by Roger Armbruster
God is working within the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies to move us beyond independence to interdependence, beyond isolationism into mutual relationships of trust, and beyond church splitting to church planting: this is reproduction!
What is required for a reproducing church plant?
First of all, it requires church planters to plant themselves where the church will be. People who may or not be from the outside, but the vital thing is that they identify with the community or district where the church plant takes place. He or she allows the seed planted to grow and to mature right from the indigenous soil where the seed is planted, rather than as a transplant from some other part of the earth.
It is important that church plants take deep root into their own soil, and take on the heart language of the people in the community as the plant begins to emerge up from the soil. The church will not then be seen as a foreign import of somebody else’s faith, but a faith that identifies right with the people in the community where the church plant takes place.
Second, one of the critical moments in the life of a new, emerging congregation is the decision as to when they will accept responsibility, for maturity only comes with the acceptance of responsibility. When a group of people see themselves as small and insignificant, it is easy to fall into the trap of a victim mentality, or a sense of helplessness, or a sense that the young congregation can do little or nothing without handouts from without.
The secret to growth is not so much the amount of what one presently has by way of finances, time or resources, but it has more to do with what one does with what one already has. This will determine whether one ends up with more or with less. It is important that a church planter not have a victim mentality, but rather be a person of faith who communicates that everything that is needed to build a strong church is already in that community in seed form. If people from within the community will plant their seed, God will increase and multiply the seed that they plant in their own soil.
I remember once speaking to a small congregation in an Inuit community of only 120 people in northern Quebec in 1993. I shared how those of us from the outside could only do so much, but that everything that they needed to build a strong congregation was already there within their community in seed form. If they would plant whatever it is that is in their hand, they would build a strong church from within.
There was only a very small number of people there that night, but those present began to offer themselves to give what was within their power to give. One thing that they had the power to give was to speak words of life over the community. Soon a generational curse was broken, and there was a turnaround from the mysterious deaths that had been taking place locally over many years. God even used the pastor of that congregation to raise a person who had committed suicide from the dead!
This pastor was also the teacher of religious instruction in the local school. She began to intercede for the school, and claimed every one of the students for the Lord. Within a few years, every child and young person who attended that school was born again! This was done without any help whatsoever coming from outside of the community. It came from within. Their story was featured in the Transformations II video produced by the Sentinel Group, and George Otis Jr. in describing what God is doing among Inuit communities of Canada’s North.
I recently joined a First Nations delegation that visited South Korea, and we witnessed this same principle at work. If anybody had a right to claim victimhood, it was the South Korean Church after having been oppressed by the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953). Yet within the last 40 years, South Korea has been transformed from being the second poorest nation on the earth to one of the most prosperous.
I met many pastors who have grown strong churches who do not even ask for money from anybody on the outside. The secret is that they have some 500 Houses of Prayer throughout the nation, and many pastors get creative ideas in prayer to start new businesses, or to start a farming operation, etc. People within the congregation also take a high degree of responsibility, and volunteer freely. For example, the drummer will buy his own drum set. The choir member will purchase his or her own choir gown. In this way, not only does the congregation become self-supporting, but the major amount of money that is raised goes into helping the poor and the needy, and into supporting the widows and the orphans right in their own community. In this way, the world sees the love, and the quality of social relationships that Christ brings, and many come into the faith and join the church because of it.
For example, above is the Jeonju Antioch Presbyterian Church, and this one indigenous congregation alone gives over 60% and up to 70% of their finances to missions, and supports some 410 missionaries who operate on the same indigenous principle. This church has such a high degree of volunteerism that at a recent bazaar they raised some $100,000.00 for missions in just three days! Everyone–local church leaders, congregants and missionaries–are totally committed, and each plants their seed and gives generously of what they have in order to make miracles happen.
Truly, churches like this give strong evidence that everything that one needs to build a strong and a self-reproducing local church is already in the community in seed form. People may not be able to give equally, but we can all sacrifice equally in order to sow into reproducing churches!
Roger Armbruster is an elder with FCA Canada and Founder of Canada Awakening Ministries, Niverville, Manitoba.