Rapid Spontaneous Expansion of the Church
Can the church of Jesus Christ spread through an entire area or country in a relative short period of time?
In order for this to transpire new believers must upon receiving Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit began to understand clearly that they can without any further assistance from anyone else, not only bring their friends and neighbors into the kingdom of God through the acceptance of Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit desires for them to also be used to fuel a rapid spontaneous expansion of the church.
This anointing of the Holy Spirit is to be imparted to the very first believers with great expectancy that the Spirit will then lead and guide and propel each and every believer into obeying our Lords command to go into all the world and make disciples of the nations. Upon receiving Christ and being baptized in the Holy Spirit they will began to understand that they have become fully equipped by the Holy Spirit with all spiritual power and authority needed to fulfill their calling.
This must come about early on that they can begin to see that they can easily multiply themselves without any necessary outside help. While others may be used by God in a new church plant for a brief season for initial impartation of the Life and Spirit of God, they are to be regarded only as initial planters of the seed. The removal of the seed planters in the near future will not at all injure the plant from coming into maturity nor deprive it of anything necessary for its unlimited expansion. Only in such a way will it began to be possible for the church to grow rapidly and securely over entire cities and countries.
Just what is meant by the spontaneous expansion of the church?
It is the expansion which follows the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God upon a gathering of believers that is uninitiated by human effort or organized activity. Rather it is individual body members of Jesus Christ receiving instruction from their Head Jesus Christ. These body members by the unction and instruction of the Holy Spirit begin to move together as they carry the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that they themselves have received.
It is the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction that others find in followers of Jesus who are filled love, power, joy, contentment and the holiness of God. This causes those who are looking on to be drawn to Him by a longing to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share. As a result new church plants spontaneously spring up as the wind of the Holy Spirit blows upon their lives.
For the most part the gospel will spread through the native people of the land. India may be evangelized by Indians, China by Chinese, Africa by Africans, each country by its own followers of Christ filled with and empowered by the love of God shed abroad in their hearts. Local gatherings in homes rather than trying to build large and expensive structures will be the norm. This will prepare the way for the rapid evangelization of an entire country by the free spontaneous activity of believers. The success will be measured not so much by the number of foreign missionaries, or by the number of believers, as by the growth of a church in the power of the Christ within each local. From the beginning believer will be encouraged to instinctively share out of their own living experience of the Christ within them as they hear His voice and obey. He will lead them, He will guide them, He will tell them what to do.
The church which will expand in a spontaneous manner will do so because of whose she is and what she has become in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone will be her all in all. The Holy Spirit whom He has sent to her will take those things which are His and will reveal them unto her. These instruction will often come in the way of visions, dreams, and by hearing the voice of the Spirit within. Since He is her sole source of Life she will by virtue of His Life Within her be Self-extending, Self-supporting and Self-governing or it could be said Spirit-extended, Spirit-supported and Spirit-governed. His bride needs nothing other than Himself to teach her, strengthen her, and support her.
The church is never to be dependent in any sense upon ministry or money derived from some outside source. Consequently, a distinction in our hearts and minds must be made between what has been seen in most modern missions groups which rely upon support by foreign funds and foreign ministry teams for both foundational teaching and administrative work. Once a church has begun in this fashion it will never be a self-supporting, self-governing and self-extending church apart from the foreign missionary pastors, oversight and funding. A tree will grow unto the likeness of the seed from which it has been planted.
The Holy Spirit used Paul and other apostles in the early church to empower churches by the impartation of the power of the Holy Spirit. He then spent a certain amount of time demonstrating the life of God within His life by living among them for a brief season. He would then put that group of newly formed believers into the hands of their Lover and friend Jesus who by the Holy Spirit would continue to form His bride into the person she was to become.
This local spontaneous gathering of believers in the eyes of many may resemble little of what they think the church should be. This makes no difference; if the Spirit is in fact building the house then nothing can or will stand against it. If the Lord Jesus is establishing His church then He will through the Holy Spirit raise up from within it the needed wisdom and leaders who will serve, love and encourage one another.
Others have said that there is no biblical authority for the spontaneous expansion of the church in this manner and that those who would pursue the leadership of the Holy Spirit in this way are simply trying to create a new type of church life. It is only a new type to them because of the Spirit led and Spirit built church is something unknown to the modern church with all of it's programs, schemes and organizationalism. The wonderful movement of Holy Spirit in a spontaneous kingdom growth atmosphere is not in harmony with the vision of what they perceive church is to be. Most who have come to such cynical type of thinking have themselves never experienced the rich life and depths of love and power that is produced in a community of believers raised up and taught by the Holy Spirit in this way. A few of these who have been privileged see this extraordinary life of the Spirit released in believers lives have either tried to buy it so that they could label it as their own or they have seen it as such a threat to their own little kingdoms that they become self-appointed kingdom cops with a so called ministry to warn others against such practices and condemn that which cannot be controlled by them.
If the first groups of native believers are not fully equipped to multiply themselves without the assistance of a foreign missionary, they will always find themselves waiting upon him to take each step. This slows the progress and causes them to be dependent upon him to open new churches, to provide superintending, to provide missionaries and funding. Within that model lies sterility. If the first groups of native believers are not Spirit filled and Spirit equipped then the church will not multiply by the Spirit. Rather it must always be waiting upon a foreign missionary or missions board before it can make a move. This is bondage. For years and generations they find that they must accept this bondage and sooner or later they will awake and they will without fail began to feel resentment. Any native individual will in the end resent most bitterly the attempt to establish the Faith in their country by men who took it for granted that they must control and direct their spiritual life and progress. They will resent the domination of foreign mission boards and superintending missionaries.
They have been taught that denominations are essential to the church; they are also taught that pastors are necessary for the teaching and administration of the church. Usually they insist that a pastor must be well studied with years of training with a large salary, and they insisted that they were not sufficiently educated to be pastor. At rare intervals they ordained some of them, but they never put them into a position to start other churches without approval from their hierarchy. Thus they kept all spiritual authority in their own hands. Why should all spiritual authority be vested in them? They cannot claim that they are following the Apostles in this: they cannot claim that they are obeying a command of Christ. They are simply in bondage to their own traditions; for they must know that the church will not advance without leaders of its own." Regardless of how noble they are in character, however considerate in their action, however gentle their manner, this is still felt. No church council meeting would satisfy; nothing but a release and commissioning of leaders among our own people, nothing but spiritual authority for unlimited advance will bring satisfaction.
The equipment of the small native house church with full power and authority as a local church would remove most, if not all, of the present causes of trouble. We should cease to talk of a native church as something to be attained after long years, or generations of experimentation. This would encourage ample opportunity for those who are full of the Spirit to exercise all their gifts in the direction and advancement of the church. Without further words we should have proved to all men that we do not preach Christ in order to extend our dominion. We would also demonstrate that we really mean the words which we now too often use without any demonstration that we really know their meaning--that we desire to be helpers, not lords over other men's souls.
Rapid incorporation of new converts into live and ministry of the church.
New believers are expected to become witnesses immediately new believers and disciples are to immediately become disciples of others and even church planters. One elderly man who came to Christ in India spawned 42 churches in his first year as a believer! Nobody told him that he could not do it, he just believed the voice of God within his heart and went out and did it.
To help keep growth moving outward, believers are encouraged to join and help start new churches rather than simply adding large numbers to existing congregations. New leaders will not have to leave their churches for extended periods of training, as that would diminish the momentum of new growth.
On-the-job training for leadership.
Homes and gatherings become homes of worship and filling stations for those who gather. The vital need is to be filled with a Holy Spirit, who is our connecting link to our Head and Lord Jesus Christ, to spend time in His presence and get to know His voice. From time to time as the Spirit of God directs there can be large-scale gatherings for open worship and mutual encouragement.
Resist the assumption that greater speed equals diminished quality. The notion that slower is better isn't necessarily true. By raising the expectations and church planting responsibility of each believer, church growth will be accelerated. In spontaneous church expansion discipleship and leadership development are ongoing processes rather than stages in a linear progression that individuals must pass through before they begin planting churches themselves.
Spontaneous expansion must be free!
Spontaneous expansion has fears that may seem natural, but are evil. Many of the standards we so highly prize are not the gospel. Fears for our doctrine, fears for moral standard, our ideas of a civilized Christianity, our organization. I say again, these fears are real and natural, but evil - they do not come from the Spirit of God. Our attempt to maintain control over them is a false method. Spontaneous expansion must be free! It cannot be under our control. So it is vain to say, what I have often heard men say, that we desire to see spontaneous expansion and yet we must maintain our control. If we want to experience spontaneous church growth then newly planted churches must be free of our control.
The Nature and Character of Spontaneous Expression
Christ trained His leaders by taking them with Him as He went about teaching and healing, doing the work which they, as His disciples would do. They were not trained in institutions as done among modern churches. He trained a very few with whom He was in the closest personal relation, not by training many who simply pass through schools then receive an examination, then an appointment. Jesus trained His leaders in the midst of their own people, so that the intimacy of their relation to their own people was not marred and they could move freely among them as one of themselves; the modern church has trains leaders in a hothouse, and their intimacy with their own people is usually so marred that they almost never again can actually live as one of them, or share their thoughts. So whether we consider the length of time devoted to training, the number of the leaders that are trained, the character of the training, its manner, or its method, we perceive at once that the training of leaders of which we speak is something utterly different from that which Christ Jesus revealed in His life example, and to which we appeal as the authority for spontaneous expansion.
New believers are to be is to be submersed into the Spirit of God, who will take the things of Christ and reveal them unto them. John 16:15, Mark 3:14. This and this alone will bring forth the spontaneous expansion of the Church that Christ is building. A fledgling church must resist the temptation to become self-centered and instead push ahead to lay down it's life for others just as did her Lord. Every moment of delay in this is a moment of loss, loss for them, loss for their Lord.
To be continued...