This issue of the Mt. Bethel Update will be devoted to the Superintendent’s David Harvey’s report to the District Leaders of Acts 12:24 Churches. When the Mt. Bethel Project was set up, the district leaders were designated as the board of Mt. Bethel and David Harvey was designated the interim leader of the project. This report is a summary of what has been done through the Mt. Bethel project to date.
Mt. Bethel Project Report to the District Leaders
By Superintendent David Harvey
It has been about 14 months since the Mt Bethel project was authorized by the annual conference and oversight of the project delegated to the district leaders. Here is a brief summary of what has been done in those fourteen months and a summary of where the project is currently, and suggestions for moving forward.
We began the project by spending several months trying to understand the Bruce Bennett system better. We reviewed it at several district leaders meetings and had a couple of conference phone calls seeking to understand this better.
Several churches across the conference began to seek to implement some of the teachings they had learned at Reframe Conference. Late in the Fall of 2013 representatives from about six or seven churches met together at Waverly, PA to compare notes about what things they were trying and how they were succeeding. Most efforts reported were classes in which Bruce’s material was being taught and/or people going into new communities looking for a person of peace.
The superintendent has been trying to put the church planting movement teachings in a format that is easily understood by people who hear these teachings. I spent the entire three months of my sabbatical reading everything I could find on successful church planting movements (CPM’s). I have done several seminars presenting the CPM system including one in Michigan which about 100 people attended, one at Passaic Spanish for the Spanish churches which about 65 people attended. I have also met about four times with small groups, either in a local church or a combination of people from different churches to talk about the CPM system. Recently we had our first Strategy Coordinator Training seminar in which ten people participated.
In addition, I have been producing the Mt. Bethel Update which is distributed to about 200 people by email.
List of churches have participated in the Mt. Bethel project in some way
Here is a list of churches in our conference that have participated in the CPM work in some form or another. I have probably missed some on this list:
- Allentown First Spanish – Pastor Jose Garcia and lay leaders attended the recent Spanish training day at Passaic, NJ
- Baltimore Spanish – Pastor Fernando Gonzalez attended Strategy Coordinator Training and is starting a church planter training class. Pastor Fernando has plans to teach this strategy to his other three church plants.
- Bronx Spanish, El Remenente – Pastor Joel Guzman has translated the entire Bruce Bennett system into Spanish and has trained a class of twenty people. A number of members of this class have gone into neighborhoods in the Bronx looking for a person of peace. Three new church plant groups have been started and are being led by lay members who went through his class. Joel is also translating the Omega church planting course and the Bruce Bennett pastoral training course and using these to train his leaders. Pastor Joel has also attended the Strategy Coordinator training and has translated some of the T4T materials so that Spanish pastors can use them. Joel also planned and coordinated the Hispanic CPM training event at Passaic First Spanish in which about 65 people participated.
- Brooklyn First – Assistant pastor Euline Jackson went through Strategy Coordinator Training and has started a group with five people she is training to plant a church. Three of these class members are from Brooklyn and two are from New Jersey.
- Buck Township – Pastor Joe Gandia has been to Wilkes-Barre looking for a person of peace. Joe has identified a person and has now started a group in Wilkes-Barre. The group is meeting weekly.
- Clifton Crossroads – Pastor Willie Kirchhofer has started a new group in a community and is preparing a lay person to lead the group. Pastor Willie is also working to start a group in New York City.
- Clifton, Casa de Oracion – led by Pastor Camilo Mora and Myller Olivio, this church has started three new church planting groups in the past year and is training lay persons to pastor these groups. Pastor Myller also attended Strategy Coordinator training and is new starting a new group to train to plant churches.
- Fort Washington, Bethel – Pastor Dan Norheim attended Strategy Coordinator training and is starting a small group to train as church planters.
- Layhill, Silver Springs, MD – Focusing on Bruce Bennett’s Mobilizing Members in the Fall both in preaching and creating groups to train people to create groups.
- Mechanicsburg, Good News – Pastor Al Sones has committed to going out and finding persons of peace. Al has done this about five times and has taken other people with him each time to teach them how to do it. Al has identified several persons of peace through this work. Al is also teaching a course in his local church that is designed to produce church planters. Al is leading the Wilkes-Barre district in a church multiplication program. See the information below under Wilkes-Barre District.
- Nescopeck, Living Hope – Pastor Mike Maleski has attended Strategy Coordinator training and is starting a group for church planter training. A lay person from Living Hope also attended Strategy Coordinator training. This lay person has started a new group in Shamokin, PA.
- Orange Spanish – Pastor Efrain Reyes attended the Hispanic training event held at Passaic Spanish Church. He videotaped the event and has begun showing the video to his church. He is preparing to teach a church planters class.
- Outlet – Pastor Matt Riley has been involved in the new group in Wilkes- Barre started by Joe Gandia. Matt has worked to reach several unchurched families in Wilkes-Barre.
- Passaic, First Spanish – This church hosted the Hispanic CPM training event. Pastor Hector Fernandez has about 70 people in pastoral training and is trying to understand how to incorporate the CPM training as part of his pastoral training. He has invited Joel Guzman to come and teach his pastor’s training class in the principles of church multiplication.
- Plymouth Meeting, Storehouse – Pastor JR Rushik has had a pastors training class for several years now and is seeking to incorporate the CPM teachings into this class. He has several people ready to start a new church plant.
- Pottsville, PA CPP – Led by pastor Storm Hutchison this new church has developed a church planting strategy that has identified the next four communities in which they will plant, and the person who will be leading this church plant. Pastor Storm has been teaching and preparing these four new pastors. In addition they have identified eight communities they are targeting for second generation churches. It should be noted that one of the people in training to plant and pastor a new church is a person that was found by Pastor Storm and Al Sones going to a new community looking for a person of peace.
- Wallenpaupack, PA – Pastor Ken Platt has identified a community in which he would like to start a new church and has done some preliminary work to identify a person of peace in that community.
- Walton, NY, New Hope – Pastor Larry Light led a group of about 12 people through Bruce Bennett’s mobilizing members and they have gone out into nearby communities looking for persons of peace. They are continuing in their training and plans for starting new groups in new communities.
- Waverly Community, PA – Pastor James Cohen and Al Sones have spent some time in the city of Scranton, PA, looking for a person of peace.
- White Haven, Mountainview – Pastor Brooke Selby has been to the nearby community of Weatherly to look for a person of peace. He is working with a person who may be the person of peace.
Other groups/persons involved in Mt. Bethel
- The Wilkes-Barre District has developed a multiplication plan for the 17 counties of northeastern Pennsylvania called “Focus 17”. Each church in the district has committed to being part of this multiplication plan. The district is providing training and encouragement for their member churches to plant in targeted communities. The district is sponsoring a church planting banquet on October 29, 2013 to raise awareness and increase vision for church planting.
- Church Multiplication Teams monthly meeting. This group arose out of the small cohort that met with Bruce Bennett at the last reframe meeting. The participants decided to get together monthly to report to each other on their progress and encourage each other. At the last meeting there were about 15 people present. This Group includes pastors from the Wilkes-Barre District, Storm Hutchison and his church planters, and Larry Light and people from his church planting group.
- Pastor Ronnie Hampton – Pastor Hampton has been through the Mt. Bethel training and is moving to Shreveport, LA to plant a new church and implement the CPM plan.
- North Michigan Conference - Superintendent Harvey led a “Church Planting by the Numbers” seminar for about 100 people in the North Michigan Conference. Several people have gone to new communities looking for a person of peace.
I am increasingly convinced that one of the keys to starting this movement is to raise up a small group of people who have deep knowledge of how the system works, including the nine strategies and the behaviors we are trying to produce, and who also have the skills to train and oversee a group of people to go out and start their own group.
Our first strategy coordinator training had eight people. It was held over two days at Peach Orchard Retreat Center. The training consisted of explaining the system, teaching the first five strategies, and then having each person practice leading a group. During the training we were exposed to several different systems including “RAD” (Rapidly Advancing Discipleship) “T4T”, and “Discipleship Cycles,” in addition to Bruce Bennett’s “Mobilizing Members.”
At the end of the training each person shared their “to do” list for the next two weeks, and agreed to meet by conference phone call in two weeks to share how well they accomplished their “to do” list.
At the two week call, last Friday, six people joined the call. The results were as follows:
- All six participants had either started a group or made arrangements and set dates to start a new group. Among the six there are eight groups either started or have dates set to start. The groups vary widely. One is a group for young men in their twenties. Another is an adult Sunday School class.
- Of the groups that have already started, they have all started at the correct point of training people to tell their story and then go out and tell God’s story. We are praying in this current two weeks for conversions as these people go out.
- One member of one group has already gathered two other people and started a second generation group.
- One member of the group is working on developing a permanent “Christian Households” emphasis in his church that will carry over into the new groups that are being started.
I am considering doing another Strategy Coordinator Training at a different location, perhaps Camp Timberledge, and I also need to develop Strategy Coordinator Training II which will focus on Strategies 6-9 which enable groups to become healthy, multiplying churches.
What are the next steps for the Mt. Bethel Project?
In addition to the work being done by the groups and individual churches listed above, the larger strategy to start a CPM is becoming clearer with each step we take. Listed below are some of the items that we have identified as important in the immediate future.
1. Strategy Coordinator Training and coaching (SC)
Every CPM functions with a core of leaders trained to train others to be trainers. These trained leaders are called Strategy Coordinators. The superintendent has done the first Strategy Coordinator Training. The goal of SC training is to produce a cadre of people who are trained to train others, and will commit to being accountable to train others. We are teaching a system that has been widely used around the world to train people to train people who will train others.
At the end of SC training participants that are called to this work commit to gather a group of about five people and train them to train others. During the training the SC’s are exposed proven training systems and agree to remain accountable to the superintendent and each other to produce new groups and train participants to train others.
The goal is to continually produce new Strategy Coordinators to move the system forward.
2. Creating a system of coaching and encouragement
We will build a support system of coaching and encouragement for strategy coordinators and local church pastors and leaders involved in the work of church multiplication. At the beginning this work will be done by the superintendent (who has studied the system more than anyone else in our system) but over time we will be looking to identify and train coaches.
3. Getting to multi-generational church plants
To get to second, third, and fourth generation churches. Bruce Bennett believes that you have achieved multiplication when your system is producing fourth generation churches. Getting to second, third, and fourth generation churches will be the singular measure of success of the Mt. Bethel project.
4. Curriculum Development
Since the goal of a CPM is to create thousands of churches, the means of training pastors becomes a critical part of the success of a movement. Bruce Bennett trains pastors for forty months. We need to develop our system of training that will provide many skilled pastors that will enable us have a successful CPM.
CPM’s believe that the resources are in the harvest. The Mt. Bethel Project does not want to fund the planting of churches that arise out of its work. However, training and oversight will cost some money. We will get to a point in the near future where we will know the amount of funding it will take to get this project up and running in an efficient manner.
There are also several longer term goals that we are considering for creating a movement with long term health in the United States. Here are some of those items:
1. Fourth generation churches – This is the benchmark that we are seeking that will show that we have moved beyond addition and are reaching our goal of multiplication.
2. Regional Critical mass strategy – Movements always require critical mass to become a movement. It is possible that we should focus our efforts on one, two, or perhaps three geographical areas and seek critical mass in that area before we move on to other regions.
3. Christian Households – If there is one thing that I believe is restricting a church planting movement in the United States I would say that it is the nature of family life. Sociologists agree that something radically changed in family life in the 1960’s. Mary Eberstadt, in her book, “How the West Really Lost God” makes the case that the secularization of the United States that began in the 1960’s was caused by the decline of the family. According to Eberstadt the decline of the family was not caused by the decline of the church, but rather the decline of the church was caused by the decline of the family. Since the original church planting movement in the bible included both the home and the temple (Acts 20:20), and since the home is to be the primary place of creating reproducible disciples of Jesus, a focus on creating Christian households is essential to creating a church planting movement in the West.
4. Significant use of media/media strategy – A church planting movement requires acceptance and implementation of a specific set of values, including, hospitality, encouragement, faith, and faithfulness. For a movement to succeed these values have to become known and accepted in culture, at least among those we seek to reach. Today, values are transmitted broadly through media. There is a gaping hole in media today; these values are barely represented if at all. Even Christian media rarely promotes these values, and when it does, it does so in a way that appeals primarily to evangelical Christians and in a manner which can be quite off-putting to non-believer. We can create media that will gain credibility in culture for these values and this will assist a church planting movement. It is a need that is waiting for someone to come along and fill it.
Critical prayer needs at this moment in the process
1. First Conversions
2. Second Generation groups
We are in a moment when persistence is required, we have had some success but the future is not yet clear to us. In these moments we must remember the words of Bruce Bennett that, “we may not have precedent, but we have promises.” We are trusting the promises of God as we move forward and seek to develop these fledging efforts into a church planting movement.