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Read the growth contributors from house churches in China and consider what applies to your ministry context.

The Church Planting Alliance of South Africa published a handbook in 2000 intended to encourage, equip, and guide church planters, pastors, intercessors, and denominational leaders toward the strategic challenge of saturation church planting in South Africa and beyond. The handbook included statistics, strategies, and stories of church planting activities. One of the articles that captured my attention focused on Rapid Church Growth in China.

From April 1993 to April 1996, growth among house churches [in one part of China] increased from three churches with less than 100 members to over one hundred churches with over 16,000 members (by the end of 1998 they had grown to over 55,000)…Primarily second, third, and fourth generation churches [were] planted entirely by local believers intentionally targeting the least evangelized areas and groups…All growth was from adult conversion growth rather than transfer or biological growth. Average reproduction time was six months.

As you read through these reasons for growth, consider what ramifications they present for your ministry in your context.

Reasons for Growth

1. Society in XYZ was undergoing rapid change during the period under examination. The late 1980s were pivotal in XYZ’s history. After thousands of years as a cultural and economic backwater, it was coming into its own within the national political make-up. The rapid societal change created a hunger for spiritual change as well. Traditional religious and spiritual movements as well as Christianity experienced surges in growth following these changes. 

2. Government opposition and persecution
 resulted in a church that is relatively free of casual believers. Since a Christian commitment potentially has negative repercussions, people who do make such a commitment tend to be more serious about their faith. 

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3. The churches displayed a remarkable degree of boldness despite the threat of persecution. This was displayed in their bold witness as well as in their loud and fervent singing in their worship services. They also demonstrated great trust in one another and in new believers. Such trust is in stark contrast to the extreme distrust that was engendered by the Cultural Revolution when the people learned to distrust everyone. This trust is attractive and surprising to unbelievers.

4. The believers demonstrated great love toward one another even when they are not relatives. This extended to the point of helping one another with financial needs. Such love is in sharp relief to the selfish and materialistic bent of the culture. This contrast served to draw attention to the Christian community.

5. New believers were baptized soon after their conversion, even in totally pioneer areas. This served to cement their new commitment and communicated their full responsibility and participation in the church from the very beginning.

Dave is a MISSIONALIST! He is focused on equipping and empowering pastors and church planters to embrace missional practices, and partnering together with leaders to strategically multiply churches to reach our nation and the nations among us. His wife, Deanne, and he were led by God to plant Lake Hills Church in Castaic, CA in 1990 and he pastored there for 16 years before joining OC International's U.S. Team.

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  • Jdminister

    I am glad that the author pointed out the fact that converts were baptized immediately after their conversion. If you read closely, you will find that that is the biblical pattern. It’s too bad that more preachers don’t emphasize the place and importance of baptism when one desires to give his life to Christ.

  • David

    Persecution, persecution, persecution. As the author stated, “resulted in a Church relatively free of casual Believers. The persecution will come to the U.S. but until it does our Churches will stay full of casual Christians who need all the bells and whistles just to stay awake. And we will continue to talk about the 7 ways to entertain and the 5 ways to attract, so we can hopefully get Americans out of their air conditioned houses into their air conditioned cars and into our air conditioned Churches . . . hopefully.

  • Hal Seed

    This is a great article Dave! Thanks.

    What translates to me is that these leaders were working INTENTIONALLY on growing their churches/movement. Lots of the pastors I mentor spend all their time working IN their ministry instead of devoting time to working ON the ministry. I love the XYZese zeal for building the church!

  • Dan

    Thanks Dave!  Excellent!

  • Changolote

    Is this China or the book of Acts? O/

  • Super topic

    Dave and the comments.  You made my day and probably more that read and share this message with others will be encouraged.  What a great script for a Sunday sermon. Thank you again Dave 

  • Eagle36

    Excellent article that causes us to stand back and evaluate where we are in America, or at least it should.  The problem I see is that we don’t evaluate our effectiveness in churches and we just keep the machine running because that is what we are supposed to do.  Our churches are declining and we are not reaching lost people for Christ and yet we just keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  People are clinging to the institution instead of Jesus.
    In many ways I think that the institutionalization of the church has hindered our ability to see rapid growth in America.  Take #8 for an example – we pay our pastors to do the work of the church so that most everyone else can come in and enjoy the benefits without having to work.  I have heard people actually say to a pastor – “That is what we pay you for.”  We pay the pastors to do the ministry so we don’t have to.  And the pastors feel obligated to do everything in the church because they are getting paid to do it, and many are getting paid very well to do it.  I think that sometimes church boards are happy to give big raises to pastors because then they can expect more out of them in return and pastors are happy to get these big raises because they want the money and the power.

    Another problem associated with pastors and their salaries is that too many times the pastor’s vision for the church becomes the vision of those who “pay” the bills.  The major tithers become the power players in the church because the pastor doesn’t want to lose them (and their money) so they lead the church in the way that makes these people happy.  And most of the time these people are mostly interested in comfort and keeping things the way they are.

    I wonder what would happen if pastors would depend on God more to meet their needs instead of depending on the church?  I wonder what church would be like if everyone in the church saw it as their “job” to do the ministry of the church instead of putting all of the pressure on the pastor to do everything and be on call 24/7/365?

  • Jonah Rakadrudru

    As a university student it is very helpful for me that you keep these reports published wherever, whenever due to the contrived nature of the courses and their regulatory attempts on ‘alternative’ sources. If anything it helps keep us inspired because the opposition is very much an intellectual (albeit irrational) one in the West and very hostile towards ‘religion’ and values, but they really mean Christianity.




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