1. THE BOOK OF ACTS IS OUR GROWTH MODEL
The whole goal of simple churches is to eventually change all ethnic groups and nations from the bottom up in growing movements of disciples who keep making more disciples. The core of any simple church is discipleship that leads to growth in souls and to the launching of more and more simple churches in an ever-expanding network.
As well as the ministry of Jesus, the Book of Acts also provides us with an excellent study on how to grow a mass movement.
If you read the Book of Acts carefully, plotting locations, timing and travels as you go; you will see this process in action. A divine mass movement started with a bang on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-47). Some of those present may have even brought the Gospel back to the Indus River civilisation! The church then grew daily with mainly Jewish believers (Acts 5:12-16).
Persecution helped the Good News spread more quickly (Acts 8). Yet it was still mainly inside the Jewish culture. Some 10 years after the great day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit had to intervene and wake the infant church up from its lack of vision and obedience to the Great Commission. This finally brought the church to the realisation the Good News was for all mankind (Acts 10) and not for the Jews only. This was something Jesus had already told them, but cultural and religious mindsets are often hard to dislodge.
From there the Gospel began to spread rapidly up the coast of the Mediterranean and into what is now modern day Turkey. It then only took 2 years for the whole province of Asia to hear the Gospel through the simple church method (Acts 19:10). From there Paul took the Gospel into Greece, Albania and Italy.
All the other apostles were also busy spreading the Good News too. Jude went to Russia and Arabia. Others went to Egypt and North Africa. Andrew went to Central Asia on the Silk Road. John went to Europe. Thomas preached to the Persians and was also in Karachi in about 52AD on his way to South India. Bartholomew followed Thomas to the Indus valley and India.
Once they started preaching, the Apostles never stopped until they were murdered one by one! By the time of their deaths an army of disciples were following in their tracks. By 300AD most of the European and Middle Eastern world had heard something about the Good News. By then the church numbered some 15 million souls or some 7% of the world’s population.
And then the early church got trapped inside buildings, took on Greek cultural practices, incorporated the worship of other gods as saints and everything slowed down.
2. MASS MOVEMENTS IN THE MODERN WORLD
Today’s re-birthing of simple church mass movements is following a similar pattern of exponential growth as the Book of Acts. They is not characterised by horizontal growth of more simple churches created and discipled by an original church planter. But by an ever-expanding list of multi-generational daughter and granddaughter simple churches that start growing slowly and eventually multiply rapidly, much like human populations do!
Why multi-generational growth?
Multi-generational growth is natural, it happens in humans and nature. Here are two examples of multi-generational leadership and church in the New Testament:
First Jesus then…
Barnabas (who was probably one of the 70 in Luke 10)
Paul (Acts 9:26-27)
Timothy (Acts 16:1-5)
Faithful men and then others (2 Timothy 2:2).
First Jesus then…
The 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-14)
The 70 sent out (Luke 10:1)
The persons of peace they were told to look for as the next line of leadership (Luke 10:5-7).
If you continue these lines of expansion long enough through all of history you will come to you!
Here is another way of looking at the multi-generational churches of the New Testament:
|2. Timothy||Priscilla &Aquila||Titus||Silas|
|3. Good men||Good men||Good men||Good men|
An excellent article on patterns of growth in modern DMM mass movements is provided at this link. It’s called Generational Church Mapping and provides some easy to use pictures that you can use to track simple church growth and health.
1. Simple Church Health Check
2. Simple Church Growth Map
3. FIRST GENERATION CHURCHES
These are churches, such as Timothy’s church, started by those trained by outside disciplers (Paul) who launch the vision in the local area. We call these Generation One churches.
These are healthy only if they are doing the nine actions of a local church
These are also healthy only if they are looking to multiply
It is very important for the church planter and original discipler to make sure there are records of where each Generation One church is up to in becoming healthy as there may be several of these simple churches being tracked at once. The illustrations above and the list below will help track the data:
- Dates started.
- Checklist of the New Testament functions of a church so the leader knows what to teach next.
- Names of leaders to be mentored weekly.
- Outside trainers of Generation One churches should hand over leadership of Generation One churches early so the church itself owns its destiny. They lead only 3-5 meetings then hand over to a budding leader. The longer the outsider leads the group the more likely it is to fall apart!
- Expect Generation One churches to obey all the commands of Jesus with or without the outside leader. Locals then own the vision.
Growth of more churches across this Generation One line is addition, not multiplication. It is traditionally how the Western church has grown. Horizontal growth is good, but we do not just horizontal growth. We want the far more healthy growth that happens when daughter churches birth granddaughter churches and granddaughter churches birth great-granddaughter churches on their own. Addition will never keep up with world population growth. Only multi-generational growth down many generations will eventually overtake population growth. Here’s how it works over many years:
|Year||Number of disciples|
4. SECOND GENERATION CHURCHES
These churches are started by First Generation evangelists, such as Timothy’s good reliable men. These are daughter churches of the first generation of leaders taking up the burden of evangelism and discipleship. They are not started by the outside trainer. There could be many of these.
If you have 3 First Generation churches you could have 10 Second Generation churches and fifty Third Generation churches. Multiplication has begun if the right spiritual DNA is present
Keep records so you clearly know the down line of churches. Good records show which Generation One and Two churches are productive and which are not productive. It also shows First Generation leaders where to put their energy.
5. THIRD GENERATION CHURCHES
This is Timothy’s reliable men’s own daughter churches that are planting Third Generation churches. Paul would not have known who these people were. He concentrated his energies on Timothy and that is the best model for us to follow.
Your record lists becomes a map of growth like the illustration above. Second Generation leaders will coach these emerging Third Generation church leaders as you coach the First Generation leaders above them.
6. FOURTH GENERATION CHURCHES
When a DMM movement has reached four generations of daughter churches it is considered a mass movement according to the model set by Jesus and Paul in the New Testament.
All the above functions continue, but if you planted the Generation One church you will not have any idea where this will go next. The Holy Spirit is now in charge and that’s exactly what you want. Your job is leadership training and keeping the vision in front of your immediate lower leadership so they can keep it in front of others below them.
The many DMM mass movements in Indonesia, Iran, West Africa and India have up to 20-30 generations of churches in some streams, and they are still multiplying simply because the right DNA was there at the beginning. For a snapshot of what one of them looks like click on this link.
- Study the book of Acts using a map to find out how the Holy Spirit directed the spread of the early church.
- Begin to pray and believe God that He can use you to start a mass movement. It is not talent that builds a mass movement, but faithfulness, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and passionate prayer.