Explosive Church Growth and Bible Translation Technology
How did the early church reach “all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10) with the gospel in just two years? That’s about 15 million people! And in Romans 15:19-23 the apostle Paul states that from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum there is no place left for his pioneering work. Illyricum is current day Albania, which is about 1,000 miles from Jerusalem.
What was their secret?
Today’s Church Planting Movement (CPM) believes it has rediscovered the early church strategy for evangelism and church growth. Based on the methods of outreach taught by Christ and modeled by his early followers, this new movement simply
- finds a person of peace (Luke 10:1-12) and
- introduces them and their social network to Discovery Bible Study.
- As people discover Christ and respond to the gospel, they’re invited to become disciples of Jesus.
- Those who demonstrate obedience to the Lord are trained in leading small discovery groups and discipling others.
- Groups learn to seek answers directly from Scripture and simply obey its teachings. Soon, they grow into small churches and the cycle repeats.
This model of rapidly reproducing churches does not require as much funding as the traditional approach because it isn’t dependent on formally trained pastors and church buildings.
The foundational biblical principles are:
- extraordinary faith in God
- commitment to the authority of God’s Word
- fervent prayer
- adopting a God-sized vision
- full surrender to the Lord
- focus on the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowering
- obedience-based discipleship
- leadership development
In 1995 there were five church planting movements with 15,000 new disciples. In 2000 it had grown to 10 movements with 100,000 new disciples. In 2019 there were over 1,000 movements with over 70 million new disciples and still growing. Amazingly, 90% of these movements are among unreached people groups (UPGs). This return to an early-church model is having similar exponential results.
Asian pastor, Victor John, in Northern India planted 12 churches in 14 years. Most would consider this a great mission achievement, especially since the area where he works had been called the missionary’s graveyard. While Pastor Victor John was grateful for the 12 churches, he realized this rate of church growth wasn’t even keeping up with the population growth in this area of 90 million people. He pleaded with God for a more effective approach. A CPM leader challenged him to unlearn his traditional church planting methods and try a simple, biblically-based strategy. Due to this new method, today there are 36,000 churches and over 10 million Christians in this area. And, after 25 years, this movement shows no signs of slowing down.
Sign up for our Verse of the Day to receive a daily Bible verse in four well-known translations.
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How can you help? You can become involved in CPM ministries like 24:14now.net (@2414now). And you can help provide one of the great needs of CPMs. Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave his disciples the task we now refer to as the Great Commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything he had commanded them (Matthew 28:18-20). The Church Planting Movement takes this last statement very literally. God’s Word is crucial to their success and the sustainability of these new churches. But for 2,115 languages, many of which are in restricted nations, there is no Scripture in their mother tongues. We know intuitively that when God’s Word is clearly understood, it gives new believers a solid foundation for outreach and growth. In fact, it’s been demonstrated that new Christians without Scripture are less likely to withstand persecution.[Read the Bible in multiple languages on Bible Gateway]
Bible translation technology is currently being developed that’s designed specifically for the needs of these new believers. One CPM leader recently said, “When it comes to providing Bible translation for our churches, there are four gaps we haven’t been able to solve:
- THE QUALITY ASSURANCE GAP – “Providing the right kind of training or technology to make sure these translations are good enough ‘to give as an offering to the Lord.’ (Those are the actual words our Bible translators use.)
- THE ACCESS GAP – How do our translators get access to the tools they need? They live in dangerous parts of the world—places you can’t go as a missionary. It’s been difficult to find resources for the training, translation technology and checking processes.
- THE SECURITY GAP – Eight of our Bible translators have lost their lives. Others have been kidnapped. It’s my personal commitment to keep them from being exposed to those who are willing to do anything to stop their Scripture translation work.
- THE STEWARDSHIP GAP – When God puts it on someone’s heart to partner with us on a Bible translation, they want to know, ‘How is it going? What’s the return on my ministry investment? How do we provide regular reports when communication is so risky?”
It’s beyond thrilling to see how God is at work through CPMs in some of the world’s most difficult places. It’s also exciting to see how the body of Christ in nations that have Scripture is beginning to rise to the task of translating God’s Word for those who live in Bible poverty. To find out how you can make an eternal difference, go to www.illumiNations.Bible (@IlluminationsBT).
Bio: Before joining Clear Bible, Inc. (formerly Global Bible Initiative) as CEO, John Sawyer (@johnasawyer) served as the chief strategy officer for Grey Matter Group, CEO of the Gravity Alliance and vice president of Bible marketing for Zondervan. He was also a group leader for Global Media Outreach, an online evangelism ministry. He received his theological training from Kuyper College, Grand Rapids School of the Bible, and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. John is passionate about both parts of the Great Commission—evangelism and discipleship–and the foundation of both which is Scripture access.
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