. And so on. So that's a normal pattern. It tests motives. Are they following Him for entertainment, for education, for healing, for a free lunch, or because of what He's been doing and what He's been saying? Do they realise who He is: the Lord of all creation. And if so, all of those demands make perfect sense. And so that is what it means to follow Christ. And somehow we've convoluted it so much that it's; are you lonely? Let's make that better. Are you this, that or the other? Let's make your life better.
There's quite a bit more in the podcast which is here.
Curtis also mentions an online training site which he has had constructed which is here. He also offers hands-on training here.