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in the way 246Contrasting 'Church as we know it' and 'Disciple-multiplying movements' - 1

From a talk by Simon Holley and a book In the Way by Damian Gerke

Following on from interest in the articles, Repositioning church as a mission agency and The Underground, I listened to a talk by Simon Holley, who leads the eldership and strategic leadership teams at King’s Arms Church in Bedford. He also leads the team that serves the Catalyst family of churches. He recently gave a  brief talk on some of the principles and practices of Disciple Making Movements to start the conversation:

The lockdowns were an opportunity to take stock on 25 years of leading in the church. Simon's big feeling was disatisfaction, not because there wasn’t lots of good stuff to celebrate but because he hasn’t yet seen the rapid multiplication of of followers of Jesus that he's longed for. This set him on a journey of 18 months, studying rapidly multiplying disciple making movements around the world.

God is on the move - in 1990 there was a rapidly multiplying movement in northern India  - now at around 20 million believers. Now there are nearly 1400 such movements all over the world. 

Every church must ask itself 2 questions

  • What’s our plan for making disciples (multiplying disciples)?
  • Is it working?

Here’s the point - we’ve got to get our R number above 1. That’s what we’ve learned from this pandemic isn’t it? Simon would say that for most of us in our communities, our R number is way way below 1. He would guess it’s about 0.1. He emphasises - let's be realistic about our situation. As we rebuild post- pandemic, we’ve got to rebuild differently. We have to - for the sake of the lost, the sake of the Church and for the glory of God’s name!

Simon then looked at some principles from the book In The Way and comments on some of these. It’s such a provoking book - well worth your time to read.

[WOTS - For background, the following information from the book is outlined below].

The premise of the book 'In the Way' is that church as it is currently practiced in the West is not the only model of church and, if multiplication is the desired outcome, it is in fact an inferior model.

The book contrasts 25 aspects of ministry which highlight the differences between a 'Disciple-multiplying movement' and 'Church as we know it'. As we've seen, 'Disciple-multiplying movement' strategies are not theory - they're currently producing millions of new believers around the world.

In 33 AD, 120 followers of Jesus started a discipleship movement that ultimately converted an estimated 30 million people to the faith in some 300 years. They called this movement, 'The Way'. How can the 'Church as we know it' be 'The Way' without being in the way?

Let's start looking at some of the contrasts between 'Church as we know it' and a 'Disciple-multiplying movement':

1. Who the Church is - Identity


Church as we know it

Disciple-multiplying movement

Its Identity is Location. The church is identified as its building which means it is hard to reproduce and leads to spectators at an event or participants in a programme. Hard to operate outside of this.

Its Identity is People. Wherever the people go, there the church is. Followers of Christ are his ambassadors and have delegated authority to conduct a ministry of reconciliation via teaching, evangelism, healing, praying, preaching, etc.

Its Orientation is 'Come'. Church is an institution woven into the fabric of society in a town, (like the cinema for example), offering spiritual services for those inclined to participate. This can create a barrier mindset to those that need the gospel. 

Its Orientation is 'Go'. Puts believers out among lost people as missionaries to their culture and relationships. Their message can be in their own words not in context of a church. It emphasises that we are all called to be disciple-makers.

Its Organisation is Differentiation. Denominationalism, theological viewpoints and common practice, etc., positions us against each other, prolongs division, creates judgement and lack of fellowship.

Its Organisation is Unity. The foci are common faith in Jesus Christ, accomplishing the Great Commission and disciple-making - all else is secondary and unimportant. Emphasis is on loving God, loving others and making disciples.

Its Structure is Hierarchical. Works fine for some functions but can be static, inflexible and complex with layers of authority, decision-making and bureaucracy. Tends to become centralised and inefficient.

Its Structure is Network. Agile and adaptable. Each part of the network is equipped to carry out mission whenever and wherever opportunity is. Can access necessary people and resources across network.

People's Perception is as an Adherent. They see themselves as conforming to the church organisation as their primary agency in their spiritual health, growth and practice. They are expected to support the church, the staff and practices. If they cannot adhere, they generally leave and find another church.

People's Perception is as a Disciple-maker. It encourages followers of Jesus to hear directly from God, follow the commands of Christ and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The organisation supplies training, resources, support, encouragement, etc.

Simon comments on one of these:

Location vs. People 
If you search for “church” on, the first definition you will see is “a building for public Christian worship.” When two Christians meet, they ask, “Where do you go to church?” It’s the common way people in the West ask about church affiliation. Getting ready on Sunday morning - we’ve got to ‘go to church’. Church is a location.

More often than not, people see themselves as part of an organisation and they, then view themselves as spectators at an event or participants in a programme. This causes all sorts of pastoral issues because when people have an issue, they have an issue with “the church”. Someone at our church complained that they had no support. One of our senior team heard about this and phoned them. "I’ve called you 6 times - you’ve had a coffee in my garden." "Oh you’re a friend - I’m not talking about you." It also is a missional issue - because they don’t understand that they are the body of Christ moving into the world.

Continue to next blog here...

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From In the Way by Damian Gerke, 01/03/2022

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