150 churches in three months!

This post is a response to this article: http://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/1169?rss

Please click there and read that article by Younnoussa Djao before reading this post.

This article betrays itself as pragmatic and unbiblical ignoring God’s spiritual work of discipleship with just one sentence:

“one leader who got trained and went to implement this approach said, “We have planted about forty-two churches in three years; but with this approach, the Lord has helped us plant 150 churches in three months.”

Consider the following Biblical errors in this man’s methods. They are prominent Independent Baptist methods being run by missions organizations and individuals. Unwittingly I believe we have fallen for the scams that we’d never buy in other areas of life. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t believe that men of God who love God and are committed to the Great Commission are running scams knowingly (though it has definitely been done before) but what I am saying is that we as missionaries and pastors have adopted the methods of popular scams that in the end will be empty air and pretty prayer letters with no long-term results:

1. The Millionaire DVD Series Scam

A plethora of companies teach how you can learn to be rich during your spare time (usually through real estate or pyramid schemes) if you’ll only buy their $200 DVD series. Who’s actually getting rich? Them or the buyer? This scam is no illegal because it does work a small percentage of the time. But to hear their impressive numbers given by people in flowery shirts sitting in a resort in the Caribbean you’d think it is fail proof.

Notice Djao’s statement “one leader who got trained”. When did this leader get trained? It was a 3 or 4 day seminar about how to “implement this approach”. Djao uses the language of the scams: “revolutionary approach! Ground breaking method!”  But here’s the problem, that’s not how Jesus did it. Jesus didn’t train people to implement an approach or formula, he discipled them “TO BE LIKE HIM” (Matt 10).

We as missionaries and pastors must be aware that the real work is not done when we gather a group of pastor for a one or two week conference. Conferences have their place and they can be a real blessing to the national believers but the real work was done years before when someone led them to Christ and trained them. The real work will be done after that conference by the man who loves and continues to mold that leader into the image of Christ through ongoing discipleship. Strong men like skyscrapers are not built in a week seminar. Shacks are built in a week seminar. If that’s how you think your being effective, then realize that you are building shacks, not strong men.

We need men who will spend their lives day and night teaching, admonishing, traveling with, correcting, loving, disciplining, and molding men into leaders over a period of years.

2. The Amazing Weight Loss Method Scam

How many of us don’t know someone who has bought into every Weight-Loss miracle method being sold on TV. These methods emphasize how you can loose 30 pounds BEFORE SUMMER and look hot in a bikini. It’s usually some attractively packed combo of a book, a few DVD’s, and maybe even a revolutionary ab-machine of some sort. The bottom line of all of these is the beginning not the end. They always stress what will happen in the short term and give “examples” with pictures. People are convinced by examples. The problem with this scam is that it ussually focuses on “how fast” you can loose weight not “how long” the weight will stay off.

People are excited about 150 churches in three months. But maybe we should take heed to an old man’s advise in Ecc 7:8 when Solomon says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” So here is what Solomon is trying to say to us who are concerned with church planting movements in unreached people groups: “Dont’ ask what happened in the first three months of a man’s ministry or church planting effort. Ask what was left at the end. Check back in after a year, 5 years, or more. Time and space would fail me in my ability to repeat example of example in country after country where this scam has been used to rip off many enthusiastic, well-intentioned pastors and missionaries.

Here’s what I’ve seen happen in Venezuela, Peru, Ghana, China, and many other places: the new, short-term guy comes in and holds a campaign. He borrows the pastors and Bible college students of the long term missionary. He throws up church signs on peoples homes. He brings in a team of white people who give out candy, toys, and baseball cards. Kids come and their parents tag along to see what’s in it for them. The crowds swell to over 300 in each church. The white people count the hands that are raised during invitation and proclaim with joy, “3,000 people got saved on our trip!” All of the sudden they disappear in a big white plane and within a few months the signs are in the trash, the crowd is down to an old lady and five kids, and the work of the long term missionary still goes on and his prayer letters STILL aren’t near as exciting as the short term guy who has already moved on to another country of interest.

What to look out for? Any reports of what happens in the first few months or even first year of a ministry. The question to be asked is what is left after 5 years? 10 years? It’s impossible to know what will be in the end when you are at the beginning. So how do you know of you should support a young man who is just at the beginning of his ministry? Ask yourself the following question: “Is he shooting for long term results or short term. Is he going because he was impressed by the result of a two week trip he went on or is he going to build something for the long haul? Is he concerned more with people or with his own genius method.

3. The Farmerless Farm Scam

Would you like to be a farmer with 150 farms dropped in your lap in three months? No way! Why? Because it is impossible to take care of them without 150 farmers. So if there were 150 farmers to take care of these farms then the work (of training farmers) was done long before these farms were planted through the long term training of farmers. Any farmer knows that you have to have a farmer to plant a farm. Modern missions methods though often focus on planting the church and have little to no mention of the farmer. That really makes you wonder what kind of farmer they have farmer that upstart farm?

Djao claimed, “One leader” (or farmer) has planted “150 churches in three months” (or 150 farms). More likely what happened is that a “person of peace” (language often used by contemporary missiologists in an attempt to make Matthew 10 a pattern for church planting) was found in each “church” and put in charge with basically no training or guidance only to be visited again once or twice in the next three months.

Leaders are not “found” they are built over a period of many years. Isn’t it funny how racist we are? So here I am an American minister. I was raised in church. I went to Bible college for four years and then a two year internship. I then studied online in seminary that I paid $750/ credit. Then I was sent out with a team of others who had the same years of training before I was ever able to pastor a church. BUT the brown or black guy from the poor country who just got saved is all of the sudden a “person of peace” and ready to pastor or farm one of these 150 churches. Here’s the basic interpretative problem: this passage referred to (Matt 10) was not talking about a church planting movement, it was talking about a preaching route that Jesus was going on. The “person of peace” also was not to be a pastor but the person who let the traveling preacher sleep at his house. So the “person of peace” was qualified only to give lodging and food to the preacher but somehow the author thinks that he was qualified to be a leader of or in a church?!

Jesus DID NOT plant churches. He trained men. He planted one church where he trained men. Those men trained more men. The end result was always more churches but the main goal was always to train men over the long haul to be just like Jesus. If Matt. 10 is a great pattern for church planting then Jesus really failed at that goal because he didn’t leave a single church or pastor behind in those villages he would preach in. That happened after his ascension through the work of the men he had trained who trained other men.

What to look out for? The guy talking about planting churches in mass with little mention of the person who is training the church planters in mass. The only way to plant churches in mass is train leaders in mass over an extended period of time. We LOVE church planting. And rightly we should. But what we should love just as much is the training of church planters. If we don’t, we open ourselves up to be fooled. Certain men will use the words “church planting” coupled with a big number in their prayer letters while stealing the farmers from other peoples training schools to prop up their church planting pyramid.

The bottom line? Pursue the unreached people groups in Christ’s way, the training of disciples. Support people who are going to live in the middle of these people groups and invest years into winning and training leaders. That is the only work that will last long term. Support short-term conference speakers when they give the proper weight to the importance of the long-term training of those men they are teaching for a week. That’s the whole reason Jesus said, “Go” not just send. There is an estimated 6,000 unreached people groups in the world. If each Ind. Baptist church in America sent one trained couple to the mission field to focus on a people group long term we could penetrate every people group in the world with a long term church planting movement based on training leaders in Christ’s image. It will take patience and sacrifice. Don’t get involved in missions if you don’t have a stomach for those.

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One Response to 150 churches in three months!

  1. We really appreciated this article! Having seen these things happen first hand, it is nice to see somebody saying something about this problem! Thanks for speaking the truth! We are praying for you and your family and the work God has given you there!
    In Christ,
    John and Patty Sommer