It probably is. Yes, by the new evaluations of many who are forming missions strategies today most churches in America, mine included, would be termed failures. Unless you’re a member of a church that has led to countless other churches and those churches have birthed two more generations of churches, by today’s standard you are attending a ‘failed’ church. I find it difficult to call any healthy, multiplying church, where the Word of God is taught, such a term, or those who lead such bodies of believers such a term.
In today’s missions’ publications and discussions at the highest levels, ‘church movements’ alone are what are sought and valued. The single church that was brought to life in the town of Ephesus or Philippi, today would not be a cause for rejoicing. There is no biblically verified mass multiplication of believers and churches. No 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation churches are spoken of. In fact in reading Paul’s words of exhortation to those churches he prays for, reminds, exhorts and teaches them regarding many topics… but rapid reproduction was not one of them. I believe in Paul’s mind he knew that spiritually healthy, well-grounded Christ followers WOULD multiply… it’s what we do!
Yet today, so universally has the idea of ‘movement’ been embraced that the term ‘Church Planting Movements’ has supplanted the historic desire to plant a healthy church that will multiply in the way that healthy things do. Today it is common for candidates to focus on the ‘next church’ before the first is born and healthy. Speed is paramount, reproduction is the highest value. Gospel clarity is seen as ‘cumbersome’ if such clarity means the messenger needs to become fluent. Anything that might slow reproduction down is easily deemed ‘Western’. I’m not sure how Paul merits that term? I recently heard, first hand, of one fellow who claimed to see his new convert of yesterday plant two churches the very next day. Cries of “But it’s what happened!” are hard to dialogue with.
I do agree that we who are wanting to make the gospel available to all nations should be turning over every stone, dying to every special agenda, and setting aside every distraction to see the gospel known among every tongue, tribe and nation. I applaud those who search for ‘better ways’ to make that happen and speedier ways to see the Great Commission completed! But scriptures can’t be set aside in our searching, nor can we carelessly take what is descriptive of an event and turn that into a prescription for evangelism. In such ways new methods are ‘found’ in scripture. God’s word speaks clearly of things an individual needs to understand about the Lord Jesus before he can be called a Christ follower. Handing out that label to folks who ‘attend, sing, invite’ or ‘do’ countless other behaviors is dangerous.
Those who don’t understood that their sin demands a Savior, and Christ alone meets that need, can’t be called Christ followers. When the Gospel of Grace is clearly communicated it sets apart Christ alone in such a way that He dethrones other allegiances. For those realities to dawn on minds that have only worked off of other worldviews takes time and teaching.
Have recent, ‘newly discovered’, faster methods found ways around the spiritual maturation process? Are such movement-based churches that set aside biblical principals in the name of rapid multiplication, going to last the test of time? If not, it’s possible that scores of young Christian workers are not being equipped to do something that lasts. Make no mistake, the sacrifices of such workers will be real, but will the fruit live on? Worse yet… well meaning gospel workers will be sent to very needy areas, yet due to the press for speed, how much of the gospel message will those areas understand 10 or 20 years later? One healthy, biblically grounded, reproducing church is not a failure; Paul thanked God for such churches. He did not see them as hurdles.
Adoniram Judson arrived in Burma in 1813… it would take until 1831 till a spiritual outpouring would anoint his ministry. By that time he had lost his first wife and all three of his first children. That type of preparation must be given to any who would be gospel workers in pioneer areas.