Planting Movements in Europe: A Summary

The View from Cyprus: A Reflection on the Current Movements of New Forms across Europe

As I sit by the sea in Paphos looking out over the harbour, I’m reminded of the apostle Paul’s first church planting journey as the Spirit sent him, Barnabas (and John Mark who joined them as their assistant), to establish the work of church planting movements amongst the unreached Gentiles of Europe.

I’m strengthened as I am reminded how Paul was whipped 39 times here in Paphos on their first preaching assignment, going from town to town across the entire island, making new disciples.

Over the past 7 years I’ve travelled the length and breadth of Europe connecting, training and coaching leaders involved in planting new forms of church (expressions include simple, organic and missional communities)..

 

1. From Deconstruction to Building (from circa 2000)

Many of the simple churches in Europe began around the year 2000 onward, out of a response to a prophetic call to ‘leave Egypt/the institution’ and go into the desert (‘meet simply/be church’). Many of those who responded to this message had become burnt-out or naturally wanted a form of church that put relationships and community at the heart of their church life together. However, those who began meeting simply from this basis must be careful not to ‘die in the desert’ as the people of Israel did. This warning is particularly for those who decry any form of structure and focus only on some idealised form of community. The people of Israel, in rightly rejecting the structures and systems of Egypt, ended up rejecting the new structure God was putting into place through Moses who built everything according to the pattern he was shown on the mountain. The generation that left Egypt never entered the Promise Land. It took a new generation and a new leadership through Joshua to conquer the land.

 

2. APE’s on Call (since circa 2010)

To Enter the Promise Land of ‘Planting Movements among the Gentiles’ (as opposed to previously reached Christians just meeting in a different format) there’s need for APE’s to work together (APE’s = Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists) on teams.

In recent years new forms of evangelists (apostolic evangelists) have been mobilised across Europe through initiatives such as The Last Reformation and NoPlaceLeft. This has led to many new people hearing the gospel demonstrated with both power (TLR) and precision (NPL). This wave of apostolic evangelism reminds me of the evangelist Philip (Acts 8) who went down to the key city in Samaria and preached/did the work of an evangelist. There was great joy in that city.

Peter and John, both apostles by calling, were then sent from the church in Jerusalem to consolidate the work in that region where Philip had been evangelising in order to strengthen these new disciples and establish healthy churches.  So too is this needed in the current wave!

It is natural and good that this wave of apostolic evangelism (Pioneer Mission Luke 10 style) also benefits established churches from previous movements- but we must also ensure new churches are planted as a result of this wave of evangelism. This would mean evangelists working with apostles and prophets and not only shepherds and teachers (leaders) from previously established churches. Throughout history, when evangelists have worked with apostles and prophets (APE’s), this has led to the rapid multiplication of new churches in the harvest (for example the early Methodists and Salvation Army)

If the evangelists in the current wave in Europe don’t switch to working with apostolic teams, the movement will only be addition rather than multiplication based

 

3. An Engine for Movements: Embracing Fivefold Thinking and Practice in Planting Movements amongst the Gentiles in Europe (Circa 2020+)

As I’ve written previously- we need to understand APEST not only in terms of restructuring established churches around APEST (Ephesians 4:11) gifting but also in establishing fivefold gifting to farm and pioneer new territory for the planting of new churches from scratch. Say we want to Plant Movements in a region from scratch…how does the fivefold function in a new field.

We write about this in our new publication ‘Movements Engine’ coming out soon

 

4. Finish What Is Started (circa 2020+)

For there to be any lasting work/fruit in each town where we have been to Pioneer Mission/search for Persons of Peace (Luke 10), new leaders must be appointed (perhaps on the return trip).

When local indigenous leaders are not appointed, the work remains dependent on the travelling workers, and new churches and groups only tend to gather or go when the workers are present. Without local leaders appointed (those who are called and have vision), these new acorn-churches tend to fizzle out. As Paul instructed Titus (Titus 1:5) and modelled in Acts 14:21-26 the work of Planting Movements is complete when elders (local leaders) have been recognised.

Newforms are bringing out a resource soon entitled; ‘Developing Leaders’ that will help Pioneers develop leaders from the harvest

 

5. All Shapes and Sizes

Although rapid multiplication of churches is easier to seed through ‘acorn churches’ – (micro-churches/rabbit versus elephants churches)- it’s not always easy to establish or sustain the work in a place by trying to mandate or control the size of the church once planted.

Some new forms of church may grow to 50, 100 or 1000 disciples. Some networks may remain as small interconnected household (oikos) churches whereas others in cities may gather large numbers on a more regular basis. The context and the Spirit determines this not our own predetermined human-design. Jesus gives the new church planted in a place the shape He see’s fit given the context. This is what the missional church has taught us. The churches in a given place are given room to morph and flex as it expands in ever increasing circles. What works for a church of 10 is different to how churches operate at 50 capacity, 100 capacity or 1000 whether in a gathered or dispersed context. New Movements planted in regions will constantly change and adapt to the situation and the Spirit. Change is here to stay!

 

6. The Gift of the Africans and the Black People’s of the World

Movement principles have been learnt from Asia (particularly China then India and South East Asia)

They’ve been put into practice through underground movements in the 10/40 window. Movements of Muslim Background Believers have been gaining momentum in the Middle East particularly since 911. Attention in recent years has focused on indigenous disciple multiplication movements arising across continental Africa and amongst the black people’s of the world including the Caribbean (Haiti for example) and the inner-cities of America and the UK. Africa becoming a mission force not just a mission field is on God’s agenda- as it the rise of Urban Movements

Imagine what would happen if the black people’s of the world sent missionaries to plant churches everywhere!

 

7. Indigenous Movements in Europe

We in Europe are grateful for what we’ve learnt from movement practitioners and writers from Asia, America and Australasia. We are now looking to the vanguard of those Planting Movements amongst the Gentiles on European Soil. There are good examples of networks of simple churches here made up of those who were already christians. There’s also examples of mission teams operating a No Place Left vision, 4 Fields Strategy and 3/3’s Process. But we are now working towards full blown gentile work- networks of new churches birthed with at least 50-75% or more previously non-christian groupings.

 

These are 7 challenges and opportunities we see arising as we work collaboratively across Europe Planting Movements in our generation

If you enjoyed this article and it chimes with you, please see these posts of a similar nature:

The Rise of Travelling Workers

ABC Networks in Europe

 

 

 

 

 

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