Great church planting movements have a few key ingredients
Don Davis spoke in Cleveland in early April, and hopefully you caught him in person, but either way, we thought you might like to hear his heart on church planting movements again and again.
As founder and director of World Impact’s The Urban Ministry Institute, Davis oversees and supports 278 satellites in 18 countries, which provide seminary-level spiritual formation and education for low-income and incarcerated disciples. In addition, World Impact’s Evangel School of Urban Church Planting, which partners with more than 30 denominations, will soon launch in Cleveland this fall in partnership with World Impact.
Q: You and World Impact partner with local churches and non-profits across the country, giving you a critical “bird’s eye” view of what the Spirit is doing. What do you see? What do you find most challenging? Most encouraging?
Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit is moving through church planting movements among the peoples on the margins in the global south – the poor, the disenfranchised and the spiritually hungry. On virtually every continent (with the glaring, notable exception of the North American sphere), we are seeing the Spirit raise up a new generation of lively, reproducing, and missionally-aggressive movements, focused on evangelism and church planting. This dynamic of deep hunger for the Lord mingled with missional fire is deeply encouraging to see and represents in my mind a signal shift in the dominance of the world Christian movement from the first to the third and fourth worlds of influence.
Q: If the Body of Christ is going to more fully embrace the development of non-traditional leaders for urban settings, how will our thinking and approach need to change? What assets do leaders from low-income communities bring to the Church?
We tend to forget that Christianity in its nascent form was made up of undesirables, poor, unlovely folk, on the fringes of society and spiritual significance. We have historically seemed to lose our understanding and confidence in the biblical claim of the calling of the poor, that God has made them rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom to come (James 2.5). They are willing to engage the toughest neighborhoods and communities, are highly flexible in drafting methods and proposals that allow for innovative display and demonstration of Kingdom truth among their neighbors and are unafraid in the face of terrible obstacles and needs. We rarely, if ever, design our most innovative empowerment programs around the poorest and neediest recipients.
Q: You’ve been studying the phenomenon of movements…what starts them, sustains them, etc. What has surprised you about the nature of movements and their potential?
Beyond a doubt in my mind, the one thing that initiates and jump starts the world’s fastest growing church planting movements is the recognition that Jesus is Lord and Victor over the powers and the enemy. These movements are anchored in, as one author calls it, “white hot faith,” the kind of passion and commitment that welcomes persecution, that is aggressive and seeks to take new ground at every opportunity and is sustained by reproducing that same passion and heart in the subsequent generations that make up the members of the movement.
What is truly remarkable to me about these movements, is their resilience, adaptability and courage in the face of evil, persecution and chronic lack of funds and resources. They are simply not intimidated by the enemy or their schemes. When you have organic, grass-root movements willing to leverage their all for the sake of the Gospel, you get the sort of growth and impact that movements like this are seeing.
Q: If the Body of Christ in Cleveland were to see a movement of renewal and the start of new ministries that reach the lost take root, what are the essentials mandates that individual Christians, congregations and para church ministries need to commit?
The mantra of spiritual power for individuals, congregations and parachurch ministries must be singular and clear: not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit, says the Lord (Zech 4.6). Revival and radical mission go hand-in-glove. Only God can transform the cities of America and the world. We must become the kind of vessels through which he can work; nothing we possess or do can take the place of the unction, anointing and gifting that the Spirit provides us as we move together for impact.
In surveying the great church planting movements currently taking place around the world, three manifestations in all of them should be noted for what the Spirit may wish to do in the Cleveland area, and around the major urban areas in America. First, they experience of the power of the lordship of Jesus Christ through shared faith, convictions and commitments. Second, it must be contextualized across the barriers of race, gender, culture, and class. Lastly, a movement that gains traction in Cleveland will move forward with deep collaboration among like-minded churches and organizations who combine their wisdom, experience and assets to produce structures and resources that can be applied quickly and with velocity.
I have great confidence that, if the Lord can raise up a generation of leaders humble enough to ricochet all the credit and honor to Christ, being willing and able to play “second fiddle” throughout the process, the Lord could move in a mighty way, there in Cleveland and beyond.