In An Age of Outreach Sterility: A Recipe for Multiplying Congregations

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This blog post reviews another book by Steve Addison, Pioneering Movements: Leadership That Multiplies Disciples and Churches. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books), 2015. His lessons about churches (very small churches by design) are very applicable to the HaB’er Havurah Network, which I am currently forming and coordinating, a group of Jewish and Intermarried households that are Havurah/House Church hybrids. For that reason, I find his work fascinating.

Addison and his wife, Michelle, lead MOVE, a mission agency devoted to multiplying disciples and churches. He blogs at www.movements.net. This is his third book, the first two being Movements That Change the World: Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel (2011), and What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World (2012). His passion is multiplying churches rather than adding them. This model is highly decentralized, empowering new converts immediately to win and disciple believers who are immediately empowered to win and disciple others in the same manner as they themselves have been won and discipled, including baptism and the Lord’s table. The model seems to me to be minimalistic in content, dealing with the essentials of growth and maximalist in its trust in the sufficient power of the Spirit and of the Word in the lives of these disciples. The model also seems to provide little guidance for matters of doctrinal boundaries and church discipline.

He says, this is a book “for people who want to obey [Jesus’] command, ‘Come, follow me,’ and claim his promise, ‘and I will teach you to fish for people”  (15). The book is a crash course in what it takes to form and lead movements “that make disciples and multiply communities of Jesus’ followers. Everywhere” (15-16).  In the Foreword, Dave Ferguson highlights three truths, or rather foci, of the book. Apostolic leaders, movements as God’s means for the spread of the good news, and the priority of practitioners over experts.

The book is in ten chapters interspersed with three astounding and convicting biographical sketches of movement pioneers—Hudson Taylor, William Taylor, and Victor Landero. In Chapter One, Addison talks about his own evolution from an expert to a practitioner and movement leader, concern with his own success or the lack of it, to one holy passion—forming and serving a movement spreading the good news of Jesus by the most effective means possible—training others to win and disciple others to be formed early on into churches. His is emphatically a first century model of church formation which contrasts sharply with church planting as commonly understood. The goal is to connect with people, share the gospel, train disciples and form new churches that replicate themselves geometrically to the fourth generation and beyond.

Training is the key. For starters, teaching people to share their stories and the gospel story, teaching them how to lead Discovery Bible Studies which are as follows:

 We read a passage and ask, What do we earn about God? What do we learn about the people in the passage? . . . How will we obey what the passage says?  We commit to share with someone what we’ve learned, and we pray for each other. Scripture is the teacher. Everyone is a participant, The focus is on obedience to God’s Word. The goal of connecting and sharing is to form obedience-oriented discipleship groups that can become a church (26-27).

 Methods matter. They have to be simple but profound. Teaching every believer to share his or her story is simple and easy—and profound. Every believer has a story, and stories touch the heart in a way that arguments never can.

 We have to find simple but profound methods that are contagious. They can spread to new and existing believers quickly and effectively (26-27). 

Chapter Two examines “Jesus, Our Apostle and Pioneer.” Actually, he is God’s apostle (sent one). Forty-one times in the Gospel of John he refers to himself as having been sent to speak in God’s name in the power of the Spirit. Addison reminds us that it is from this foundation that Yeshua (Jesus) sent the disciples “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,’ then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit; (John 20:21-22) (Addison 38). He goes on in the chapter to identify the six things Yeshua did in order to accomplish his work and to send his disciples: He saw the end, connected with people, he shared the gospel, trained disciples, gathered communities, and multiplied workers. This is a model Addison first shared in his What Jesus Started.

Addison then talks about Apostles today, examining the range of uses of the term in the New Testament and the range of its applicability today. He references J.B. Lightfoot who argued that “neither Scripture nor the early Christian writings indicate that apostleship was limited to the Twelve. There were two main ways the term was used in the New Testament, of the Twelve, and then also of a wider group of itinerant missionaries and church planters. Addison did his Doctor of Ministry dissertation on the role of the apostle, and therefore speaks on the issue from research and not mere opinion. And like Jesus, movement pioneers must see the end, connect with people, share the gospel, train disciples, gather communities, and multiply workers.

Chapter Three examines how Peter exemplified these qualities, and how, like many movement pioneers today, he was unqualified, a person who learned on the go and lived and served the good news amidst suffering. He was a person who stayed on target, and could not be fenced in. Finally, like Yeshua he served this gospel to the death.  Following this chapter is a short biographical sketch of James Hudson Taylor, and of his wife and children who paid such a high price for association with him and his work which, amidst so much toil and sorrow bore incredible fruit.

Chapter Four speaks how movements are to be structured, and the key role a certain kind of structure plays in magnifying the impact of “what God is doing.” The chapter highlights the genius, character, and missional accomplishments of monasticism, while exploring boundaries, and ins and outs of relationship between mission bands (apostolic teams) and the local (institutional) church.

Chapter Six explores sacrificial multiplying mission in Australia and beyond under the extraordinary influence of Nathan Shank, followed by a pioneer profile of Methodist firebrand William Taylor, “Troublemaker and Bishop.” He was a multi-cultural church multiplier whose ministry can only be represented as apostolic. I have never heard of anything like it.  Chapter Five explores five levels of mission leaderships: Seed sower, church planter, church multiplier, multiplication trainer, and movement catalyst. Wisely, Addison calls for all to find which niche is most appropriate for themselves without feeling inferior to those occupying any other niche. This is followed by a portrait as astounding as Taylors, that of the Columbian Apostle, Victor Landero.

Chapter Eight examines Churches which caught the vision for multiplication instead of addition: under Ghanaian Qwesi Young in Charlotte, North Carolina, under David Brookdryk and Peter Snyman in Capetown, South Africa, under Don Waybright of Sugar Creek Baptist Church, Houston, and generally what it takes to become such a church, which Addison terms a “Great Commission Church.”

Chapter Nine examines sacrificial apostolic leaders in the world of Islam, and finally, Chapter Ten asks “What Would It Take to Stop You?” calling all of us out of our comfort zones into fields already white for harvest where the harvest is often irrigated with the blood of those who labor in the fields.

This is a powerful book which I already know I must reread, and more than once, to adapt and apply its insights to my own context. It is truly an apostolic book, on fire with one holy passion. The book is what Addison no doubt wanted it to be, a catalyst for change, and an instrument for recruiting others, like myself, to such a vision.

There are many new ideas here, variations on themes already touched on by Addison in his other books, and related to discoveries going on in the world of T4T training, micro-churches, and all sorts of multiplication movements. The book sets your heart and mind on fire.

Its particular focus is on the kinds of persons God chooses for such work, the demands and tasks facing movement pioneers. Quoting C.K. Barrett, Addison reminds us, “Apostolic legitimacy is found only ‘in the extent to which his life and preaching represent the crucified Jesus” (162), and, “For Paul the gospel was God’s power revealed through the resurrection of Christ and evidenced through the presence of the Spirit. He expected his ministry to be marked by the powerful presence and visible manifestations of the Spirit” (163).  Although at no time does Addison represent himself as charismatic, Third Wave, or Pentecostal, he is unabashed and absolutely correct on highlighting the essential nature and sole sufficiency of the work of the Spirit for the kinds of works he advocates. He goes on to say that suffering is par for the course, that, “an apostolic ministry with power but devoid of the cross has no integrity. An apostolic ministry that embraces weakness without the corresponding power of the Spirit will have integrity, but no impact” (164).

The book has no weaknesses in terms of what it sets out to do, but leaves unanswered questions also unaddressed in his other two books, questions of responsible church governance in such a radically decentralized model where nearly all local leaders are very new believers, questions of people growing in the whole counsel of God, and not just in passages of Scripture which lead to Yeshua-faith and basic discipleship. The approach is also inadequate as it is for a Jewish context where one must rightly factor in a respect for tradition. The book assumes a Bible-only movement which ends up in every case to look like fundamentalist Christianity. The cultural, ritual and traditional aspects of Jeewish life and identity are missing here, and, due to the supersessionism in which even good people like the Addisons are marinated, they would likely discount this concern as being of any merit. And for this reason, this book leaves something to be desired, certainly so for contexts like my own. Still, no one interested in making a difference should avoid reading this book. I, for one, know that it has much to teach me.

Now I will need to find time to re-read it and do some hardcore planning in the light of what it says.


 

5 Comments

  1. “The Bible assumes a Bible-only movement which ends up in every case to look like fundamentalist Christianity.” That can’t be what you meant to say.

  2. I like his advice on simple Bible studies where everyone participates. I may use that when I lead youth studies at my local congregation.

    Thanks for highlighting this book, Rabbi Dauermann.

    p.s. One more typo: “aspects of Jeewish life” -I delightfully read the typo with a hard E sound. 😉

    1. You’re welcome. We have a terrible habit of trying to sound like the Great Guru who teaches the truth so that people become dependent upon us, but do not even imagine believing they could understand and teach the Bible themselves. When we do that, we do them a great disservice.

  3. I look forward to reading, and perhaps even toward interacting with, your attempts to reformulate such ideas as these in a traditional Jewish form that does *not* presuppose “a Bible-only movement which ends up in every case to look like fundamentalist Christianity”. For example, Jewish practitioners, as distinct from “experts”, might be leading and participating in interactive studies that include more Jewish literary references than solely the Tenakh and the apostolic writings. In all likelihood, their havurah praxis would include the interactive prayers of the traditional siddur services as well as those bracketing shared meals and other aspects of Jewish celebration. Nonetheless, one should expect these presumably non-expert practitioners to have recourse to the advice of Jewish experts, such as rabbis, hazanim, poskim, and masgichim, even as the ancient gentile disciples had recourse to Rav Shaul’s initial and subsequent teaching visits and subsequent responsa, and Jewish disciples to other learned emissaries of the Jerusalem council. It seems to me that some of this more advanced training was accomplished during the early years of the American Messianic Jewish Movement in the form of conferences that gathered large numbers of representatives from many widely-dispersed groups. A similar function seems to have been addressed in the Chabad movement by the “farbrengen” gatherings. (At present, I will refrain from any evaluation of the quality of current AMJM conferences or praxis in any segment of that movement, because I would suggest that the present discussion will be better served by brainstorming what the most positively effective and encouraging techniques and strategies may be, rather than by critiquing anything that may be less effective.)

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