Saturday, April 4, 2015

Toward Multiplying Healthier Churches

Multiplication is NOT Enough! 

Cell multiplication in our bodies is always occurring, life requires reproduction, but it is not always a healthy thing. Have you ever battled cancer? I have for eight years. 

Cancer is a distortion of normally healthy cells that for often unknown reasons mutate and multiply. Our bodies can reproduce unhealthy cells at an amazing rate, making us gravely ill quickly. If allowed to continue for too long this multiplication will lead to our death. 

Standard medical protocols attempt to destroy cancer cells by bombarding them with chemotherapy and radiation. Have you ever had a loved one go through chemo? You know the deadly effects it has even on healthy cells. If the treatment is not stopped at some point it will end your life too. 

Fortunately, chemo and radiation do have a good track record of success, as damaging and painful as these treatments can be, when the cancer is detected early. Healthy growth can follow. 

Likewise, church multiplication, or church growth, is not always healthy growth. 

Like cancer cells reproduce after their kind, unhealthy churches can and often have reproduced after their kind. Error and unbiblcal attitudes can easily creep in, multiply and mutate distorting biblically sound theology, Christology and missiology. 

This is especially prone to occur when the leaders of churches, the pastors, are untrained or under-trained. Church multiplication is not enough. Health matters! 

That reality came into sharp focus recently in a conversation with Pastor Roli, while I was recently in Manila. Pastor Roli is a pastoral trainer in the Philippines who understands what happens when pastors are not trained properly. He is not a fan of multiplication of churches for the sake of multiplication. Rather he shared with me a guiding principle: “don't multiply without maturity otherwise you are multiplying immaturity."

Pastor Roli invests up to three years in a new pastor to train and equip them for healthy ministry. The only problem is that there are not a sufficient number of Pastor Rolis. The Philippines does have one of the best national pastoral training models in the world but there remains many untrained or under-trained pastors. The Philippines is not alone. 

Current statistics tell us that there is a global challenge and opportunity: 

There are between 2.2 million and 3.4 million pastors in the world today. 

Only 5% of these pastors are formally trained and 85% are considered under-trained. 

Current training, both formal and informal, can meet only 10% of the current demand. 

The question worth asking then is with so many untrained and under-trained pastors in the world today what are we multiplying in our church planting movements? Is the answer, “unhealthy pastors who lead unhealthy churches?”  With new church starts failing at a rate of up to 70% can there be any doubt there is a problem.  

Further, the challenge grows exponentially every day as 50,000 newly baptized believers enter the Kingdom__ creating a need for 1,000 new pastors per day!

It would seem that we need to refocus some effort on not only church multiplication methods but church health methods that multiply healthy pastors and churches. The urgency of the need requires the important role of pastoral trainers to be revisited and mission efforts to be recalibrated accordingly. 

Toward that end, pastoral trainers globally are coming together for an historic gathering in Bangkok Thailand, June 15-22nd for the Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers. Convened by RREACH, together with our partners – World Evangelical Alliance, Lausanne Movement, Training of Pastors International Coalition, International Council for Evangelical Theological Educators, Global Alliance for Church Multiplication – this first of its kind gathering seeks to further connect, unite and strengthen pastoral trainers into a global community for the better delivery of pastoral training to where it is most needed. 

The task is too big to do alone but together, collaboratively, we can see more health in the global body of Christ. It must start with better trained pastors as pastoral health affects church health and church health affects societal health. 

When I found out I had cancer, I needed to focus on how I treated my body and on getting and staying as healthy as possible. Likewise, it is time Evangelical leaders focus on healthier churches.

Pastor Roli, who leads a network of 32,000 churches in the Philippines, pleaded, “please don’t multiply without health.” Closer to home, Pastor Rick Warren, one of the pioneers of the church growth movement recently wrote, “Church health is the key to church growth. All living things grow if they’re healthy.”1  

The vision for the 2016 GProCongress is to accelerate church health worldwide. Learn more at


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