Thursday, February 21, 2013

A NEW TESTAMENT STRATEGY FOR IGNITING A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT: Part 2: John Wesley's Version

In my last post, A New Testament Strategy For Igniting A Church Planting Move, I shared 3 invitations that Jesus and His disciples offered to people that continually moved them into an ever increasing deeper commitment to Christ and the missional movement that He was establishing.  While these three invitations may not be able to explain in totality the strategy that Jesus used to ignite a movement I do believe they offer three important components to it and if we are going to experience church a planting movement in North America we will need to find a way to adapt them into our context.  Those three invitations were: COME AND SEE; COME AND FOLLOW; and COME AND BE WITH ME.  The Come And See was an invitation to experience the power, presence and message of Christ personally (many times in a large group setting but not always); the Come And Follow was a commitment to learn to of Christ, His way of life and His world view (this often happened in smaller groups. If they had not earlier and the come and see event they would come to personal faith in Christ.  These were called his disciples); and finally the The Come And Be With Me was an invitation to a very few of those disciples whom Christ would train to do what He did and thereby multiply the movement (this was a very small band 12 leaders in training whom he called Apostles as opposed to just disciples).

But was this missional movement (Church Planting Movement) reproducible?  Could it be transferred from culture to culture and from one point in history to a different time in history? Were these principles  (3 invitations) at play in different movements of God in history?  Now please understand it is not my intent to do an exhaustive historical or cultural research to answer these questions! This will only be a very general and surface observation to see if there are indications that this strategy has been at work in different movement of God.  I will leave the more exhaustive research of this subject to those who are both more qualified and enjoy that kind of intellectual rigor.  So in this post we are going to look at the missional movement of the Methodist and see if these 3 INVITATIONS were at play with what God did through John Wesley.


When I look at the early Methodist's and the strategy that John Wesley implemented three important activities stand out that enabled a strong ministry to be turned it into a powerful movement that swept England and America.  These three activities were:
  • OPEN AIR PREACHING:  At first John Wesley didn't like the idea open air preaching where one shared the gospel outside of a church building where ordinary people gathered.  But it was his friend George Whitfield that helped him not only overcome this conception but also help see the value in it so that he could wholeheartedly embrace it.  It is said that John had rode over 250,000 miles on horseback to preach at these open air meetings, preached over 40,000 sermons and it is estimated that tens of thousands of people would show up to a single meeting.  His primary style of preaching at these open air meetings was evangelistic where he would introduce the ordinary person to the power and presence of Christ that could save their soul.  But these, many times,  large evangelistic meetings was only the starting point of his strategy.  Wesley felt that leaving a newly converted person to their own devices without training them in righteous living was an ungodly thing to do.  This conviction was what led him to the second activity that characterized his strategy.
  • CLASS MEETINGS:  When people made a decision at the open air preaching he would then quickly gather them into small groups called CLASS MEETINGS.  These groups were to help people grow in their spiritual faith through discipleship and accountability.  They met at least weekly; started the meeting with singing and praying; a time of confession of sin to one another would follow; then they would examine each other through probing questions of their spiritual condition.  They would also, as part of their regular meetins, review study material that John Wesley had written to help them grow in their knowledge and understanding of God, scripture and spiritual growth.  As vital and important that these first two activities were it wasn't until Wesley initiated the third activity that his powerful ministry became an explosive movement of God that would spread through England and North America.
  • ITINERANT HORSEBACK PREACHERS:  Because of the vastness of the needed work yet to be done and because of the reluctance of the theologically trained pastors and preachers John began to develop and train scores of lay preachers to go preach the gospel to those who would never enter a church building.  They would follow his example of preaching at open air meetings and riding on horseback.  John Wesley became the standard and model for all of the new open air preachers to follow.   Most of the men selected to be the  preachers were ordinary men with no special theological training, much like the description of the Apostle Peter and John when standing before the Jewish Rulers in the book of Acts.  The selection of the preachers was based more on grace than education.  Grace being that they had a powerful story (testimony) to share with the crowd of people who would gather.  These itinerant preachers were sent all over England and especially into the expanding westward America.  Like Wesley these lay preachers would form the new converts into CLASS MEETINGS that would allow for their spiritual formation to develop.  They would continue the practice passing out religious material that was produced by the Wesley's to help them grow during the weeks that the circuit rider was in other area's.  And it was out of these Class Meetings that new potential lay pastors/circuit riders were identified, trained and mentored by a more experienced circuit rider and eventually unleashed to go into his own new and expanding territory.  And thus the movement continued to expand and explode.  
These 3 activities that John Wesley created were his version of the New Testament Strategy For Igniting a Church Planting Movement.  The Open Air Preaching was his adaptation of a 
COME AND SEE EVENT; the Class Meetings was his style of the 
COME AND FOLLOW GROUPS; and his Circuit Riders were his version of 
COME AND BE WITH ME LEADERSHIP.  

Just like Jesus in his New Testament Strategy John Wesley used the same approached of sifting through the masses of people and inviting them into a deeper commitment to Christ and spiritual growth culminating with the raising up, training up and unleashing of new apostolic itinerant preachers who would take the message and the strategy to new area's that still needed to be reached or revived and thus exploding it into a movement

So again I ask: What would a 21st Century North American Adaptation of the New Testament strategy for igniting a church planting movement look like?  What would the Come And See Events look like where the gospel can be presented to a group (large or small) to interested seekers?  What would a Come and Follow Group look like where accountability and spiritual disciplines are being instilled in the lives of the new believers?  And what would the training of new apostolic leadership of ordinary Christians that form the Come and Be With Me look like in a North American context?

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN BEING PART OF GOD'S ACTIVITY IN BRING A CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT TO NORTH AMERICA?  Then I invite to join in with the discussion and preparation by become a fan of the Facebook Page A North American Church Planting Movement Initiative.  We need to pray, seek God's wisdom and experiment.  Join the fun.

CLAIM YOUR FREE SUBSCRIPTION TO
MISSIONAL DEVOTIONALS!
(Thes are weekly devotionals to encourage you to live a missional life 
that shine the Light of Christ)



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

SHARE THIS POST