4: Why The Church Stopped Growing


For the first hundred years the early church grew quickly and spread to many parts of the globe. In the second hundred years it began to take on many of the habits and practices of the different surrounding cultures it was trying to reach. Things like sermons, doctrinal disputes, special offices, hierarchical power, special clothing and more began to appear in the church, especially in the European church.

In 314AD, with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the entire Empire. The result is what we today call Christendom, which is a fusion of New Testament theology and Roman/Medieval European culture. Christianity then became a cultural tradition you were born into more than a personal faith and relationship.

For the next thousand years in Europe the Catholic Church controlled politics, economics, education, the laws, and personal behaviour. Christianity was no longer growing inside a hostile culture. It was the culture and any attempt to bring back true Christianity was crushed mercilessly!

That situation changed for the better when Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation. Salvation by faith only in the cross of Jesus, and not by works or giving money was taught once again. However, the actual Christendom structure of the Western church did not change all the way up until now. It still kept its sacred building, sacred time, sacred traditions, sacred offices and sacred rituals. In other parts of the world, such as the Middle East and India, the church was still stuck as a minority religion under hostile cultures. So it retreated into a cultural ghetto and simply held its ground through religious rituals and growth by births rather than proclaiming the gospel.

In the 20th Century things began to change for the better. The global church of true Christians went from being mainly European in culture and Caucasian in race, to being centred in the developing world of Africa, India, Asia and South America. Some 80% of the world’s true Christians now come from non-Western countries where it is difficult to replicate the Western model of church. As a result the church true church grew from 1% of the world’s population to around 7% of the world’s population.

In the 21st Century everything is changing again. God is bringing the church back to both its original message and the original structure that Jesus established. This movement is sometimes called the global house church movement and sometimes called Discipleship Multiplication Movements (DMM). The house church movement is booming, and now DMM is helping it grow even faster. This is enabling the true church to grow exponentially and this includes all across the Middle East as well. The purpose of this DMM seminar is to train you in how to reach the people of the Middle East and South Asia.


Below is a short list of some of the main church activities that are from the New Testament era compared to those that are from the Christendom church:

Apostolic Age (AD32 to AD 313) Christendom Age (AD314 to AD 2000)
No dedicated buildings, meetings were usually in the home. The church was the people (1 Cor 16:19, Colossians 4:15). Sacred buildings are absolutely central to the power structure and the meaning of the word church.
Lay leadership with most training being practical and on the job (1 Timothy 3). Professional leadership by an institutionally ordained clergy with highly intellectual training.
Leadership based on the fivefold ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:11-14) and strong relationships leading to multiplication. Pastoral and teaching gifts dominate while the evangelist, apostle and prophet largely disappear. Administration dominates ministry.
A grass roots decentralised movement (Acts 8). Centralised and hierarchical command structure.
Meetings were centred on communion, which was celebrated as a community meal (1 Cor 11:20-22). Services became highly, ritualised, formal, symbolic, and disconnected with the real world.
A culturally adaptable and servant-minded movement (Compare the flexibility of  Acts 2, where Peter spoke to Jews with Acts 17:16-34, where Paul spoke to Greeks). A culturally stagnant institution only interested in maintaining its central place in its host culture. It expects people to come to it. Mission was unnecessary, everyone was born a Christian.
Holistic, bringing the Kingdom of God to all aspects of life, not just “church” (Matthew 28:18). Bottom up cultural transformation. The Church is the kingdom of God. All else is secular and irrelevant. So the church ignores ministering in the areas of education, economics, law, health and politics.


Below is a short summary of the ways in which we need to shift our thinking if we want to get back to the New Testament model of house church and DMM growth inside a hostile culture:

New Testament Christendom

To start a movement


To plant a church


Start discipleship groups


To win converts


Wherever people meet


Need a building


Ordinary people


Specialist training


Volunteer or bi-vocational


Funded externally of by others


Win lost, disciple, win lost, disciple


Win to attend church, no cycle


Not titles, servant leadership


Titles and hierarchy, pyramid style

Who has the power:

New believers




None except scripture on the job


Theological and separated from application

Sign of maturity:



Theological knowledge

Who does the work:



The professional leader


The core of the movement


Secondary to attendance at meetings

Old personal relationships:

Kept and evangelised


Abandoned for new Christian friends

Church meetings:

Any day of the week


Designated religious days, Sunday


Because Western missionaries confused Western culture with true Christianity, the established church in Pakistan and many other nations, regardless of whether it is Catholic, Anglican or Pentecostal, has adopted most of the Christendom practices and traditions of Western Christianity.


We have slowed the growth of the church dramatically


  1. Teach someone what you have just read. This is the best way to properly learn what you have just read.
  2. Write a list of the Christian traditions you follow that do not come from scripture.
  3. Now write a list of the actions that scripture tells us to do that you currently don’t do.
  4. Start re-aligning your lifestyle with scripture.
  5. Start praying for apostolic DMM movements to start in your area (Luke 10:2)