Mt. Bethel Project-Update No. 32

How to Start a Church Planting Movement –Start Churches of 20 – 25 People

The first time I heard Bruce Bennett speak I was stunned by a statement I heard him make. He said that to start a church planting movement you first have to decide what a church is. He said that if you don’t know what it is you are trying to start, you can’t succeed.

Trying to define what a church is for those of us in the Mt. Bethel Project has a little different connotation. We have to answer the question: “When does a group become a church?”

One question we face is, “How many people do we have to have meeting together to be a church?” Bruce would say two or three. But in our culture, two or three is not considered a church. So I think we need to have an idea of how many people it takes to have a church as part of our definition of church.

Defining the size of a group that can be called a church is arbitrary work; it is based on cultural judgments and not on Truth. But here are a few facts:

  • Small churches are not uncommon. One half of the churches in the United States are below 75 in attendance on Sunday.
  • Small churches tend to be more evangelistic. Several studies have shown that percentage-wise small churches win many more people to Christ than larger churches.
  • People are used to more informal services so small churches do not have to wait until they have a lot of musicians to start worship services.

But here is the greatest advantage of a small church– almost anyone can gather a group of 20 – 25 people. I remember having with a conversation with another superintendent some years ago. We were talking about planting new churches. The discussion was how large of a group should a planter gather before the conference would support this as a church planting project. We were commenting that people we knew had gathered about 25 people and wanted conference support. I remember the superintendent saying, “Anyone can gather a group of 25 people.” Back then this was a statement of weakness but now I see that for a church multiplication movement, this is a statement of strength. Almost anyone can gather a group of 25 people.

So I would like to encourage you to reproduce groups of 20 – 25 people. 25 people functioning as a church can grow and plant a new church within a year, IF they train and work the five multiplication strategies.

So here is a definition of what a church looks like that we are trying to reproduce:

We are gathering groups of 20 – 25 people who become a church when:

1. There is a leader who is being trained to function as the pastor

2. They have weekly services, usually on Sundays

3. Have received members

4. Take offerings

5. The group has accountability to a board and/or an outside overseer

6. Is training and deploying people in the five strategies with the intent of starting a new church within one year

Here are a few things we should avoid if we want the group to become a church:

1. Don’t let the group turn into a weekly Bible Study. A Bible Study is a group that gathers weekly to learn but not to train to work the five strategies. It has no purpose to expand the Kingdom and the participants are not trained how to do that. Don’t just study the Bible, train regularly in how to live out the Bible in the world through training in the five strategies. Be doers of the Word and not just hearers.

2. Don’t keep the group dependent on outside leadership. Quickly develop leadership from within the group, including training a pastor.

3. Don’t let the group become self-centered. Send the people home each week with an assignment to have devotions and to talk to others (a “to do list”). Then have times each week for “meet and report” when attenders report on how they did with their “to do list.”

Reports From the Field-Mt. Bethel Leaders Set Five-Year Goals

On July 12, 2014, the leaders of the Mt. Bethel Project met at Ironia, New Jersey to share reports on their work and to plan for the future. One result of this meeting was to set five year goals for the project. After careful consideration of the progress so far, the group set the following five year goals:

1. To have 15 hubs out of which multiplication will be happening with trained Strategy Coordinators leading each hub.

2. To have 400 initiated churches

3. To have trained 400 pastors

4. To have partnered in the work of multiplication with at least two other groups

Results so far:
After two years of working at this we understand that the movement is still in its infancy and we are still learning how to work the system. Based on Timothy 2:2 the true test of getting to multiplication is fourth generation Christians and fourth generation churches.  It has been widely shown in multiplication movements around the globe that the move from addition to multiplication happens after the fourth generation.

To date, we have not reached the fourth generation for new believers or churches. But we are working towards that and have several third generation believers. Here is a summary report of where we are now:

  • Number of people who have been through the church planter training material – 80
  • Number of people who have been through the eight week discipleship material – over 100
  • Number of conversions resulting directly from Mt. Bethel efforts – about 25
  • Number of new groups/churches started – 13
  • Number of hubs where this work is being done – 4

The group continues to pray that the Lord will reveal the person who is to be the Champion of this multiplication movement.

The Mt. Bethel Leaders have also agreed to meet together three times a year. The next meeting will be held October 11, 2014.

Be With Him…

“And when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that ther were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  Acts 4:13


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