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Adding Depth to the Ministerial Roster, Part 2

This is an overdue follow-up to a short series on our efforts to train believers in evangelism using Bible storying. Find the first post here. This post details some of the background of the project. One more post is intended to follow.

One recent trend in missions has captured attention by making some fantastic claims. I deliberately try not to be a student of trends, but it is difficult not being impressed by the numbers of some church planting movements in the past few decades. Here is a sample:

“In the 1990s, nearly 1,000 new churches are planted in Orissa [India] with another 1,000 new outreach points. By 2001, a new church was being started every 24 hours…
In 2001 a newly emerging Church Planting Movement [in China] yields 48,000 new believers and 1,700 new churches in one year…
Despite government attempts to eliminate Christianity, a Church Planting Movement in one Southeast Asian country adds more than 50,000 new believers in five years…
A Central Asian Church Planting Movement sees 13,000 Kazakhs come to faith in Christ over a decade and a half.”

Church Planting Movements by David Garrison

Garrison, David. Church Planting Movements. (Kindle Locations 424, 655, 904, 1426). WIGTake Resources.

Whenever statistics appear to be fantastically extraordinary, it is always wise to ask how the data was gathered. In this case, how were these believers and churches counted? I personally don’t find their definitions to be fully satisfying. However, even the most skeptical assessment of these movements must admit that there is an impressive number of self-multiplying groups committed to propagating biblical teaching. That warrants a closer look.

If you did look into it, you would find that these rapidly expanding church planting movements share this in common: laypeople are immediately engaging in the work of evangelism and discipleship. Knowing that the bulk of the ministerial work load among our churches falls to the pastors, this point is particularly interesting to us. How are these movements able to mobilize so many so quickly?

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February 17, 2014   1 Comment

Pre-Field Ministry by the Numbers

By all accounts, our pre-field ministry was short and blessed by God. The whole experience of itinerant meetings for “partnership raising” is so peculiar that it is hard to convey the extraordinary ways in which God has provided for us. Needless to say, there are a number of unique issues that arise from spending so much time traveling and entering a new church situation week after week. Some of these issues are purely logistical but others have to do with learning and accommodating the customs particular to each church we visited. The simple fact that we now have a regiment of like-minded people praying with us, we have our daily bread provided, and we finished the process without a catastrophe is a testimony of God’s kindness toward us.

Since it is good practice to point out God’s grace (e.g., 2 Cor 8:1), I hope that by sharing a few numbers pertaining to our pre-field ministry, you can get a better sense of the big picture and, perhaps, appreciate God’s kindness a bit more.

The Brevity of our Deputation

Given that our starting point was March 11, 2011, the day of our first church meeting, and that our end point was our departure on September 11, 2012, our pre-field ministry was only 18 months long. We understand that the national average is between 3 and 4 years.

Safety over many Miles

  • 19,857 miles driven for ministry purposes–that’s averaging over 250 miles every week
  • less than $900 in non-routine repairs
  • 0 traffic accidents; 1 train accident; 0 significant injuries
  • dozens of cups of coffee consumed

Finding a Few Needles in the Haystack

  • 600 churches contacted
  • over 1,500 emails or phone calls made (yes, I actually logged most of them)
  • meetings with 37 churches (6% of contacts)
  • We are now fully supported with just 18 church partners (3% of contacts)

Miscellaneous Reflections

  • Any success that these numbers represent was not as much a matter of strategy and skill but rather providential timing and God’s blessing.
  • The experience as a whole is much like riding a roller coaster: there are so many unexpected highs and lows. We will remember our pre-field ministry with gladness for the many answers to prayer and the thought that we shouldn’t need to due this again.
  • Finally, we are encouraged by the number of churches moving towards supporting fewer missionaries at higher levels of involvement. I trust that this trend will help make our experience less exceptional.

October 8, 2012   2 Comments