How to Get Your Church’s Mission Off Life Support

Over the years, our brothers and sisters in India, most especially Raj and Ron, returned the favor to us, becoming our mentors and sharing their assets with us. We gained key insights in the work of multiplication and church planting from them. As we shared with them the church growth strategies God had used in our cultural context, they taught us from their experience in disciple-making, multiplication, and reproduction. Thanks to their coaching, our church was prepared to begin several church-planting initiatives following a small, organic church model.

Five years ago, working alongside Raj, we help redesign the first level of church-planter training that had been offered by the Bible League so there was better alignment of and integration between the advanced layers of coaching we had developed later. Since these changes were made, we have witnessed more than 134,000 people gathering in more than a thousand churches as a part of that movement. Almost one hundred thousand people have made a confession of faith, not at big evangelistic rallies but in the setting of small discipleship groups. More than forty thousand people have been baptized. To God be the glory!

We now call the four different capacity-building coaching tracks we developed the “bore-well church-planting model.” Bore wells are common all over India. These wells are drilled and excavated by rotary-drilling machines, which go down hundreds of feet under the earth, penetrating deeper beneath the water table than a hand-dug well could ever go.

A bore well can provide clean water for a village for many years. If there’s water in a community, there’s life. That’s the purpose of a bore well.

The concept of bore-well church planting is simple. First, you plant a church in an unreached village. Then, you equip and empower that church to become the hub for community development, bringing God’s living water to every area of life. This training includes:

Kingdom of God Training (KGT). Fifteen months of coaching designed to help regular people plant churches in unreached villages.

Purpose Driven Training (PDT). Fifteen months of coaching designed to build a healthy church on the Five Purposes: worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship.

Leadership Development Training (LDT). Network leaders, trainers, and coaches are equipped to lead the movement.

Community Transformation Training (CTT). Local churches are equipped to become the hub for community development in their villages.

At each and every level of training, we seek to be:

Small and reproducing. We use a coaching model instead of a conference model. We do all of the training in small batches of thirty with in-field coaching. Every new batch produces new coaches and trainers.

Collaborative. From day one, we work together—the people from Granger alongside our friends in India—to develop and contextualize all the training. We continue to work together as peers on every initiative.

Reproducing. With each layer of advanced coaching, Granger carried the weight of the training in the beginning, developing more indigenous ownership and leadership in each step. Now, the first two levels of the bore well are completely run indigenously, and we are halfway through the transition on the last couple of levels.

Holistic. We fused best practices in church planting with best practices in community development. This is exceedingly rare. People from Indiana and India work together building homes, teaching children, providing healthcare, sharing the beauty of their art, and so much more, giving hope, dignity, and skills to those without them.

At this point, it’s time to answer the final question, “How do the people of Granger actually get involved?” This leads us to the final phase of transformational partnership.

PHASE 3: DIRECT MINISTRY
In this phase of ministry, we ask, “What is it our people can do that will add value to building the capacity of the local people?”

We’ve sent hundreds of our people to India. We train our teams to build capacity in the members of the Indian churches and the members of the community the churches are in. We don’t do it just for them. We focus on equipping them so they can do it themselves. We have teams that focus on construction, health and wellness, clean water, family life, microenterprise development, education, and the arts. All of these initiatives and teams are led by lay people, not church staff.

We’ll unpack in more detail the process of mobilization and leadership development in two of our later missional moves. For now, here’s a quick summary of how we engage in direct ministry.

In the next chapter, we’ll share a process we’ve developed to help implement all of this.

1. We never pay the pastors or write checks to the churches directly. We seek to enhance their work through resources like training whenever possible. Before we get involved, we want to see a local community and church assess what they can do for themselves. Once they demonstrate initiative to do this, we can talk about adding further projects that require outside resources. When we fund a project, we always ask the community to bring whatever resources it can, even if it’s a small amount.

2. We focus on smaller, modular training with ongoing coaching rather than large-scale, one-time conferences and events. Ongoing coaching helps move the knowledge we share beyond just awareness of principles down to the how-to of implementation. Focusing on small projects emphasizes relationship building. These relationships give us credibility and build trust that allows us to be involved when real, lasting changes take place.

3. We do not habitually do something for someone that he or she can do for himself or herself. Many well-meaning churches routinely violate this principle, doing serious harm to the development of the very people they are trying to help. Did we approach our ministry with local people in a truly collaborative way? Did we do it with them? Or did we take the easy way out and do it for them?

4. We see every direct ministry project as a part of a larger process that addresses foundational problems. Capacity building is a slow, ongoing process of change.

Underneath the symptomatic problems in any community are foundational problems that are not quickly or easily fixed. The downward spiral that began at the tree in the Garden has created brokenness on a personal and structural level that has accumulated over the centuries. Reversing these patterns and renewing communities takes time.

5. Every direct ministry project is seen as a “product” in a larger development process for the entire community. A well for clean drinking water, a new church plant, a new house, a new small business, or improved crops are all products of our projects. They are easy to document and photograph. The process used to create these products is just as important, if not more important, than the outcome. Did local people participate in a way that increased their comprehension, abilities, and power?

As we close this chapter, our prayer is that God will give you the courage to pursue a new way of forming partnerships and that he will give you the perseverance to stay the course. William Gibson once said, “The future is already here—it’s just not equally distributed.” In transformational partnerships, we are pioneering a way of doing mission. Yet we’re convinced that within a generation, this can become the new normal for local churches in the West. As with any new endeavor, it will require pioneers who bring that future into the present with their lives.

The old model sent out organizations to do the work of mission, leaving the local church behind to provide money. The local church was involved, but not directly. Today, local churches are reclaiming their apostolic character. They are partnering in ways that lead to transformation. They are setting sail for uncharted waters with only the stars to guide them. Some of the tools the sailors (partner organizations) have been using remain helpful and we certainly need them. But churches themselves are sensing God’s call to leave the safety of the harbor and travel the seas.

Anchors away. Let’s ride the reverse tsunami together!

Missional MovesThis excerpt is taken from Missional Moves: 15 Tectonic Shifts That Transform Churches, Communities and the World by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder. © 2012 by Rob Wegner and Jack Magruder. Used by permission of Zondervan.

Rob Wegner serves as pastor of life mission at Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind.

Jack Magruder is the director of life mission at Granger Community Church.

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