Have you ever tried to put together a 1,000-piece puzzle only to discover at the end that one piece is missing? For a generation, the church in the West has been on a search, trying to solve the puzzle of what it takes to create movement and accomplish the mission of Jesus. I have been part of this search. You also may have been a part.
What I’ve come to understand recently is that while I’ve always focused on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, I’ve been missing a critical piece.
THE GREAT COMMISSION
As I was finishing up undergrad studies, the Charles E. Fuller Institute for Evangelism and Church Growth profoundly influenced me. Over and over, people like Donald McGavaran, Carl George, C. Peter Wagner and others challenged me to fulfill the Great Commission.
For most of us in that era, when we thought of Christ and his mission, the first thing that came to mind was Matt. 28:19–20. In a word, those verses could be summarized as “Go!”
Over the years, we saw thousands of people come to faith, and we advanced the mission in our communities; but when it came to the impact the big “C” church was making in the West, we were falling further behind. We were doing our best to fulfill the Great Commission, but something was definitely missing.
THE GREAT COMMANDMENT
It was about that time that multiple voices began saying we needed to not only fulfill the Great Commission, but also the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37–39). Then came the challenge: If we focus only on going into the world, but not on loving our world, the mission of Jesus will never be accomplished. So, new and old churches alike began a new emphasis on neighboring and relational strategies to love the people and places where they lived.
Still, the church in the West wasn’t seeing movement. The mission still was not being accomplished. Only 4% of all churches in the United States were reproducing new churches (what we call Level 4 multiplication), and less than a handful were multiplying several generations of new churches (Level 5).
THE MISSING PIECE
When I heard Patrick O’Connell, global director of our church-planting network NewThing, lay out a theological framework for why we needed to create networks, and why networks were so important to creating movement and accomplishing the mission of Jesus, it helped me clearly see the missing piece.
First, he drew a circle and explained the Great Commission. Then he drew a second circle and added the Great Commandment. But as he drew a third circle, he said, “Right before Jesus left earth, he reminds his closest followers of his vision for how the mission would be accomplished and gave us this third ‘Great’ in John 17:22–23: ‘That they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’
“We must obey all three of these commands: the Great Commission: Go! The Great Commandment: Love! And the Great Collaboration: Together! The Jesus mission will only be accomplished when we put all three together.”
I don’t mind saying I felt a rush of conviction. If the church of Jesus Christ could put all three pieces together, we could realize the dream of the kingdom of God.
HOW TO PLANT 100,000 CHURCHES
Sam Stephens is the leader of India Gospel League. He not only gets this idea of collaboration, he has done something about it.
In the 1960s, his father started a mission to plant churches in India, and by 1992 there were 200. In 1992, Sam took over and required that every church planter not only plant a church but have an apprentice church planter, someone who would come alongside them and learn how to plant a church in order to reproduce every year. Sam also insisted that as the church planter’s church grew, they would be in a network to encourage and support them in doing what they said they wanted to do: Reproduce a new church every year.
To date, India Gospel League has planted more than 70,000 churches that represent about 3.5 million people. “But we are praying for 100,000 new churches that reach 5 million people,” Sam said.
How did that happen? Each church planter committed to not only lead their church but also to apprentice a church planter every year whom they sent out to plant a church. To keep people encouraged and accountable, Sam put every leader into small networks that would meet once a month for training, a meal and accountability around the goals they set together.
Here’s the kicker: Churches working together in networks are the infrastructure of movement.
WHERE DO WE START?
After seeing Patrick draw those circles and hearing Sam’s church planting story, I realized what we were missing. A single church or one charismatic leader won’t accomplish the mission of Jesus. The Great Collaboration asks us to come together as families, staff and teams made up of people with unique gifts and callings to equip and mobilize all of God’s people for mission.
Putting together the Great Commission, the Great Commandment and the Great Collaboration (Go, Love, Together) feels like we’re finally solving the puzzle. Maybe by working together, we’ll see Level 5 multiplying church movements that accomplish Jesus’ mission. Maybe a church multiplication movement is possible in our lifetime.
My hunch is that right now you’re thinking that you’re still working on getting an apprentice or starting just one church or trying to get your people to go and love. Throughout 2020, Exponential will be unpacking this missing piece of collaboration—and the biblical truth that we are better together. We’ll be talking about Jesus’ vision for the Great Collaboration. This is just the beginning. Together we’ll explore what John 17 means for our churches, cities and world, and how we can pursue the mission of Jesus—together.
This article is based on Dave Ferguson’s ebook Together: The Great Collaboration. To download your free copy, go to Exponential.org/ebooks. “Together: Pursuing the Great Collaboration” is Exponential’s 2020 theme. To learn more, visit Exponential.org/events.
No doubt you have heard of D.L. Moody, the great 19th-centrury evangelist. But have you heard of Edward Kimball?
Moody, when 18 years of age, was a boot salesman in his uncle’s store in Boston. His manners were brash and crude. His uncle told him he must attend church as a condition for employment in the store. So, he chose to go to a Sunday School class with other teen-age boys.
His Sunday School teacher was a dry goods salesman named Edward Kimball, and he had set his heart on winning the young man for Christ. After praying about the matter, he arranged to visit him at the boot store. “I was determined,” to use his own words, “to speak to him about Christ and about his soul and started down to Holton’s boot store. When I was nearly there I began to wonder whether I ought to go in just then during business hours. I thought my call might embarrass the boy… In the meantime, I had passed the store, and, discovering this, I determined to make a dash for it, and have it over at once.”
“I found him in the back part of the building wrapping up shoes. I went up to him at once, and putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I felt afterwards was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him, and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was. It seemed the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, and there in the back of that store in Boston, D. L. Moody gave himself and his life to Christ.”
Edward Kimball became a lifelong friend for Moody. He mentored and helped him grow spiritually, laying a solid foundation. Moody didn’t attend school beyond 5th grade, couldn’t spell and his grammar was atrocious. He was never ordained. Yet, it’s estimated that Moody preached to 100 million people and personally led 1 million to Christ. He also founded Moody Bible Institute that has launched thousands of graduates into the ministry around the world.
But the story doesn’t end there. Through his ministry, Moody was responsible for a London pastor named F.B. Meyer coming to faith. Meyer was responsible for J. Wilbur Chapman coming to faith, and Chapman influenced Billy Sunday, another prominent evangelist of the 20th century. Billy Sunday was integral in a man named Mordecai Ham coming to faith. And Mordecai Ham was the preacher responsible for leading a young man named Billy Graham to Christ. Billy Graham asked Dawson Trotman and The Navigators to train counselors at his crusades and discipling became mainstream.
And here you are today – reading a blog and touched by a legacy that started with Edward Kimball and eventually impacted Billy Graham, Dawson Trotman, and now you. That’s a part of your spiritual heritage!
Legacy is what lasts after you are gone. Legacy is the ripple of your life, touching many who you will never meet.
One of our values in Cru is fruitfulness. In order to stay fruitful, we need to periodically reinvent our strategy or its elements. When caught in a situation where old methods of ministry are no longer working, it might be very devastating for us as staff members. It could also affect morale or our volunteers and the commitment of our supporters. So, to remain fruitful we need periodic research of what we are doing in order to be able to invent something new and bring improve.
We need to look at the data and discover where we are suffering, what is not working and why. While we do research it is always good to have good examples, and for me the first good examples that come to my mind are in the Bible, to look at Jesus and early church to learn how they were doing that.
In Christianity order to improve ministry we need to
go to the Bible, study on a certain issue or topic, seek for wisdom, draw
eternal principles of ministry and apply it into our new circumstances.
It looks very simple but it is not easy. It requires from us to set
aside time for doing some research to assess the state of our ministries. Some
people might think why to do a research if we already know everything. Some
might think Jesus was not doing any research, then why shall we do?
Did Jesus research? I would like to provoke your thoughts by saying
that to my opinion there are a few situations in the Scripture that make me
think that Jesus did research! I know that to some of you that might sound
When I first asked myself that question immediately one of a few situations came to my mind. It is recorded in Mark 12:41-44.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
we think of this situation, we see Jesus doing an unusual thing. Jesus sat down!
In the Gospel accounts usually, we do
not see Jesus being still and quiet, we rather see him standing, speaking,
teaching, walking, performing miracles, eating and talking but not so much
sat down in a strategic place from where he could see the treasury box. It
gives the impression that He saw a significant number of people giving their
Then he draws a
conclusion. He concluded who gave the most and tells that to his disciples. They
were shocked because he used totally different measuring method that we
normally do in such a situation. When dealing with money at the time of Jesus,
worth was established by the material of the coin and weight of the material.
You could asses the worth of what was being given by the noise coins were
making. Amount given by the widow was
not impressing. In today currency it would be 1/32 of daily wage. In my country
it would be about 5 zlotych. But Jesus measured it not by the worth of the
currency, but by the size of the sacrifice she made. She gave to God today’s
dinner, and tomorrows breakfast and lunch, probably even more.
to this situation completely new method of assessing value. He showed us what
is valued in Gods eyes. Jesus not only used
this way of measurement but also applied supernatural knowledge He had about the
situation. Then He concluded that out of the crowd who was present in the
temple at this time giving offerings, the poor widow made the biggest
We know that Jesus as Son of God could said that
without any research – why he sat down, looked at people and draw conclusion? I
like to see it as he wanted to teach us how to do research! How to evaluate
things from the Kingdom perspective. So, when we plan or evaluate our efforts
to build spiritual movements, we use right kind of measurement methods. Jesus also is showing to us that we need to
set aside some time and effort to do research of the situation we are in. When
we neglect that step, we could plan a lot of activities, we might work harder
and harder, but we might see smaller and smaller fruit out of them.
What about you, what have you found helpful in terms of assessing your ministry? What has God taught you in this important aspect of our ministry?
With a flick of the switch, air-dancers soar 17 feet into
the air, pulsating to the sound of the dynamic music filling the park. A drone takes off, rising into the sky,
zipping to and fro over heads now cocked upwards. Curiosity takes over and everyone asks, “What’s
We smile and reply, “This is the Beyond the Clouds Event
for kids. Why don’t you join in!”
Children register, receiving a colored T-shirt for their
team. In minutes, the four large rainbow
parachutes unfurl. Children gather
around their parachute which is soon spinning and waving in the air, transforming
the park into a spectacle of color and motion.
When the parachutes stop spinning, four teams of 60 to 80 children are
assembled. Many a parent joins in to
help. Older people take a seat on benches
The competition begins.
Each team is challenged to form a 4-letter word with their bodies. Once they are in place, the drone flies
overhead, snapping their picture. Next,
teams select one of their members who they believe can “escape the drone.” On the count of 3, the child takes off
running with the drone in hot pursuit. Everyone
erupts in uproarious laughter.
After the drone games and a few other fun activities, the
teams are called over to the flat screen monitors that form a video wall. Here, they are introduced to the theme,
“Beyond the Clouds.” Short dynamic
videos explore man’s love for flight and desire to escape the limits of
gravity. Everyone wants to fly. That desire
says something of what is inside everyone’s soul.
The MC then introduces a video which tells us how we can go
beyond the clouds. Each team is
challenged to identify the 4 big ideas that enable someone to go beyond the
clouds. In the following minutes,
children listen attentively to a dynamic gospel presentation in animated
format. Each major point is easy to identify.
The MC then asks each team. “Who can repeat the big ideas
of what enables a person to soar beyond the clouds?” Child after child raises their hand and
repeats into the microphone the big ideas:
1) God Created Everything 2) Man introduced a Problem 3) Jesus is the
solution 4) Through faith we can soar beyond the clouds.
As the children enthusiastically repeat these truths,
parents and on-lookers listen. The
essence of the gospel is repeated over and over by the children wearing the
As a final part of
our “big screen” presentation, the pictures taken by the drone appear on the
screen. The children squeal with laughter
seeing themselves. The MC tells the
children and parents that because they have registered, they will be able to
receive a picture of their team in the next week. They can expect to receive SMS messages
within the day to coordinate how the pictures will be delivered.
We then invite the children back into the activity area for
For two hours 80 kids, a pack of parents and a host of
on-lookers take part in a dynamic, fun community experience that centers on the
gospel. There is Good News which has the
power to take each and every person beyond the clouds.
Obviously, the most important part of the strategy takes
place in the following days as the volunteers, with picture in hand, go to the
homes of the children to interact with them and their parents. These trained volunteers share their
testimony and hear what the children think about Jesus being the solution to
Over the summer “Beyond the Clouds” has traveled through
many a town in Romania. Over 10,000
people have heard the gospel.
Churches, through this high energy atmosphere, have connected with thousands
of families in their communities. Jesus
has been lifted up and his message proclaimed.
It wasn’t but a few months ago that some of us, with
nostalgia, reflected on the amazing days when the JESUS Film first was shown in
Romania. Those showings created a
dynamic environment that helped us connect with a large number of people. We asked the Lord to guide us to a new strategy
that would produce a similar dynamic atmosphere. God pointed us to a drone, a couple of
parachutes, a few really good videos, eager church volunteers, and the families
of Romania. It all came together. Now, a
great number of people across Romania are pondering, what does it take to go
“Beyond the Clouds.”
Perhaps you would like to “see” what we are doing. The following link takes you to the city of
Galati, Romania for Beyond the Clouds.
I will never forget that meeting. It was end of March 2018. I had invited the key disciples of church “Agape” in Tirana, a church started by our GCM team. The discussion and conversations around what I call the Paul’s cycle, are still fresh in my memory. I would share with them what we see as the core of Paul’s ministry displayed from Acts to his letters. Paul would visit the key cities, would initiate with people, and would lead to faith those who would respond to the Gospel. He would then take care for their growth in Christ, build disciples and then appoint them as leaders of these new faith communities. Then, after seeing this cycle come to completion, he would move to another city and start from the beginning, but he would continue his ministry of care from the distance through his letters and also his visits.
Hearing these words, my brothers and sisters understood that Olta, I and the team I was leading were becoming ready to move to another area of the city to start another church. A huge and heavy burden seemed to befall on their shoulders to carry on this wonderful work that the Lord had started amongst and through them in those last 5 years. Expressed and unexpressed fears overwhelmed their minds and hearts.
Many of them were even questioning if this church could continue without our team. In the midst of these, Olta, my wife, jumps in and shares that she understood how they felt. She recalled a time many years ago when the CRU staff had to be evacuated from their campus due to the unrest in the country. They have left a handful of believers and Olta was one of them, serving as a volunteer. She would never forget the wonderful things that God had done in those years through that group of students who decided to carry on the ministry despite the situation in the country and the absence of the team. Then Olta shares how she was convinced that even in this situation, we would see the hand of God to use these group of disciples to carry on the work that was started through their new church.
Just as Paul hands over his disciples to God, so we did- a step we were convinced that should have be done earlier. We trusted God by transferring almost all our responsibilities to these group of disciples, who had a little experience in ministry but had a great heart to serve the Lord.
There has been a year
and some months since that meeting, and I share with great joy what the Lord
has done through these group of disciples, despite their fears, doubts,
insecurities, failures, confusion at times. They have not only been able to
lead the church and the groups, but the church instead of decreasing has grown.
Just this summer, I
saw them planning, organizing and running a great summer camp. Caleb Smith, a
church planter who came with an American team to serve with the summer camp,
commented that this camp was the best one he had ever taken part in his 20
years as a believer and participant in short mission trips.
Olta and I can not express enough the joy we have experienced as we have seen our brothers and sisters serving with so much joy, sacrifice, commitment not only through the year, but especially during the summer camps. Many of them had given away their summer vacations, savings, and even accepting a short pay roll from taking off days from work, in order to reach the lost souls through these camps.
stats: 20 high school students and 20 adults participated in the camp. 8 of
these people decided to believe in Jesus as their Savior.
7 people got baptized
at the last day of the camp. 3 of them were new believers who accepted Jesus
during the camp, and 4 of them who accepted Jesus during this past year.
There are at least 7 committed
leaders who are serving as volunteers to run the church services, the small
groups and outreaches throughout the year.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”